Thursday, September 22, 2011

San Diego PraiseFest - Praising With Our Dollars

San Diego Praise Fest was last weekend. Fine; we live in a free country where people are free to worship or not as they please. Except these folks did it with free money. Your free money and my free money, to be exact.

This year San Diego City Council President Tony Young gave $10,000 in city money to Praise Fest. City Beat was on the story last year as well and the ACLU has already sent a letter to Young, so it's on their radar. This is a perfect example of a concrete, local issue, and a great opportunity to get involved - contact the ACLU San Diego afiliate here. Big ups to SD City Beat's Dave Maass for covering this story:

"I told them not to [use the event for evanglism] in the first place," Young says. "I tried to explain to them, 'Listen, you don't even want to give the impression of that to what we're doing...By the time [the promoted materials] came out, it was a little disappointing, but that's right: We shouldn't have any crosses."

To date, Young's office has steered $28,000 to Praise Fest, including $10,000 in 2011. The money comes from the transient-occupancy tax, a levy on hotel rooms; each council office receives $25,000 to spend at its discretion. This year, Praise Fest scrubbed most religious references from its website (sandiegopraisefest.com), including the cross from the logo.

Nevertheless, God was almost omnipresent at the festival. There were hundreds of T-shirts with congregational catchphrases and slogans like "Jesus is My Boss" and "Bikers for Jesus." Young women passed out cards with "GOD is greater than...ANY problem I may have" printed on one side, with a bail bondsman's phone number on the other. At least eight ministries led musical worship on the "Church House" stage, one of three at the event. Young asked people not to proselytize but says it's not his place to police what's said on stage.

All that said,, Young is saying the right things and the event seems to be moving in the right direction. People should absolutely be allowed to assemble for whatever religious reason they want to. Just not with our money.

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