Why Did This City Council Use Public Funds to Bring in a Christian Band?

The Parks & Recreation Department in Liberty, Missouri is sponsoring a summer concert series, which sounds all well and good. In fact, this August, the KC All Stars will be playing.

Over the weekend, though, the concert series kicked off with a performance by Sidewalk Prophets, a Christian band.

The event cost the city $9,500. It was “heavily promoted on Christian radio stations Calvary 88.5 and K-Love 97.3.” And a non-perishable food collection was taken up for a local ministry:

Food collected at the concert will be donated to In As Much Ministries, a food bank for needy families, said [parks director Dennis] Dovel. He said he was pleased with the way it all played out for the first concert.

“I think the event went off fantastic. I don’t think we could have asked for a better group to start off our concert series,” Dovel said. “It brought a lot of people to the Square.”

I don’t mind the voluntary collection for a food bank, but why are public officials using tax money to bring in a decidedly Christian group to perform?

I called Mr. Dovel to ask him about it and this is what he said:

We are 70% supported by fees and 30% supported by taxes… we are not making any statement as far as denomination, Christianity or anything like that. We brought them in purely from an entertainment standpoint.

From talking to him, I don’t get the impression that this was some nefarious Christian scheme. It just sounds like ignorance — they don’t know that they did anything wrong. Considering they had an audience of up to 2,000 people, they’re probably just thrilled so many people showed up.

If I lived in Liberty, though, I would be pretty pissed off that my city officials paid for a Christian band to come to town to spread their gospel. Let the churches spend the money, not the local government.

Potential lawsuits aside, if you live there and you’re upset about how some of your tax money is being used, let the city council and Parks & Rec department know how you feel. Otherwise, nothing’s going to change.

(Thanks to @kmccoy for the link)

  • billyup

    I live in Mt Vernon, Il, when we have an outdoor concert event anywhere near the square and with any amount of local tax money 9/10 of them are for christian music. Even when we have metal shows in the theatre it’s christian metal…

  • Chris aka “Happy Cat”

    I can’t be bothered with a Parks and Rec department unless I can speak directly with the awesome Leslie Knope.

    Seriously though, I can understand where the Parks people are coming from if the band appeals to the taste of the public in the area. Doesn’t make it right, and it would annoy me personally if I was there. I might even say something if I were. It doesn’t sound like it was meant to be proselytizing, though.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    Are they the only band playing? By paying for a performing artist, does that mean the council is endorsing the lyrics of that group?

    I can’t see how this is at all a case of the state ‘establishing’ religion. If they are happy enough to hire bands of other faiths and no faith, then why not? Seems like discrimination on the grounds of religion otherwise.
    What if it were a group whose lyrics were explicitly atheistic, would you complain?

  • http://notanygods.blogspot.com/ Miss Coconut

    AndrewFinden:

    What if it were a group whose lyrics were explicitly atheistic, would you complain?

    Explicitly atheistic? What, “Oh, yeah, there’s no god, there’s no god, yeah”? There isn’t anything else you could write to have it atheistic. Maybe you could have scientific lyrics, or logical lyrics, but “atheistic” doesn’t really provide much for a single song, never mind a whole band.

    That aside, the point is we don’t want our tax money paying for any religion. It just so happens that Christian bands are always getting funded from the government. Would the government fund Pagan bands or Wiccan bands or Satanist bands? I doubt it. And would we want them to? Not really.

  • Edmond

    I hate to sound so cynical, but I have a feeling that, as the “new atheism” becomes more prominent, and the separation of church and state develops into a larger, PC-hotbutton issue, we’re going to see more and more officials and administrators who are going to be FAR more CAUTIOUS about revealing their “nefarious Christian schemes”.

    They’re going to start learning to talk the talk, and say things like “we are not making any statement as far as denomination, Christianity or anything like that” precisely so they CAN make such statemtents, subversively.

  • Claudia

    I think we should have a sliding scale as to how we react to these things. A tentative scale could be

    0. Don’t touch it. Either because it’s too small an issue to bother with (eg. Obama saying “God bless America”) or because the PR is too toxic (as with the 9/11 responders memorial a week or two back).

    1. Small protestations required. I see this situation as fitting. No obvious sign of ill intentions, may be part of a good cause. A letter of polite complaint, recognizing that intentions may have been good but reminding of the requirements of the law.

