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Atheist-agnostic group amps up pressure on Draper over Christian concert

Published July 20, 2012 4:48 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Wisconsin-based atheist and agnostic organization has jumped into the debate over a Christian concert planned for next week in Draper. A lawyer with the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Draper Mayor Darrell Smith on Friday urging him to "cease using Draper City resources and taxpayer funds to plan, organize and promote a religious concert." The foundation promotes separation of church and state and its membership consists of "atheists, agnostics and skeptics," according to its website. Attorney Andrew Seidel didn't threaten any legal action in the letter but requested "a response in writing about what steps you are taking to ensure constitutional dictates are being followed." The letter also asks that the Mayor's Office disassociate itself from "hosting, organizing or otherwise coordinating religious events in the future." City spokeswoman Maridene Hancock declined Friday to comment on the letter, noting that city officials have been busy with the annual Draper Days. Controversy erupted over the concert, a performance by Christian artist Michael W. Smith planned for July 24 at the Draper Amphitheater, after resident Todd Ouzts threatened to sue the city over the event. In response to that threat, the Draper City Council decided Tuesday night to cancel the show. That decision drew outrage from a Utah evangelical group, which said calling off the show amounted to an assault on religious freedom. The council then reversed itself Wednesday, reinstating the performance. "As we thought about it and analyzed it, we don't feel like we're promoting a religion," Councilman Troy Walker said Wednesday. "We feel like we're putting on a performance like we do every summer." But some, such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, allege that Draper violated the Constitution by putting money toward the event, titled "Wonder, Worship and Glory." Draper put $21,500 toward the concert, expecting to recoup those funds through ticket sales. Lisa Schencker