Thursday, June 14, 2007

Child Evangelism Fellowship Overcomes Unfair Discrimination At County Fair

Caldwell, ID - The Canyon County Fair & Festival Board has reversed its decision to add unconstitutional restrictions to Child Evangelism Fellowship of Idaho's (CEF) use of fair exhibit space. Shortly after Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter, the Board agreed to allow CEF to continue its tradition of face painting and sharing literature and a Christian message to children at the fair, which will be held July 26-30. The Board has now provided a new contract for CEF that will allow the ministry to operate a booth at the fair without the discriminatory restrictions.
For the past decade, CEF has distributed trinkets, literature, and offered free face painting to children at the fair. When CEF applied for a booth earlier this year, the Board refused to allow CEF to serve children unless parents were also present. Fair director Rosalie Moore told Bob Smith, the state director for CEF, that the restriction was based on the religious materials and presentations of CEF. The only other vendor at the fair with a similar restriction was Gideon International, the other exhibitor presenting a message with a religious viewpoint.
Liberty Counsel intervened on behalf of CEF by sending a demand letter, pointing out that the restrictions were a violation of CEF's right to freedom of speech. The Board's attorney responded, promising a new contract for CEF to specifically allow face painting and exclude any restrictions based on religious viewpoints. Liberty Counsel also stated in the letter that applying the same restrictions to Gideon International was also unconstitutional, and the Board agreed to also lift the restrictions from that group.
CEF is an international, nonprofit organization which has been in existence for over seventy years and is currently in 157 countries. CEF sponsors Good News Clubs, an after-school enrichment program for elementary-age students, as well as a number of other outreach activities designed to teach biblical principles, moral values, character qualities, and respect for authority.
A barrier based on the religious viewpoint of groups seeking access to government-sponsored events like county fairs violates the right to freedom of speech. Whether the government bans a group from a fair because of the group's religious views or imposes discriminatory restrictions based on religion, the outcome is the same - the Constitution is violated. Instead of imposing restrictions, the government should welcome Child Evangelism Fellowship's positive messages of respect, morality and character development.