Thomas More Society Complains to County Fair about 2015 Pro-Life Booth “Segregation”

The following letter from attorney Thomas Olp has been sent by the Thomas More Law Center to the governing body of the McHenry County Fair:

The letter complains about religious-based Pro-Life organizations being relegated to a “Faith Tent” or building far off the beaten track of the County Fair.

Re: McHenry County Fair’s Denial of Full and Equal Enjoyment of its Facilities, Goods and Services to Peter’s Net, McHenry Deanery Respect Life, and 1st Way Pregnancy Support Services

The organizations we represent express a pro-life viewpoint.

Two represent or are supported by the Catholic Church (Peter’s Net and the McHenry Deanery Respect Life), and the third, while not overtly faith-based, strongly supports pro-life values.

You consider all of our clients to be faith-based because of their pro-life message.

There were models of how large a baby was at various lengths of gestitation.  This man was closely examining the display.

At the Peter’s Net booth there were models of how large a baby was at various lengths of gestitation. This man was closely examining the display.

The mission of these organizations is similar, though not identical. Peter’s Net’s mission is to engage with fairgoers at county fairs like yours, and to invite them to learn about the Catholic Church and its faith.

Volunteers at the booth use a variety of interactive means to accomplish their mission, including games for children, informational handouts, and a display presenting the Catholic Church’s pro-life message by means of fetal models depicting the stages of growth of an unborn child.

The organization’s banner proclaims: “Peter’s Net, Welcome to the Catholic Church.”

As a Christian lay apostolate Peter’s Net follows the Church’s evangelization model of going out into the world, not remaining apart from it, in order to spread Jesus Christ’s good news of salvation through conversion to Him.

Volunteers make themselves available to interested patrons (including children) to answer questions and dialogue about the Catholic Church and its teachings, and to invite them to learn more and even to join (or rejoin) it. Even fair patrons who are uninterested in stopping at Peter’s Net’s booth may see its bold “Welcome to the Catholic Church” banner and remember the welcome at a later time.

The mission of McHenry Deanery Respect Life is similarly to encourage respect for human life in the community through visual and interactive means.

This is a view of the Deanery's Pro-Life booth from last year.

This is a view of the Deanery’s Pro-Life booth from last year.

McHenry Deanery Respect Life educates the community on the need to care for and protect human life at all of its stages and condition, especially when persons are most vulnerable:

  • the preborn
  • aged
  • disabled
  • imprisoned
  • homeless
  • poor and
  • suffering

It encourages visitors to become aware of these needs and to respond with corporal works of mercy.

1st Way Life Center’s mission is to provide support to pregnant women and girls though education, counseling, material assistance and referrals.

1st Way has served the McHenry community for 37 years and all services are provided free without discrimination.

1st Way Pregnancy Services President Connie Freund and two young people were at their pro-life booth.

1st Way Pregnancy Services President Connie Freund and two young people were at their Pro-Life County Fair booth.

1st Way seeks to promote the value of life in all situations and to provide hope for those who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy situation.

All three booths have been well received at the fair, as evidenced by their longevity in exhibiting.

Peter's Net was the second pro-life booth I saw.

Peter’s Net had been moved across the aisle from the Denery’s exhibit last year.

Peter’s Net’s booth, present at the fair for four years, has proven popular with fair patrons who offer frequent praise, and its ministry has been lauded by the Archdiocese of Chicago’s official newspaper, Catholic New World, the Diocese of Rockford’s Observer, and other media sources.

Peter’s Net has since expanded to offer services to patrons of other area county fairs, including the McHenry County Fair.

The McHenry Deanery Respect Life booth has grown over the past 8 years to be a popular and successful informational outreach. It is sponsored by the 17 parishes in the Rockford Diocese’s McHenry Deanery, representing scores of thousands of area residents, many of whom, of course, patronize the fair.

1st Way Pregnancy Support Services is the veteran of the three organizations, having exhibited for 13 years, a length of participation that gives strong testimony to its popularity and effectiveness.

All three organizations (like many other commercial and informational exhibitors at the fair) relish and rely on a large flow of patrons through their exhibitor areas to fulfill their mission of attracting and engaging fair patrons.

To be relegated to a backwater, bereft of a good flow of fairgoers, would obviously detrimentally affect their outreach.

It is also important for the organizations to be able to exhibit in a mixture of religious and non-religious informational exhibitors.

This configuration reflects the natural community in which fairgoers live, and keeps patrons’ excursions through the fair various and interesting.

The mix also promotes harmony among exhibitors by allowing an exhibitor’s message to be freely expressed without the concerns occasioned by close proximity to other exhibitors whose messages may be in conflict.

Peter’s Net and the McHenry Deanery Respect Life organization are especially sensitive to the latter chilling effect as not all religious groups are pro-Catholic.

Your executive Mr. Macheroux is aware of and has followed this principle.

The McHenry County Citizens for Choice had a booth with a placard declaring, "

The McHenry County Citizens for Choice had a booth with a placard declaring, “

He specifically told Ms. Emmerth, President of Peter’s Net, when she suggested that Peter’s Net could move to Building D, that he would never allow this as it would create a potential conflict between the pro-life views of Peter’s Net and the pro-choice views of the McHenry County Citizens for Choice, associated with Planned Parenthood. (Peter’s Net agrees with the principle, but not that it could not harmoniously exhibit in Building D with a pro-choice organization anywhere in the building too.)