    3. Time to get pissy. For more cut and dried violations that are unlikely to happen without the full knowledge of violators. I place manger scenes and opening prayers in city councils here. Complaints to newspapers, letters of warning from the ACLU and possible legal action.

    4. Full shitstorm. Reserved for egregious violations that cause real harm. Kansas trying to get creationism in schools, discrimination against soldiers for being nonbelievers and exclusion and oppression of young nonbelievers who stand up for themselves etc. At that point, you throw everything plus the kitchen sink at them. Angry letters to anyone that will listen, stir up the situation to get larger media involved, national organizations weighing in, and any and all legal action that is viable. Make them rue the day…

  • cthulhu

    Have to say christian bands are never entertaining. The music is always so bland.

  • mthrnite

    I’d be willing to bet there’s some competent high school death metal bands that would loooove to have some o’ that sweet sweet city money, or even just the exposure. The pierced youth of the city should demand equal time. This could be a great opportunity!

  • Gary Hummel

    I would agree with Hemant Mehta, that this case was probably more like officials acting in ignorance. Clay county is, I’m guessing, 95% one kind of Christianity or another. The 21st century is still a bit in the future.

    On a related note, the City of North Kansas City, just about 15 miles southwest of Liberty, was opening every city council with the lord’s prayer. Our good friends at Freedom From Religion Foundation brought that to an end.

    I have lived around these folks most of my life and ignorance, willful or otherwise, is a good characterization.

    When it comes to bands or other arts events, my view is that regulating them based on their philosophical content is a fool’s mission. Just try an compare this band’s entertainment value to an appearance of Korn at a family event.

    I’m not sure how I would have handled this event if it was my responsibility. Seems like I would have to invite a band that was unappealing to everyone so that the city wasn’t showing favoritism.

  • http://willisweb.com Jon Willis

    I don’t see how this is really an issue. It sounds like what they did was on the up-and-up and brought a good turnout to the event. Since there’s a line-up of bands playing over the Summer in this series and not all of them are explicitly Christian, it just sounds like they’re trying to provide well-rounded entertainment that will appeal to different types of people.

    Getting up in arms about something like this would be petty, IMO.

  • Shimmi

    Geez look at that picture of them! They’re so lame it’s making me sad…

  • Jeff

    I think the problem with allowing an overtly christian band perform is that outspoken religious bands also preach their religion through their songs, similar to a preacher at church. Would it be okay for the city to pay for a preacher to get up on stage and spew the bible? Absolutely not, but a band that does the same thing is okay? No way. Now I’m not saying that only religious bands are guilty of saying what they think, but if a band says we are Christian, you can almost guarantee their songs preach the bible, and that in a public setting, paid for by tax payers is unconstitutional.

  • Michael

    My hometown (Deming, NM) did a similar thing with a music festival. It was sold as a youth / community awareness event. When someone complained about the tax money going to christian bands (all the bands were christian) the answer was the event was approved by the city attorney. How an event that is blatantly christian with no secular music passes the Lemon test is beyond me. I doubt ignorance had anything to do with it. Did the band actually preach (other than their music?)

  • Noah

    Look, I’m a hugely outspoken atheist. This is still just petty. I see this as having the same mentality as when I as an atheist teenager had my bands lyrics examined under a microscope before being allowed to play a talent show in a local church. Whether or not you agree with the message, the community is supportg art, with tax money. That is to be encouraged.

    I made the same argument to defend public funding from the national endowment for the arts in the piss christ debacle. Art is art. We can nitpick and get offended because we aren’t being explicitly catered to, or we can be adults and not freak out when exposed to a contrary or foreign ideology.

  • Her3tiK

    I don’t tend to comment on your blog, but is this really worth getting all that riled up about? Coming from someone who has no problem picking a fight when it comes to religion, I’m also aware of how little an affect my diatribes with street preachers have on the overall acceptance of atheism in the public sphere.
    If your goal with this site (or in general) is to make atheism more acceptable to the general public, please have a little discretion with which battles you decide to fight/start, because this honestly sounds incredibly petty. Focus on stories like Damon Fowler’s or the stupidity that is every other word the pope utters if you want to put a dent in the machine that is religion. Making a huge scene out of a public music festival makes the atheist movement sound incredibly petty and childish. We need to choose our battles much more carefully than this if we wish to be taken seriously as a community.

