Tag Archive for Heaven Fest

Heaven Fest should support local charities

As seen in Longmont Ledger, February 20, 2011

Heaven Fest, the Christian music festival that played at Union Reservoir last summer will land somewhere “North of Denver” on July 31, but that’s about all that can be determined at this writing.

How many in our Front Range communities would be surprised to learn that in the festival’s first three events (2007-2009) Heaven Fest gave not one dime to local charities. Read that again then shake your head in wonderment.

Heaven Fest is a wholly owned subsidiary of Worship and the Word Movement, a religious charity that files 990s with the IRS. Much was made of this status in support of the permit application, but the facts belie the promises. WWM grossed over $1 million from 2007 to 2009 and donated a mere 2.13 percent, every penny of which went to support two orphanages in Central America.

Instead, 100 percent of the $47,029 donation was given to the Miami based “House of Refuge,” which ran orphanages in both Venezuela and Honduras. Interestingly, the Venezuelan government seized the property and shut down that orphanage in 2008, and in 2009, the founder and operator of both orphanages fled Honduras rather than face charges of child molestation and sexual misconduct.

Last year’s event at the reservoir grossed an estimated $1 million. Heaven Fest promised various amounts to various local charities — $50,000 to one, all parking fees to another – but in an August 10 article in the Times-Call under the banner “Stoked,” the organizers announced contributions totaling $46,000 of which $1,500 (3.3 percent) would benefit local charities with the rest going to entities in foreign countries.

As for the $900,000 economic “bump” predicted by various Longmont civic executives, it never happened. Sales taxes exceed those in three other months. Compared to the same period in ’08 they were $22,000 less.

Last year I argued strongly with Longmont’s City Council that a gate fee should have been charged to this non-profit organization, just as though it were a commercial rock show. It was obvious that council wanted to duck the discussion with its unspoken tension on the line between church and state.

The permit was granted of course, and minimal fees were charged. The possibility of a gate fee anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 was waived. A strong argument can be made that the city violated Rule 9:14 of the Municipal Code which specifically states, “(N)o expenditure shall be made for any charitable or benevolent purposes to any denominational or sectarian institution or association.”

What WWM does with its money and where they spend it is none of my business or anyone else’s. Had we in 2010 negotiated a percentage of the gate and directed to our local charities, I wouldn’t be writing this letter. But council ducked the debate, hyped the event and it won’t surprise me if it does so again.

If a city wants to make an illegal donation to a religious organization, I suggest at the very minimum it demand a public audit so citizens are fully informed.

I will provide documentation for all facts above upon request.

Heaven Fest 2007 990 filing

Heaven Fest 2008 990 filing

Heaven Fest 2009 990 filing

City of Longmont violates First Amendment

Baum and friends have no respect for your rights

Stand up, Speak Out!

On Wednesday July 28, 2010, the City of Longmont received a letter from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The letter indicates that a complaint has been registered with Americans United because the city “has provided a fee waiver, to ‘Worship and the Word Movement, Inc.’ for the administrative and operational costs that will be incurred by the Longmont Police Department for the group’s event ‘Heaven Fest 2010’…”

Americans United informs the City “that it is unconstitutional for the City to provide a benefit, such as a fee waiver to a religious organization when the City does not provide the same benefit to other organizations.”

An Open Records Request earlier in the year revealed that the Longmont Police Department (LPD) has a standard contract that requires special events to reimburse the LPD $50 per hour for administrative and coordination fees.

Emails between the LPD and Valeria Skitt, Longmont City Clerk, reveal that the Police Department abandoned the charges when Skitt emailed Commander Jeffrey Satur saying , “These numbers seem like a bit much given that they aren’t requesting officer assistance, we are requiring it.” The email went on to say, “This will come as a really big surprise to them at this late stage of the game.”

Commander Satur explained in a subsequent email “why we charge for our administrative costs.” He said, “These meetings are time consuming and take away from our primary duties. As such, at a time when resources were scarce, we felt it important for the event coordinators, not the tax payers, to pay for this loss.”

