May 2003 Church & State | AU Bulletin

After an appeal by the local ministerial alliance, the Mustang, Okla., city council has taken steps to limit youth sports activities at public parks during church time.

The Rev. Kevin Kellogg and clergy from 11 other congregations had urged the council to ban sports activities on city property on Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night.

However, the Daily Oklahoman reported in mid March that the city council approved a policy that only bars city officials from scheduling youth sporting events during those times. City Attorney Ted Pool said the government could not legally restrict private groups from scheduling activities whenever they choose. The policy, however, discourages private sports leagues from scheduling events during church hours on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Pool also said the official reason for the new policy is that it is more "cost-effective" for the city. If the action were taken for religious rather than economic reasons, the attorney noted, it would be unconstitutional.

The Oklahoma ACLU said the policy's stated purpose of saving the city money seems to be bogus.

The city attorney told the Oklahoman that the policy could be seen as religiously driven.

"It's not perfect," Pool said. "It carries with it innuendo that it's catering to the churches."