  • Philbert

    If I lived in Liberty, though, I would be pretty pissed off that my city officials paid for a Christian band to come to town to spread their gospel.

    They didn’t, they paid for them to come to town to play their music. As part of a concert series that is open to everyone and features secular artists. I am not seeing a first amendment issue here.

  • SeekerLancer

    They aren’t the only band and it is not a Christian event. I could see if it was a strictly Christian concert series meant to promote religion but that’s not the case.

    I think it actually would’ve been discriminatory if they turned the band down simply because they’re a Christian band.

    They’re a band that happens to have Christian lyrics, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to get hired for gigs and make statements like any other artist.

    If it were a punk band singing music about religious tyranny would you be as upset about this? This event was obviously non-exclusive and even though I doubt you and I would agree with what the band was singing about they have every right to perform the way they want to. They choose to express themselves through Christian lyrics, I may think that’s dumb, but hey it’s art to them I guess. How many “secular” bands have songs with theistic lyrics? Should we exclude all of them too? Should we have all performing artists strictly vetted for the word god in their performances before we allow the government to hire them for events open to all public bands?

    Though the Christian radio stations were pushing and proselytizing (or more like preaching to the choir if you ask me) I don’t really get the impression from this that the government was endorsing any of that.

    I don’t feel like the government did anything wrong here but perhaps in the future they could make a statement that the don’t endorse the lyrics or opinions of any bands taking part in the event.

    I think just like the “Seven in Heaven” street sign in New York this is a case of overreacting and being too PC for our own good.

  • Sarah

    Wow. I don’t think this is a violation of any law, and it’s definitely really petty to complain about it. There are better things to focus on. Sometime I think this site should be called The Bitching Atheist.

    Edit: SeekerLancer and Philbert nailed it.

  • Secularlez

    Sounds like a similar church and state entanglement which occurred between the city of North Little Rock in Arkansas. The city gave an evangelical event a break on using city property and even used school buses to bring in people to the event. A lot of the churches hyped up the event.
    Of course with it being the south, the majority of people thought it was fine and dandy.

  • http://alabamatheist.blogspot.com/ Tim D.

    Maybe it’s just because I’m in a band myself (albeit an “atheist” band), I’m gonna have to take the “not a big deal” side of this one. You can argue about whether their music is shit or not, but the fact remains that bands write songs about what they know/like/believe; bands are generally hired for being bands and providing music, not for providing ideology. You find a band that plays stuff that’s safe or appropriate for the venue (i.e. a punk band at a downtown club, or a country band at a redneck bar, a safe pop/rock/etc. band for a family event). That’s what seems to be the case here. And even if it wasn’t, frankly I don’t care, as long as there’s no blatant discrimination against “non-Christian” acts and equal opportunity is provided.

    The thing to keep in mind is, what would normally be considered objectionable under normal conditions in society is not necessarily objectionable in musical form — that’s why The Offspring can release a song called “Kill The President” and not be tried for treason, just like a Christian band can get on stage and preach during an event when normal proselytizing is considered unconstitutional. Music is expression and art, which is protected by the first amendment.

    Some people might say, “But the Christians KNOW that, and they’re just TAKING ADVANTAGE of the first amendment to spread their message!” To which I say, “So fucking what?” That’s what it’s there for. If you have something better to say, meet them on the same terms — use your own free speech to respond to them. Don’t try to silence theirs just because you don’t like what they have to say.

    Another thing that’s begun to bother me in recent months is how “Status Quo” this whole atheist movement is starting to seem. People raising a fuss because there are “more Christian bands than secular bands?” I always hated the implications of this sort of fuss-raising — that if there aren’t exactly the same number of Christian and secular bands, that means there’s something amiss. As champions of science and reason, we atheists should know better — simple probability says that it’s very unlikely that there will be the *exact same* number of Christian vs. secular bands chosen for a given event. If there’s one more Christian band than secular, does that mean there’s discrimination? What about two more? When does it go from being “we just thought that more of the Christian bands met our standards than the secular bands” to “we’re discriminating against atheists?”