As of February 26, 2010, Commander Satur indicated to Ms. Skitt that the Longmont Police Department had devoted “at least 10 hours of planning.” He said that he did not “know how many planning meeting we have left, but I’m thinking 20-25 hours.” The cost for the hours devoted and the expressed estimate amounted to $1,750.00.

The License Agreement between the city and Heaven Fest was signed on March 9, 2010, and did not included charges for administrative costs. Subsequent to the execution of the Agreement, the Longmont Police Department spent considerable time between March and June developing the Traffic Plan for the event with the Weld County Sheriff’s Department and the State Patrol.

An email from the City Clerk indicated that no amendments to the original License Agreement were executed.

The letter from Americans United cites several cases in support of the complaint.
“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ‘mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.’”

Americans United asks that the City “take steps to ensure that this fee is either applied equally to all events, religious and non-religious alike, or that it is not applied to any event.” If the first option is selected, the city would need to “rescind the waiver and collect all applicable fees for ‘Heaven Fest 2010.’”

Mayor Bryan Baum and Mayor ProTem Gabe Santos are in Japan until August 3rd. At its Regular Session council meeting on Tuesday, July 27th, Council Member Sean McCoy was chosen to act on behalf of the City in the absence of Baum and Santos.

When asked about the letter, Acting Mayor McCoy responded, “The Constitution is the nation’s fundamental document. All elected officials have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. The city takes this matter seriously and will work to resolve any issue that may exist.”

Americans United expects the City of Longmont to respond to its letter within thirty days.

According to its website, Americans United “is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.”

The author of this article is the complainant in this matter.

Heaven Fest handling unconstitutional

The following is the text of the Guest Opinion published in the Longmont Times-Call on Thursday, July 29, 2010.

The United States legal system has a constitutional imperative that prohibits the United States government from establishing or endorsing a state religion. The shorthand for this is the phrase “separation of church and state.”

This fundamental principle and imperative applies to any government entity, federal to local. It has been litigated successfully over the centuries since the country’s founding.

However, there are segments of our society who deny the imperative. More than deny, they both ignore and manipulate it so as to effectively eliminate it.

Earlier this year, the City of Longmont issued a Use of Public Places permit to Heaven Fest to hold a festival of Christian music, or so it was presented. City departments devoted enormous numbers of hours to the planning process for this event, perhaps even weeks worth. These were financially uncompensated hours.

The Longmont Police Department’s standard contract for events states, “…there is an administrative fee for contracted events… These events typically require additional planning, coordination… The Extra Duty Employer [in this case, Heaven Fest] will pay a $50 per hour administrative fee for the Extra Duty Coordinator and $50 per hour for coordination from any support unit…”

These fees were waived for Heaven Fest when the City Clerk objected to the probable amount of the fees. This information is documented by an Open Records Request last March. The amount was projected in February to be an estimated $1,750 including time already spent and time anticipated. Given the nature of the Traffic Plan and the amount of interaction since March with Weld County and the State Patrol offices, this is undoubtedly a conservative estimate. The City Clerk reports that there were no Amendments to the original agreement with Heaven Fest subsequent to the completion of the Traffic Plan, thus the administrative and coordination fees were selectively waived for the Heaven Fest religious event.

The Heaven Fest website proclaims that the event is “at its very core…about prayer, worship, and being a catalyst for revival here in the Rocky Mountain region.”

In its Vendor Agreement, Worship and the Word, the producer of Heaven Fest, declares that the event “is a Jesus-focused, Jesus-worshipping, evangelical Christian event intent on conforming to Biblical principles and moral values.” It goes on to demand, “If WWM/Heaven Fest finds any of the items an Exhibitor is distributing to be inappropriate or incompatible to these values, Exhibitor will be asked to remove it. If an Exhibitor is found distributing an item that was not approved at the time of contract, Exhibitor may be shut down. WWM/Heaven Fest reserves the right to deny the distribution of any materials and order the cessation of any demonstrations on day of festival based on the discretion of WWM/Heaven Fest…”

The Agreement between the City and Heaven Fest abdicates the City’s vendor permitting responsibility to Heaven Fest. This abdication as well as the exception for usual and customary Longmont Police Department fees constitute an endorsement of a specific religion, a constitutional violation.

