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 especially silly if you consider what people are supposed to do if they want to talk to a clergy volunteer. If the clergy aren't allowed to identify themselves, are people just supposed to walk up to strangers and ask, "Are you a minister?" This story is sad in light of last night's news that a single-engine plane crashed near the airport; the four people aboard are still missing. It sure would be nice if the families and friends had an opportunity to be ministered to while they wait for news. It's clear that the JAA officials are worried about a lawsuit. But they're worried about it coming from the wrong side.
Want to contact the JAA about its decision? Its "action line" is (904) 741-2723, the public relations number is (904) 741-2712, and the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Or there's always the U.S. Mail:
Jacksonville Airport Authority
ATTN: Customer Service Department
P.O. Box 18018
Jacksonville, FL 32229
In another airport development, a British airport wants to expand, but there's only one problem. The St Laurence and All Saints Church is in the way. It's been there a bit longer than the airport: only about a millennium or so.
Weblog loves it when the press tries to summarize the words of Pope John Paul II. All of these stories refer to the same comments:
- Pope: Anti-terror fight is moral (Associated Press)
- Pope, not mentioning U.S., urges military restraint (The New York Times)
- Pope says forgiveness leads to peace (Chicago Tribune)
- Pope ambiguous on U.S. campaign (Los Angeles Times)
- Blunt force wrong, pontiff says (The Globe and Mail)
- Pope calls for an end to Iraqi sanctions (CNN)
- Plight of innocents worries pontiff (Reuters/The Toronto Star)
Meanwhile, here's what the Pope really said.
- The nine days of Tom and Jack | Forget about Hanukah vs. Christmas. The real debate is between colored lights and white ones (Michael Kelly, The Washington Post)
- A salute to Christmas | Americans mix church and state on their front lawns. (Thomas J. Bray, The Wall Street Journal)
- New state prison chaplain is the Rev. Witch, a Wiccan | Legislator questions appointment, but barring her position would be unconstitutional (Associated Press)
- Also: Wiccan defends right to be chaplain | Lawmaker says he'll push to cut funds for prison chaplain (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Chaplains to open ranks | A local law enforcement chaplaincy under fire for requiring volunteers to be followers of Jesus Christ has agreed to open its ranks to volunteers from all faiths (Los Angeles Times)
- Before: Officials probe Sacramento Christian-only chaplaincy | Law Enforcement Chaplaincy-Sacramento is a private Christian group that has served the area's policing agencies for the past 25 years (Jewish Bulletin of Northern California)
- God is not on my side. Or yours. | There are folks like me who are fanatically uncertain about what God is thinking (Roger Rosenblatt, Time)
- Good books | Christian booksellers say sales continue to boom (Las Vegas Sun)
- In God we trust! | Commercial sex workers believe God, not safer sex, can save them from HIV/AIDS as they carry on with little or no protection, new studies reveal (Vanguard, Lagos, Nigeria)
- 'Singing vicar' runs off with rector's wife | Church shocked and in tears (The Times)
- Also: 'Singing vicar' runs off with fellow rector's wife (The Daily Telegraph)
Other stories of interest:
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