    I mean, keep in mind, this is the same kind of shit Christians pull — we both know that if there’s a job open for a single band, it’s either gonna be one kind of band or another kind. If it’s a Christian band, does that automatically mean discrimination against atheists? If it’s a secular band, does that automatically mean discrimination against Christians and other religions? What about a Jewish band? Where do we draw the line, here? It doesn’t have to be “discrimination” just because one guy got the job when another didn’t. It can just be that there was only one job, several qualified applicants, and one slightly more qualified applicant.

    I guess I just think we run the risk of cheapening the whole movement if we keep overreacting to little things like this. Keep this up and it’ll become an internet meme like the Dave Silverman thing, just in the opposite direction.

  • http://notanygods.blogspot.com/ Miss Coconut

    I was under the impression that this was about taxes, not whether they should be allowed to sing or not, or anyone’s free speech or artistic expression. If my money were being used to promote this, I wouldn’t be happy about it either. They should have maybe set up donations or something, not just up and used tax money.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    It appears to me that those who see this as “no big deal” have confused “Christian band” with “a band that happens to be Christian”.
    Have any of you actually listened to Christian bands?
    I have. They are preaching the gospel of their Jebus through music. Whether it’s prose, poetry, music or fucking finger puppets government has no business introducing religion into events of this sort.
    “No big deal” my ass. These clowns did an end run around the Constitution and they got away with it. If you don’t see a problem with this, then you may as well let the fucktards do whatever their inbred little hearts want to do whenever they want to do it. Slippery slope and all that…
    A line has to be drawn somewhere. This is as good a place to draw it as anywhere.

  • B Rabbit

    This is not an issue at all, and I agree that it is very petty to be complaining about it.

  • http://alabamatheist.blogspot.com/ Tim D.

    I was under the impression that this was about taxes, not whether they should be allowed to sing or not, or anyone’s free speech or artistic expression. If my money were being used to promote this, I wouldn’t be happy about it either. They should have maybe set up donations or something, not just up and used tax money.

    Yes, but why? Why is it such a big deal that taxes were used to support a Christian band in this one instance? It’s part of a concert series; not all of the bands are Christian. I can’t say anything else without any specific knowledge of how the bands were chosen, but in itself I just can’t see how this is a problem.

    It appears to me that those who see this as “no big deal” have confused “Christian band” with “a band that happens to be Christian”.
    Have any of you actually listened to Christian bands?
    I have. They are preaching the gospel of their Jebus through music. Whether it’s prose, poetry, music or fucking finger puppets government has no business introducing religion into events of this sort.
    “No big deal” my ass. These clowns did an end run around the Constitution and they got away with it. If you don’t see a problem with this, then you may as well let the fucktards do whatever their inbred little hearts want to do whenever they want to do it. Slippery slope and all that…
    A line has to be drawn somewhere. This is as good a place to draw it as anywhere.

    So what, are they supposed to discriminate against bands of a certain religion, or of no religion? They need people to provide music; if we’re gonna set a precedent that the subject matter of the songs can be a criteria for automatic disqualification from a government-funded event (in any sense other than what is generally considered appropriate for an all-ages event), then that opens the door to swing both ways; not only does it bring up the possibility of discrimination against bands just for being religious, but it may also provide grounds for Christian authority figures to disqualify secular bands on the basis of religious content.

    When we’re swinging the club around at Christians, we have to be careful not to swing it so hard that it arcs round and hits us in the back of the head~

  • http://notanygods.blogspot.com/ Miss Coconut

    Yes, but why? Why is it such a big deal that taxes were used to support a Christian band in this one instance? It’s part of a concert series; not all of the bands are Christian. I can’t say anything else without any specific knowledge of how the bands were chosen, but in itself I just can’t see how this is a problem.

    I see what you mean discrimination-wise, but I have two things for that:

    Firstly, couldn’t we just say “in God we trust” on our money is just art? If there was a crucifixion over the white house with a poem about God, isn’t that okay, because it’s art? And our taxes going to it is okay, too, because it’s art, isn’t it?

    Secondly, I don’t think government funding was necessary in the first place, regardless of who was playing. They could have easily gotten the money from donations. If someone wants to fund the whole event or a part of the event, that’s their choice. Using taxes wasn’t the tax payers’ choice. You could say that relates to the government on the grounds it was taxes, not donations, and then it relates to the separation of church and state. (Again, though, it wasn’t necessary for the event or any of the bands.)

