When God and Politics
Take Over Public School Buildings
FlaglerLive | April 26, 2010
What church-state wall? Dominion Fellowship Church holds Sunday services at Rymfire Elementary school every Sunday. Palm Coast Christian Church does it at Buddy Taylor Middle School (in that new building between the middle and the elementary school). Lighthouse Bible Church calls Belle Terre Elementary home. The First AME Church of Palm Coast used to meet at Old Kings Elementary before it moved to the African-American Cultural Center. The Church on the Rock used to meet there too.
Beyond the reach of the gods, political groups too have made ample use of public buildings, including schools. The Flagler County Democratic Party met at the county’s Government Services Building in Bunnell. Just last week, the emerging Palm Coast Tea Party Movement held its third meeting in the cafeteria of Flagler Palm Coast High School. And that’s just a quick gleaning of political or religious groups that use local, public facilities to advance their ends, which may, but usually don’t, have anything to do with education.
Should public school facilities be used to those ends?
- When Flagler Schools Booted Out Rosa Parks
- Read the Flagler School District’s Policy on Use of Facilities
- Current Rental Fees for Use of Facilities
- Festive Fears and Cheers at Tea Party Rally
That’s the question the Flagler County School Board will address in a workshop on Tuesday at Bunnell’s Government Services building. The location of the meeting–the superintendent’s conference room on the third floor or the board chambers on the ground floor–will likely be determined by the size of the audience, which could turn the meeting into a spectacle. The board wouldn’t have taken on the question had it not been for that Tea Party meeting at the high school, which angered some of the few people, outside of hard-core Tea Party activists, aware that it was going on.
“As a taxpayer I was very upset that they were using public facilities, because to me they’re a hate group,” Rosalind Parneix, a Palm Coast resident, said shortly after addressing the school board on the matter last week. “I hate the signs that they use. I’m not saying that the Tea Party in Palm Coast does it, but I know what they do in Washington, with Obama with Nazi mustache, Obama as a communist… the pictures with Nazi death camps with Obama’s name on it. That’s what the Tea Party does. They can deny it, they say, ‘oh, it’s the media who does it.’ It’s not the media who does it. It’s them who do it.”
Tom Lawrence, chairman of the Flagler Tea Party Movement, ridicules the notion that his is a hate group. “We would not tolerate hate speech. We’re not about hate,” Lawrence said. “We’re about talking action, we’re about a group of citizens who feel they need some change.”
Lawrence’s Tea Party group held its third meeting at Flagler Palm Coast High School on April 20, the evening that Parneix and Dan Parham, chairman of the Flagler County Democratic Party Executive Committee, addressed the school board on community uses of school facilities. Parham had initially been opposed to Tea Party uses of the high school–until he learned that his own party had used the very public facility he was standing in, addressing the board. From that point on, he switched roles–from critic of the board’s allowances to protector. “Some of the people that contacted me wanted to demonstrate” against allowing Tea Party uses of the high school, Parham said. “But I don’t want to really put the county, city of Palm Coast and the schools in that position if I can help it.”
The Tea Party group drew 220 people at the April 20 meeting at the high school cafeteria. It drew 175 people at its March meeting, also at the cafeteria. In February, it drew some 100. That meeting was held at the Flagler Room of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. The room proved too small. So the group rented, for $70 an hour (including the custodial fee), the high school cafeteria for an hour and a half on the third Tuesday of every month.
It’s legal. The school district’s policy says so. Groups may not use school facilities to gamble or break laws or school board rules. That may get grayer than the school board acknowledges when politics and religion is involved, and when political passions turn hot. But the policy is intended to narrow the necessity of judgment calls as much as possible.
It may be a question of time, with Tea Party activists using school buildings, before groups like, say, the Nation of Islam or other organizations at least perceived to be radical decide to test their communities’ limits. That’s what the school board will try to anticipate in its workshop on Tuesday.
Flagler County School District Building Rental Frees
|Room||Room Types/Use||Rate per hour/staff charge|
|Classroom||For meeting purposes only||$20 per hour + $30 per hour custodial charges|
|Specialized room||Band, choral, media center, training rooms||$35 per hour + $30 per hour custodial charges|
|Cafeteria / courtyard||Meetings||$35 per hour + $30 per hour custodial charges|
|Multi purpose room||Multi purpose||$35 per hour + $30 per hour custodial charges|
|Auditorium||Concerts, large meetings||$150 per hour + $30 per hour custodial charges|
|Kitchen||Set up / preparation|
banquets, parties, etc.
|$25 per hour + $30 per hour kitchen staff charges|
|Gymnasium||Practice, league play, sporting events||$40 per hour + $30 per hour custodial charges|
|Large parking lots||Shows, large events||$100 per hour + $30 per hour custodial charges|
|Small parking lots||Shows, large events||$50 per hour + $30 per hour custodial charges|
|Football fields / stadium|| |
Striping, all fields
Supervision - 2 people
|$300 per use
$120 per use
$100 per hour
$70 per hour
$50 per hour
|Fields||Baseball, practice, soccer|
|$150 per use
$50 per hour
$50 per hour