To preach or not to preach during a Snoop Dogg concert at Red Rocks? A judge must decide
Plus, two Coloradans push for reform in the Southern Baptist Convention, Faith Christian Academy must comply with mask mandate, and more Valor news
Once again, a lawsuit regarding religion and freedom of speech is underway in Colorado. A federal judge is considering halting enforcement of a Denver policy limiting free speech activity at Red Rocks Amphitheatre after a Broomfield man challenged it in court. According to Colorado Politics, Joseph Maldonado was told by police that he could not preach to attendees of a Snoop Dogg concert at Red Rocks in 2019. He alleges that the five specific locations at the concert venue for “expressive activities” are not sufficient to comply with the First Amendment.
"I respect what Denver is trying to do. Honestly, if I were going to a concert at Red Rocks, I wouldn’t necessarily want some individual preaching his religion to me as I was standing in the line," said U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson at a hearing Thursday. "But as a judge, I’ve got to decide a legal issue based on the Constitution." Read the full story for more details.
Christa Brown and Jules Woodson, from Colorado, push for accountability at Tennessee meeting
On Monday and Tuesday, the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee met, debated, and voted several times on resolutions related to a third-party investigation into the committee’s handling of sexual abuse claims. The executive committee handles denomination business for the Southern Baptist Convention when the full convention isn’t in session.
As the executive committee was making decisions about this third-party investigation, a group of sexual abuse survivors advocating for reform in the country’s largest Protestant denomination weighed in on Twitter. Some also attended the executive committee meeting in Nashville.
“A pattern I’m noticing is a lot of praise for people within the SBC for their bravery and a lack of adding survivors’ voices and honoring their efforts in the hoopla. None of this would be a conversation if @ChristaBrown777 hadn’t sacrificed so much,” tweeted activist Hannah-Kate Williams.
This newsletter has previously mentioned Christa Brown, an activist from Boulder who authored the book “This Little Light” and is considered among the first to speak out about sexual abuse in the SBC. Williams’ tweet was retweeted by another Colorado-based activist, Jules Woodson.
Woodson, a flight attendant who lives in Colorado Springs, began advocating for reform in the Southern Baptist Convention after first sharing her story in 2018.
Several news outlets, including the Associated Press and The Lily interviewed Woodson in advance of the recent SBC executive committee meeting.
Woodson told The Lily, “‘The rot runs deep. People don’t even know who’s friends with who, who’s covered for who…The way the church responds now is constantly retraumatizing, and really no different than the way it did 20 years ago.’”
Ultimately, the executive committee did not make certain decisions that survivors hoped it would make this week. But after the committee meeting finished, Woodson was already thinking about next steps for the SBC annual convention, when all of the SBC messengers, the denomination’s voting delegates, gather to make big decisions. The next one is in June in Anaheim.
“Anyone want to start a Go Fund Me page to help me, and other #SBC survivors get to Anaheim in 2022??” Woodson tweeted on Wednesday. In response, Virginia pastor Will Soto and his wife Shannon Soto did exactly that. So far, donors have given more than $2,000 to the GoFund Me.
Mask mandate battles
In other legal news, a judge ruled Thursday that Faith Christian Academy must comply with Jefferson County’s mask mandate in schools and to allow inspection by county public health officials. The Jefferson County Health Department sought an injunction last week against three private Christian schools for refusing to comply with the county’s mask mandate. The other two schools, Beth Eden Baptist School and Augustine Classical Academy, settled with the county and had their lawsuits dismissed, according to the Denver Post.
“The conflict turns on matters of church and state, with JCPH contending that its duty to protect the health of children (and adults) supersedes issues of faith and the schools arguing that parents should be able to decide whether to mask their kids or rely on the protections afforded by God,” Michael Roberts wrote in a Westword article about the situation.
As Roberts notes, debates over religion and public health are nothing new. But with the spread of the extra-transmissible delta variant of COVID-19, the stakes are higher now.
National honor, local scrutiny
After a media firestorm when the news broke that Valor Christian High School allegedly pushed out two coaches for being gay, the private Christian school in Highlands Ranch is in the news for a different reason: it was just named one of the best schools in the country. Valor Christian was selected as one of six Blue Ribbon Schools in Colorado by the U.S. Department of Education, the highest honor the department can give. Colorado Public Radio education reporter Jenny Brundin has an article on the dichotomy:
“The U.S. Department of Education notes that National Blue Ribbon schools serve as models of effective school practices for state and district educators and other schools throughout the nation.
Amber Jackson, an alumna, told Brundin, “I think with the way that Valor has treated students, with the way that Valor has treated faculty, staff, coaches, it would be a detriment to all of us if other schools were modeled after that behavior.”
Valor declined to speak to CPR. A group of alumni and current students have formed the group Valor for Change to advocate for the school to change its policies regarding LGBTQ issues. It’s holding a fundraiser tonight at Denver’s gay bar Tracks.
Religious and immigration advocacy organizations are gearing up to welcome about 1,500 Afghan refugees to Colorado over the next year.
Denverite’s article about Su Teatro’s upcoming play El Corrido del Barrio discussed the role that St. Cajetan’s Church played for Denver’s Chicano community.
Interfaith advocacy group Together Colorado is holding a walk for immigrant rights Saturday at Viking Park.
After visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, Deseret News religion reporter Kelsey Dallas took a look at the religious significance of the National Park Service.
St. John’s Cathedral will have a livestream Sunday with artist Laura James about Black Christian art.
“Have Faith, Colorado” is a weekly roundup and analysis of local religion articles in the Centennial State. It’s by Liam Adams and Carina Julig. Carina covers education and other Aurora news at the Sentinel Colorado. Liam worked as a local journalist in Colorado and a freelancer covering religion. He just started a new job as religion reporter at The Tennessean. To connect with us about the newsletter please email firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, and follow us on twitter at @liamsadams and @CarinaJulig.