  • Philbert

    Firstly, couldn’t we just say “in God we trust” on our money is just art? If there was a crucifixion over the white house with a poem about God, isn’t that okay, because it’s art? And our taxes going to it is okay, too, because it’s art, isn’t it?

    Whether or not it’s art is not really the issue, the issue is whether the government’s actions constitute an establishment of religion under the Lemon test or some other recognized legal principle. A depiction of the crucifixion installed over the White House is unconstitutional, but a depiction of the crucifixion at the National Gallery of Art is not unconstitutional. It’s all about context.

    Secondly, I don’t think government funding was necessary in the first place, regardless of who was playing. They could have easily gotten the money from donations. If someone wants to fund the whole event or a part of the event, that’s their choice. Using taxes wasn’t the tax payers’ choice. You could say that relates to the government on the grounds it was taxes, not donations, and then it relates to the separation of church and state. (Again, though, it wasn’t necessary for the event or any of the bands.)

    This is true, the dispute could be avoided if the government wasn’t in the music promotion business, but given that it is, I don’t see why a religious band can’t be part of the event on an equal footing with non-religious bands.

  • Lantz

    Whooaaa. Nowhere does it say this was a state sponsored Christian fest.

    I’m an atheist, and a musician. In the past, I’ve briefly played with a Christian rock group. No moral conflict for me – it was a job. I was a hired gun to play guitar (and dance like I was burning in the hell fire in some parts, but I attribute my inspiration more to alcohol more than any religious conviction).

    The Members of the band may (or may even not) be Christian, it’s beside the point.

    If the argument comes down to TAX* dollars, paid to them, they should have the right to convey whatever particular message they wish to get across as artists and be compensated.

    I’m in a different country, but I think your constitution supports freedom of something or other.

    If the argument comes down to being hired in the first place with *TAX dollars, keep in mind, reading the article, they weren’t the only group hired. They just played first. In a spot where a generic sounding, family friendy (no profanity, arguably morally neutral) band was more preferable to the all ages audience that would’ve been present at the time. If the whole succession had consisted of deluded dipshits, I’d’ve had my ass in the air too. But I don’t see any big injustice done.

    Doesn’t mention anywhere that atheists were specifically excluded.
    *TAX dollars defined as money paid by and spent towards the will of the majority, unfortunatley in your country, leans toward a religious predilection.

  • Demonhype

    Thank you! This is not and has never been an issue of “OMG, a band with Christian members is allowed to freely play its music!” It’s a matter of government funding and endorsement of explicitly religious content. There are bands with Christian members, and then there are Christian bands–these are two different things, with two different implications. A band with Christian members can easily be secular in nature and pass the Lemon test (while even having the occasional religious-sounding song), on the other hand a Christian band implies a missionary agenda that does not.

    For some perspective, please see the whole “Rock Beyond Belief” issue. When it was Christian proselytizing, we got the whole “well, it’s just a bunch of bands that happen to be Christian, what’s your problem, it’s no big deal, and if you deny them a government funded and endorsed venue, you are denying them their 1st Amendment rights!” Plus the disingenuous claim that they would equally fund a similar atheistic event. We all know what happened after that.

    No, they are not so much “taking advantage of the First Amendment to speak their message”. It’s more like they are warping the First Amendment in an effort to retain the overprivileged status they once had, wherein their religious agendas and messages were both funded and endorsed by the government and made it nearly impossible for non-xians/unbelievers to avoid having to participate in some way. And those rules never apply equally to anyone else either, as we’ve all seen too many times. Since the dawn of xianity, there have been rules just for them and rules only for everyone else. Government funding and endorsement for them is just “free speech”, while when an atheist or other non-Christian applies for the same we suddenly go back to the old interpretation of the First Amendment, the one where the government isn’t supposed to fund and endorse religious views. Until the next time a Christian group wants government funding and endorsement for their views, that is. And it’s not that I really want the government to be endorsing any religious views, it’s the selective application that pisses me off, where it applies only to non-xians and is creatively interpreted when xians want taxpayer money backing their views.

