Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter to Iowa officials asking the state government not to fund a Christian-themed park in Sioux City. In their letter, FFRF urged the authorities to take back the $140,000 grant that had been sanctioned for the Shepherd’s Garden, because this move was a violation of both the United States and Iowa constitutions.
“Clearly, this is a violation of the First Amendment. It couldn’t be more clear that what they’re trying to do is promote religion with a park. If it were just a park, we wouldn’t have any problem with it,” said Andrew Seidel, FFRF staff attorney.
Plans for the park include several prayer spaces as well as a stone path called Walk of Faith that will depict verses from the Bible. A brochure that was circulated for fundraising purposes described the project as a “non-traditional entry point into the Christian religion” that was inspired by “concern over the retreat of Christianity from the public square.” It also says the purpose is to develop “a permanent Christian green space” in Sioux City.
However, according to Tina Hoffman, spokeswoman of Iowa Economic Development Authority, the grant was sanctioned to pay for the green space at the park only and not for the installation of any religious elements. She also clarified that no contract has been drafted or signed as yet and state officials will meet over the next few days to discuss further action.
Photo Credit: David Joyce