The Texas Attorney General’s office is warning the Austin Independent School District not to ban churches from renting facilities because their views might conflict with LGBT groups.
“The District should not make any changes to its facilities use policy that would prevent churches from renting those facilities on the same terms as other community organizations, lest it violate state and federal law,” First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer wrote in a letter obtained by The Todd Starnes Radio Show.
Last August Celebration Church began holding services at a performing arts facility owned by the school district. The so-called mega-church is a well-respected and long-established congregation in the Austin area.
The church also holds to traditional and biblical views on issues regarding marriage and homosexuality.
“We believe that marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, god-designed — and do not endorse or condone it in any other context,” Pastor Joe Champion told me.
In other words, the church holds to a belief shared by thousands of other churches across the nation.
“Our focus is and has always been as what we do as a church – serving the community – spreading the word of God based on the Bible. And we continue to do that,” the pastor said.
Stonewall Militant Front – ATX, a self-described militant LGBT group, declared war on the church and demanded that the school district sever its contract. And they made no secret that their number one goal was to run the church out of town.
“They think they can use their money to spread their hate in our city and our halls – we are going to run them out,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page.
The group has already protested and picketed the church during Sunday worship services – calling congregants “anti-LGBT bigots.”
“If bigoted churches come to town opposing the existence of LGBTQ people, the masses must organize and take the fight to the church doors and oppose their existence in Austin,” they wrote.
As a result of the LGBT group’s campaign, the school district has decided to reconsider its rental policies.
“I’m not in favor of renting to any entity that doesn’t support our values…and that’s full inclusion of our LGBTQ community,” school board trustee Ann Teich told the Statesman-American.
And trustee Jayme Mathias offered up a similar assessment, saying the church had “values that did not align with those of the district.”
Mateer said Celebration Church and other congregations have every right to rent school facilities.
“Excluding churches from a government forum or program due to their religious nature is odious to our Constitution,” Mateer wrote in his letter to the school district.
Pastor Champion read a letter Sunday to the congregation alerting them that the school district may be preparing to evict them based on the church’s religious beliefs.
“If AISD does, in fact, change its policies, the new policies may impact our ability to meet at the Performing Arts Center after the end of September. Our Leadership Team is fully aware of the situation and actively working towards a solution following the guidance provided by the Texas Attorney General on Friday in a letter to the AISD,” the letter read.
The attorney general’s office said the school district is “targeting Celebration Church for discriminatory treatment.”
“The District’s proposal to exclude churches with traditional beliefs about marriage, while allowing churches that agree with same-sex marriage to continue renting its facility smacks of denominational preference, and is unconstitutional,” he wrote.
Pastor Champion said the focus of their church is to share the love of Jesus Christ with their community. And he rejected any accusations that the mega-church is homophobic.
“God called us to love everyone and we welcome everyone in the community to attend our church,” he told me.
And yet a militant, anti-Christian mob wants to run this precious church out of town. The war on religious liberty wages on, friends.
They say everything is bigger in Texas – and I reckon that includes hate and bigotry, too.