    And how is “well, they’re just choosing a band that the majority will like” any different from things like Prop 8, wherein you put the rights of the minority up to a popular vote, as if that’s even constitutional? That it’s okay because the majority likes it? And no, I don’t buy that the only alternative was choosing a band everyone would hate. You can’t tell me they had no choice and the majority of people just had to have this band and that no other would do, that there is absolutely no non-religious band that everyone including non-xians would have enjoyed. Or that this was a necessary inclusion, if there were other secular bands. And if there were other secular bands, wouldn’t placing this band in there be a bit like starting the town meeting with a heartfelt entreaty to Jesus–hey, there’s plenty of secular stuff in the meeting, and it’s only one prayer even if it is technically getting government endorsement, so what is everyone getting worked up about?

    I agree with whoever was saying above that the fundies are going to get a lot smarter and are polishing up their “plausible deniability” schtick.

  • Rike D.

    I agree with Tim. Maybe I wouldn’t particularly like to see my tax money go to a christian band, but on the other hand, my own preference would be christian before hip-hop or some of the other newfangled music (it’s my age!).
    I feel that as atheists we have the advantage of not having to feel threatened by any kind of music (or art) to the extent that we can be magnanimous in some instances even when tax money might be involved. If the music is good, we can dance to it no matter which god (or non-god) it was written for.
    Am I less of an Atheist because I looooove Gregorian Chants? So if a Monastery Choir is part of the concert series and I enjoy the music (paid for with my tax money), why should I complain? And if the next in series is some grunge (?) band, I stay home and read a good book.

  • Linda

    A better question is why did the city council use public funds to bring in ANY band?

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewFinden

    Some people have a pretty distorted view of what it means for the government to ‘establiish’ religion. It’s no longer reds under the bed, but perhaps some here are getting worked up looking for fundies in the dunnies.

  • Rich Samuels

    “Can’t you see you’re not making christianity any better, you’re just making rock ‘n roll worse…”

  • http://n/a Dustin Finney

    Whether shady deal or innocent mistake, a situation like this warrants a response. Evangelicals are like water, infiltrating every crack in the wall of separation and solidifying to erode its foundations. When public officials get cozy with sectarian interests, they should expect to face a backlash from secular citizens. Even if this doesn’t always succeed in breaking up the church/state romance, it can certainly give leaders a little extra to consider before shagging up with pastors and demagogues.

    I don’t live there, but I’ll still contact the officials in Liberty, Missouri just to let them know they’re on the radar and to watch their step.

  • Rich Wilson

    There isn’t anything else you could write to have it atheistic.

    ahem.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1ngMz92vwA

  • Russ Rogers

    The Freedom OF Religion is not the same thing as the Freedom FROM Religion. The concert in the park is a community event. Should a Christian Vocal Group be banned from playing ANY public events on Public Property? That doesn’t seem fair. Now, I don’t think a Concert in the Park should turn into a Prayer Service, but I don’t think that’s what you described. I think that the fact that a collection was taken up for a local food shelf is wonderful. Unless the food shelf is known for turning away atheists or non-christian believers, I see no problem with that. I would have a problem with a collection of money being taken up just to go to the general fund of a local church, but that’s just not what happened.

    Did you try to contact Sidewalk Prophets to see what kind of show they presented? Did the Sidewalk Prophets make an attempt to have a show with some inclusionary secular appeal?

    What other bands have played in this Park? The KC All Stars seems like a fairly secular group. Unless there is a pattern where secular bands, atheist bands or bands of other religions have been excluded, or Christian Bands have been SOLELY promoted, I don’t see a problem.

  • http://alabamatheist.blogspot.com/ Tim D.

    Firstly, couldn’t we just say “in God we trust” on our money is just art? If there was a crucifixion over the white house with a poem about God, isn’t that okay, because it’s art? And our taxes going to it is okay, too, because it’s art, isn’t it?

    (1) No, because it’s *not* art. We know why it was put there and when, and by whom, because they told us when they did it. I’m not just calling it “art” as an excuse to ignore the fact that they’re Christian, the fact is that they’re a band — they’ll be playing music, not just preaching. If they preach THROUGH music then so be it, but as long as they’re not just going up on stage and dry-preaching then the fact of the matter is that they’re not actually breaking the law. It’s sort of a loophole in that respect. If we don’t like it, that’s fine and dandy, but that doesn’t mean the law was broken.

    (2) You have to put this in context with the other acts as well. There were other acts which were not Christian acts; what I don’t understand is, why is it okay to discriminate against Christian bands in this one case by not giving them the same job opportunities as “secular” bands?

