The ACLJ achieved a victory for the Suburban Community Church of Irwin, Pennsylvania, such that the Church may now continue to plan and advertise its National Day of Prayer event. The Church made a written request to the Irwin Borough Manager seeking to use a local public park as the site for their communitys National Day of Prayer gathering on May 1, 2008. The Boroughs attorney initially denied the Churchs request, stating that the Borough has never granted permission to any organization to use the Boroughs property, and that the Boroughs parks and playgrounds have been exclusively reserved for sports, recreation and entertainment activities to be enjoyed by the community generally.
The Churchs original request explained the Churchs plans: The VFW would be supplying an Honor Guard, and the Knights of Columbus would be providing their Precision Team; two (2) vocalists were also scheduled, as well as prayer offered by various community pastors and individuals. The event has been planned for the community and will be open to the community to observe the National Day of Prayer.
We sent a demand letter on the Church and its members behalf, explaining that the Boroughs denial of access to its public parks to observe the National Day of Prayer violated the Churchs and its members constitutional rights because a complete ban could never qualify as a reasonable time, place, or manner restriction. Additionally, the denial in this case would likely be an egregious content-based exclusion because the Main Irwin Park and Stage are likely used for expressive activities, such as music concerts and art shows.
The Boroughs attorney responded immediately, reversing his original position and gave direction for Pastor Baer to call the Borough Manager to set up a section of one of their parks for the Churchs National Day of Prayer event. The Pastor is pleased with the outcome, and thanked us for our assistance. The Church also plans to send a donation.