Jacksonville bans services at airport chapel because of church-state concerns
Just three months after the September 11 hijackings terrorized the nation, the Jacksonville Airport Authority (JAA) decided to shut down its chapel. Only a month ago, The Florida Times-Union ran an article about how great the chapel is and how Baptist Chaplain Tom Bane "exudes a gentleness" and cares lovingly for travelers and airport employees. The article even stressed how Bane goes out of his way not to offend non-Baptists during the chapel services. But all the attention brought to the chapel made JAA attorney Cindy Laquidera freak out. She "provided the JAA with a legal opinion and new recommended guidelines," according to the Times-Union, which basically said to shut the whole program down. Shut the office for clergy volunteers, prohibit the use of "airport chaplain" as a title, ban the use of any publicity materials (including use of the public address system) by clergy, and forbid anyone from holding services in the chapel. Allowing such things would be "too close to an endorsement of religion and that's not the government's job," Laquidera says. "We're not trying to squash anything, we're just trying to keep it within constitutional borders." The JAA is quick to note that the chapel is still open and people can still use it for silence, reflection, or prayer—they just apparently can't say anything about their faith there.
"It sounds silly to me," says Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center (he's misidentified in the Times-Union as Michael Comarde). "There is no coercive element to it whatsoever. This is a place where people walk to and from. The whole airport hasn't been turned into a chapel." Indeed. The rules get ...1