    Secondly, I don’t think government funding was necessary in the first place, regardless of who was playing. They could have easily gotten the money from donations. If someone wants to fund the whole event or a part of the event, that’s their choice. Using taxes wasn’t the tax payers’ choice.

    I’d like to see the breakdown of where the tax dollars came from. My guess would be that it was part of some fund which was approved by the local governance at some point, and which was collected for the express purpose of something like tourism. If that’s the case, then I really wouldn’t see any problem, because it actually *would* have been the taxpayer’s choice. If it’s something else, then I’d be open to changing my mind, though.

    You could say that relates to the government on the grounds it was taxes, not donations, and then it relates to the separation of church and state. (Again, though, it wasn’t necessary for the event or any of the bands.)

    Again, I don’t see how this counts as a violation of “separation of church and state” *just* because *one* Christian band was allowed to perform in a concert series. If it was a completely Christian event, then that would be different, but it’s clearly not. The fact that Christian stations hyped this band’s appearance and used it as a means to take up donations for food banks is, in my opinion, no different than if the band had been, say, Green Day or Alkaline Trio, and a bunch of punk kids and teens flocked to the event and a bunch of indie magazines and websites gave it a lot of press. Certain bands attract certain scenes and certain attentions; this is a Christian band so it drew the attention of Christians.

    It’s a matter of government funding and endorsement of explicitly religious content. There are bands with Christian members, and then there are Christian bands–these are two different things, with two different implications. A band with Christian members can easily be secular in nature and pass the Lemon test (while even having the occasional religious-sounding song), on the other hand a Christian band implies a missionary agenda that does not.

    See, here’s what gets me: the government isn’t *directly* funding religious content. They are funding an event which will be attended by one Christian band. I see this as more of a “everyone gets a chance for a seat at the table” sort of thing than an explicit endorsement of any one type of band or view. I mean, shit, Christians pay taxes, too.

    For some perspective, please see the whole “Rock Beyond Belief” issue. When it was Christian proselytizing, we got the whole “well, it’s just a bunch of bands that happen to be Christian, what’s your problem, it’s no big deal, and if you deny them a government funded and endorsed venue, you are denying them their 1st Amendment rights!” Plus the disingenuous claim that they would equally fund a similar atheistic event. We all know what happened after that.

    Yes, but that was a different issue. They deliberately and disingenuously funded an explicity Christian event which did discriminate against nontheists and nonChristians. That is certainly not the case here; this is not an explicitly Christian event, and I certainly don’t see how it’s discriminating against nontheists and nonChristians.

    Let me phrase it this way….I feel that if an event is government-funded, then people should not be able to be *automatically* disqualified because of religious beliefs. The separation of church and state goes both ways — people should not use the government as a platform to directly spread their religion, but they should also not use it to deliberately quash and silence certain groups by not giving them the same opportunities as other groups. To me, THAT would be disingenuous.

    No, they are not so much “taking advantage of the First Amendment to speak their message”. It’s more like they are warping the First Amendment in an effort to retain the overprivileged status they once had, wherein their religious agendas and messages were both funded and endorsed by the government and made it nearly impossible for non-xians/unbelievers to avoid having to participate in some way.

    They’re “overprivileged” because they went through the same process as all the other bands that got the job, and they got the job as well? I don’t see any evidence that their Christianity is the *reason* they got the job. If there was, then I might have a problem with that. But even Hemant doesn’t seem to think so, and I’m inclined to believe him on this one.

    And no, I don’t buy that the only alternative was choosing a band everyone would hate. You can’t tell me they had no choice and the majority of people just had to have this band and that no other would do, that there is absolutely no non-religious band that everyone including non-xians would have enjoyed.

    I don’t really see how this is any different than saying the event is discriminatory because I don’t like the band they chose. What if they had chosen Green Day instead? Someone might say, “I don’t like Green Day, why couldn’t they get a band that everyone could enjoy? I don’t buy that the majority of people just had to have THIS band and that no other would do.”

  • SeekerLancer

    Tim pretty much summed up my feelings in his last post probably better than I could have.

  • Randy

    “on the radar”. really? This is a non-issue that just goes to show how similar theists and atheists can be.

