Praise in the Park but Not at City Hall

The epic debate over separation of Church and State is taking place in a very unlikely place – mailboxes.

Earlier this month, residents in the City Park neighborhood of Fort Collins received a curious letter from conservative Evangelical megachurch, Resurrection Church, promoting its annual Praise in the Park event where “thousands of people from hundreds of church denominations gather together at each event for the sole purpose of praising and worshipping God”.In the letter, which was delivered to this reporter, the church claims that the city asked them to contact residents in the City Park neighborhood.

Click the image to view the entire letter.

Bill Whirty, City of Fort Collins Parks Operations Manager, confirmed that he asked Resurrection Church to inform the neighbors about the Sunday event because of the potential for complaints with a large event expected to attract 4,000 people. “To me, it’s not city policy but just common sense if a group is bringing in a sound system,” Whirty said.

Whirty explained that for the last five years, he has asked all groups holding large events and/or bringing in sound systems to notify the neighbors within a two block radius of any of the city’s parks that are used for public events.

“The event will come and go, but I live in the City Park neighborhood and I want people to be happy. So far, I’ve never had any complaints.”

When I disclosed that I live more than six blocks from the location of Praise in the Park nor have I ever previously received a letter from an event host in the busy park which hosts frequent public gatherings, Whirty was concerned.

“Oh. That’s a very sensitive piece,” he responded, when the issue of the letter’s possible aim was more to promote the event with a hint of a city endorsement than to comply with Wirty’s obvious interest in maintaining neighborhood harmony.

Fot Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry and District 6 City Councilman David Roy, who represents the neighborhoods in and around City Park, expressed similar concerns about the letter which neither had seen.

When the Church and State separation concerns were voiced by this reporter, after reading the letter to him over the phone, Atteberry paused. “We really can’t support an event like this. I don’t know if we have a policy but we do require a mitigation plan for big events,” he said. At Atteberry’s request, this reporter delivered a copy of the letter to his office.

Resurrection Church could not be reached by Colorado Confidential about the letter’s purpose and wide outreach. 

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Wendy Norris

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