Will the City of Longmont face legal ramifications for this course of action. Highly unlikely. Longmont is a small city, off the radar for those organizations that are more likely to challenge it in court. However, the violation has occurred regardless of whether it is heard in a court of law.

But there is a court that should be concerned about the legitimacy of the city’s decision. And that is the court of public opinion.

This Guest Opinion will no doubt bring a barrage of complaints from fundamentalists who claim dominion over the ideas of Christianity and who, as described at the beginning of this article, deny the established validity of “the separation of church and state.” However, no amount of objections in response to this writing will change either the facts or the law.

Longmont is proceeding full speed ahead with its endorsement of this religious event and likely will have an official presence at Heaven Fest, further compounding the violation. It’s a shame that there are pockets within our city and throughout the country whose religious activities go beyond their private beliefs and seek to abolish a fundamental American tenet.

The ultimate objective and direction of this path will change this country from a representative democracy that respects the rights of all to a theocracy that demands allegiance to a specific religious dogma under penalty of law. It’s a path that will destroy the American system of government that has been treasured since the American idea was born and held as a beacon and example for the rest of the world to follow.

Mayor Baum, you are a liar.

Longmont Mayor Bryan Baum, lying to the public

Factually challenged or just morally bankrupt?

It’s unfortunate that this has to be said so forcefully and without equivocation, but Mayor Bryan Baum, your statements to the press on Friday, July 23, 2010 leave no other reasonable choice.

Next weekend the Heaven Fest Christian revival and music festival is scheduled at Union Reservoir. This organization and its producer Worship and the Word filed an application for a Use of Public Places permit in November 2009 nearly immediately after the results of the Longmont city council and mayor’s races were known.

In the ensuing months many members of the community appeared before the Longmont City Council and at several different meetings and spoke during Public Invited to be Heard against allowing this event to take place. Still others sent emails to members of the council and city staff objecting to this event being held at Union Reservoir, a sensitive ecosystem for many wildlife species. Concerns came from a broad cross section of the community as well as members of a church and members of the Audubon Society.

Members of the community almost begged the Mayor and Council to take this major policy decision from the hands of Longmont’s City Clerk (and city staff) and deal with it openly and directly. You, Mayor Baum, along with Council Members Gabe Santos, Alex Sammoury and Katie Witt, insisted that the matter could and would be adequately addressed by staff and there was no reason for the Council to make a statement or take a vote on this matter.

On one occasion a 30-minute formal presentation was made to you and council in three-minute consecutive segments by ten members of the community. The presentation covered all aspects of the issue from economic benefits, to quality of life issues including traffic and noise, to the environmental and wildlife impact.

The effort and presentation was roundly ignored. But it certainly was not minimal and, yes, it certainly was vocal.

Yet you, Mayor Baum, are quoted as follows in the Times-Call in Saturday’s article, ludicrously titled “City is closer to heaven.”

Here is what you said:

He [Baum] added that a “vocal minority” has voiced concerns about the festival but “nobody [emphasis added] brought those concerns to any council members to bring up at council meetings.”

“If there was a great dislike or disdain for what was going on, we wouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

These were not misquotes, nor misunderstandings, as The Denver Post reported the same content in a more abbreviated article.

Mayor Baum, you intentionally lied about what is a matter of public record. It is in council minutes, on the video recordings of council meetings on DVDs at the library and the council meetings were broadcast several times by Comcast on then-Channel 3. There is a record “everywhere” of what took place.

Why you would think lies of this magnitude and so easily verifiable would go unnoticed and be accepted defies comprehension. Are you a pathological liar or are you psychologically challenged in some other way? Or are you simply a man with no moral compass and no comprehension of ethics?

You have a demonstrated history of insulting members of the public and fellow-members of this city council, sometimes openly and sometimes in private. You have a demonstrated history of throwing a tantrum when votes do not go your way. You have a demonstrated history of retaliating against same.

You, Mayor Baum, lack the honesty and integrity necessary to serve this city. Resign, and let us begin to repair the damage you continue to cause.