    The Parks and Rec Department did their job. They used funds they put aside for such occasions to support the community. The City where I work for example, makes NO money on the pools and parks but we support them so people can use and enjoy them. We also support a yearly 4th of July party. The whole “my tax dollars” really gets old when your petty about it.

  • Silent Service

    Just one Christian rock band out of how many bands, Hemant? Just being a Christian band should not disqualify them from performing. That would be discriminating against Christians, wholly inappropriate, and just about bar Country music from any state fair. Christian bands deserve to be able to put their music out there with everybody else. Now, had most of the bands been Christian or if a band with a distinctively different religious view had been barred at this local government funded event there would be a good reason to complain; but this seems to be just a bit too insignificant to get worked up about.

  • Rich Wilson

    What if a secular band covers Spirit in the Sky?

  • Silent Service

    I love that song. Yeah, the lyrics are nonsense but it’s just a great song.

  • EZK

    To exclude a band because they are Christian seems like religious discrimination to me. Freedom of speech? Freedom of religion? Since when did those freedoms mean that atheism always wins?

  • 0Megabyte

    I see a lot of strange things in this thread, and I realize something:

    When you’re as concerned as we are with inappropriate religious sentiment in government and public places, it becomes easy to gain a visceral reaction to anything of the sort.

    This is a freaking band.

    “I would be pretty pissed off that my city officials paid for a Christian band to come to town to spread their gospel”?

    Not only is it one band in a series, but being offended that an overtly Christian group of people is allowed to sing music in a public festival along with a number of other people is a little ridiculous.

    Let’s face facts: To be offended by this is no better than a Christian whining about a stupid billboard.

    It isn’t that there’s bigger fish to fry. It isn’t that this “problem” is small and not to be concerned with.

    It’s that this isn’t a problem.

    But let’s see where this logic “a city paid for it, therefore a Christian band cannot play in our group” takes us.

    Public libraries have religious books. Works of art (of various quality) in their own right, just as music is. By spending money on these overtly Christian books like Paradise Lost or Left Behind, say, is a city not also using public funds to bring in Christian books?

    How about a public art museum? Is a city not allowed to display works of art by a religious person, or one with a religious sentiment? It’s a city using public funds to bring in Christian art!

    No. Art is art, and EVERYONE gets a voice in art. This isn’t a prayer at the beginning of a town hall meeting. This is a band playing music, and some local churches getting really excited about it.

    It’s easy to become sensitive to things that hurt us. Especially when we believe they’re fundamentally incorrect about the universe. But this isn’t one of those hurtful, exclusionary things, and it only makes us assholes to pretend otherwise.

  • Kevin McCoy

    As the person who sent the link originally to Hemant, I think it’s worth mentioning how I came across this story: In my Facebook news feed being reposted by several of my very conservative Christian friends as an example of a town finally using public funds to do some good and to spread the gospel. I understand the points being made by people here about this not worth getting riled up about, and I certainly don’t think that it’s a huge deal. I also appreciate that the presence of Christian-themed music in a public or government-sponsored setting is not inherently bad. I spent many years singing religious and secular music in school and it has its place.

    However, I think that in small towns people often do things that intermingle government and religion out of ignorance, not realizing that it does, in fact, bother some people, not to mention infringe on their rights. Those people may not be willing to speak out. (When I led a protest against an organized prayer during my high school graduation ceremony, I was approached privately by some students, parents, and school staff indicating that I had wider support than I knew, especially from some of the few Jewish students in our school, who didn’t want to be seen as troublemakers but felt uncomfortable with the prayer.) Bringing attention to the subject can help people understand when they otherwise might never even think about the non-Christians among us.

  • Kate

    I’m from Liberty and I agree that this really isn’t a big deal. This band is part of a line up of bands and discriminating against them because of their religion would have been just as wrong as discriminating against atheists or Muslims. This was not a Christian event, but an arts event. So what if a Christian radio station encouraged it? As far as I know, the city didn’t pay for that. And honestly? I’m mostly glad that the city is promoting the arts at all. Yes, I would be upset if the event itself were Christian, or if the event had been held at a church. But I live in a city where the school district made drastic cuts to its fine arts programs, where there are five hardware stores and no bookstores, and where the library is more likely to have your favorite knitting magazine than any book by Jane Austen. The fact that Liberty is having a summer concert series and providing ANY sort of public forum for artists to express themselves is, for me, a long awaited step in the right direction.


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