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Church halted from Sunday service at Colorado amphitheater over concerns of preferential treatment

Church halted from Sunday service at Colorado amphitheater due to constitutional concerns
Church halted from Sunday service at Colorado amphitheater due to constitutional concerns 02:44

The town of Dillon, Colorado, is garnering national attention over concerns surrounding the separation of church and state. It stems from a local church that occasionally holds services at the Dillon Amphitheater. For years, the Dillon Community Church held Sunday services at the Dillon Amphitheater, but the legality of the practice is being questioned.

The town's now-former attorney Kathleen Kelly advised Dillon Town Council to change its policy regarding the church to avoid violating freedom of religion protections. The council initially ignored this advice but has since reversed course, now halting the church services and looking into a new policy for amphitheater use among nonprofits.

Public reception has been mixed. Some, like David Everly, urged the council to avoid preferential treatment towards any particular religion and supported the plan to draft new policies for future reservations with the amphitheater.

Others, like Wendy Myers, believe the church's services should be grandfathered into any new policy due to its long history at the amphitheater.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the town, highlighting its vulnerability to lawsuits if the church truly is being given special treatment compared to other nonprofits. The FFRF argues that other nonprofit groups should have the chance to rent the amphitheater and that the church should pay the same rental rate, if there is a cost at all.

Dillon Amphitheater Controversy
People participate in a yoga session hosted at Dillon Amphitheater in Dillon, Colorado on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Photo by Zachary Spindler-Krage/The Denver Post

Chris Line, a staff attorney for FFRF explained their stance on the services allowed on city property.

"The town can definitely rent the amphitheater out to the church. That's not an issue," Line said. "But if the church is given exclusive access and the town appears to be promoting and affiliating itself with the religion by giving special treatment to a church, that's where you kind of run into constitutional issues."

The FFRF has requested public information about rental schedules and fees related to using the space to determine if other groups are being turned down in favor of the church or if there's no competition at all. Line said the town needs to emphasize the importance of a neutral policy to avoid preferential treatment.

So far, a spokesperson for the town has not agreed to an interview regarding the topic with CBS News Colorado. The Dillon Community Church has not responded to our requests for comments.

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