A press release from the Thomas More Law Center:
McHenry County Fair Segregates and Isolates Religious Groups in New “Religious Ghetto”
Thomas More Society Protests Discrimination Against Religious and Pro-Life Exhibitors
(May 21, 2015 – Woodstock, IL) The Thomas More Society has demanded that the McHenry County Fair stop discriminating against religious and pro-life exhibitors.
A letter from the non-profit legal firm details the Fair’s deliberate and intentional isolation of any organization they deem “faith-based.”
The 2015 booths for
- Peter’s Net
- McHenry Deanery Respect Life, and
- 1st Way Pregnancy Support Services of Johnsburg
have all been assigned spaces far removed from the main traffic way because of their religious message, while an organization associated with Planned Parenthood and espousing support for abortion has still been placed in the main exhibition area.
The Society’s letter references documented comments made by McHenry County Fair executive Larry Macheroux that confirm that this segregation is intentional. He told Paula Emmerth, president of opposing Peter’s Net, that he would never allow the group in the same building as the Planned Parenthood associate organization because it would create a potential conflict between the pro-life views of Peter’s Net and the opposing pro-choice views.
On another occasion Macheroux commented about the three fetal model displays by Peter’s Net, McHenry Deanery Respect Life, and 1st Way Pregnancy Support Services of Johnsburg, that as far as he was concerned, “That’s three too many.”
He also stated that he supported the pro-choice message of Planned Parenthood.
This comment coming from the Fair’s principal executive shows that its exile and segregation of faith-based and pro-life groups into a remote “religious ghetto” constitutes a grievous violation of the Civil Rights Act and the Illinois Human Rights Law.
These statutes forbid denial, based on religion, of “the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods, and services” of the Fair, which qualifies as a “place of public accommodation” under federal and state civil rights law.
The three religious and pro-life booths have been well received at the Fair, as evidenced by their longevity in exhibiting.
Peter’s Net’s, present at the Fair for four years, has proven popular with Fair patrons who offer frequent praise, and its ministry has been lauded in Catholic and mainstream media.
The McHenry Deanery Respect Life booth has grown over the past eight years to become a successful informational outreach. It is sponsored by the 17 Catholic parishes in the Rockford Diocese’s McHenry Deanery, representing scores of thousands of area residents, many of whom patronize the Fair.
1st Way Pregnancy Support Services, while pro-life, is not faith-based, and has exhibited for 13 years, a length of participation that gives strong testimony to its wide public acceptance and effectiveness.
“The McHenry County Fair is marginalizing pro-life and religious exhibitors by relegating them to an out of the way location, depriving them of the much more desirable opportunity to exhibit with nonreligious commercial and informational booths, and essentially cutting off their access to Fairgoers,” explained Thomas Olp, senior attorney for Thomas More Society.
“This forced move also ignores the good will that has been built up over many years with our clients’ investment of time, energy and resources. McHenry Deanery Respect Life alone has spent $15,000 over the past eight years to develop a permanent, protected location where Fairgoers can come year after year to meet and converse.”
Olp added, “Macheroux’s purported rationale for segregating the religious groups seems clearly contrived.
“He claims that he wants to increase gradually the number of commercial vendors in the main buildings, but has left intact most of the other non-commercial informational exhibitors there, all of them non-religious.
“The Fair regularly intersperses other types of booths with differing viewpoints.
“There is no comprehensible rationale for isolating pro-life and religious exhibitors, which proves that the forced move stems from biased opposition to their religious and pro-life message.”
Click here to read Thomas More Society letter to the McHenry County Fair Association