The fair likewise inter-spaces other types of booths with differing viewpoints (such as political booths), and protects hot dog and like vendors from the potential harm of close-by competition.

For these reasons, our clients were quite concerned when their 2015 proposed contracts arrived a few weeks ago and they learned that you propose to relegate them to a “Faith Tent” with the other faith-based organizations, rather than to allow them to return to their prior locations in Building C where they have exhibited for years.

The "Faith Tent" is clearly designated on the McHenry County Fair application form.

The “Faith Tent” is clearly designated on the McHenry County Fair application form.

As explained already, by separating our clients from the regular traffic flow and mixed environment in Building C, and by lumping them together with other religious exhibitors in what is essentially a religious ghetto, you will disastrously constrict their ability to communicate their message.

The Faith Tent will be accessed only by fairgoers who intentionally want to engage with faith-based booths.

This is not generally a primary motivation of fairgoers, so the effect of the segregation will be to dramatically reduce traffic to the Faith Tent.

The location of the Faith Tent is also inauspicious, placed as it is near the main entrance to the fair. This will require a fairgoer to make a decision to visit the Faith Tent immediately upon entering the fair, foregoing the allurements of the food court and amusements immediately ahead.

It is highly unlikely that many fairgoers will make that choice.

Marengo Gideon Gary Duffy and McHenry County Board member John Hammerand discuss the fact that only the McHenry County Sheriff refuses to allow cell-to-cell distribution of Bibles.

Marengo Gideon Gary Duffy and McHenry County Board member John Hammerand discuss the fact that only McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren refused to allow cell-to-cell distribution of Bibles.

Finally, the faith-based exhibitors will be positioned side-by-side with other religious groups, an unsatisfactory position for the reasons already mentioned.

As you know, our clients have called the fair and complained about this proposed change in their contract, and the marginalization of their message that the proposal will cause.

What is particularly galling to them is that the proposal appears to them to be intended as retaliation by the fair for their pro-life message.

Larry Macheroux in 2011 made direct, disparaging remarks about the pro-life component of Peter’s Net’s religious message.

At that time Mr. Macheroux notified Ms. Emmerth’s sister, Teresa, that he had received a complaint about Peter’s Net’s fetal models by a neighboring booth, and Ms. Emmerth pointed out that there were two other pro-life booths with fetal models.

Mr. Macheroux retorted that

“As far as I am concerned, that’s three too many.” [Emphasis added.]

McHenry County Citizens for Choice booth at the McHenry County Fair.

2010 McHenry County Citizens for Choice booth at the McHenry County Fair.

He further flatly stated that he supported the pro-choice message being publicized by the booth in Building D of the McHenry County Citizens for Choice, a group associated with Planned Parenthood.

When Ms. Emmerth suggested that she would be willing to relocate Peter’s Net to Building D to remove one of the three pro-life groups from Building C, he said he would never allow it because it would harm McHenry County Citizens for Choice, the booth whose message he favors.

Immediately following Mr. Macheroux’s remarks, your organization informed Ms. Emmerth that it would not allow Peter’s Net to return in 2012. The fetal model issue was specifically mentioned as the reason.

You also tried to prohibit McHenry Deanery Respect Life from distributing fetal models and other pro-life give-aways.

The display by the McHenry County Deanery in 2013. .

Ms. Emmerth told you that she would take legal action to protest your intended exclusion of her booth, and fifteen of the priests of the parishes in the McHenry County Deanery sent a letter of protest.

As a result you backed down.

But your actions this year, when read against the clear animus you expressed against our clients’ pro-life position in the past, bespeak unlawful retaliation as well as religious discrimination.

Following our clients’ complaints about your proposed change, your organization met and altered its policy slightly.

Now you say that the organizations you consider faith-based will not be placed in an outdoor “Faith Tent”, but in Building E, which last year housed the McHenry County Historical Society and some children’s agricultural education exhibits.

This year the Historical Society will remain, and the children’s agricultural education will be moved out, to be replaced by faith-based exhibitors.

But your administrator Elizabeth (last name unknown) admitted to Ms.Emmerth in a recent conversation that the fair board’s intent remains to corral the perceived “religious” exhibitors into a location separate and apart from other informational exhibitors.

With respect, this modification does not change in any way the purpose and effect of your discrimination against faith-based exhibitors, and the impact of the changed location is even more detrimental to the religious exhibitors’ ability to communicate their message to fairgoers than your plan to erect a Faith Tent.

You are still marginalizing these exhibitors in an out-of-the-way location, and depriving them of the much more desirable opportunity to exhibit with the non-religious commercial and informational booths in Buildings C or D.

And Building E is even more out of the way and uninviting to fair patrons than the Faith Tent you first proposed. It is off the busy traffic path for fairgoers.

Where the McHenry County Fair buildings are located.

Where the McHenry County Fair buildings are located.

It has a less obvious access door (unlike the large access doors to Buildings C and D), leaving patrons reasonably to assume that it is off-limits.

Since few patrons go to Building E, placing faith-based exhibitors, like our clients, there will essentially cut off their access to fairgoers.

And fairgoers who look for our clients in their normal locations in Building C for the past many years will be disappointed and confused.

The forced move also ignores the good will that our clients’ investment of time, energy and money in your fair has built up over the years.

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.

Deanery 2009 really

The 2009 Deanery booth.

Our other clients have likewise expended generously.

The fair should recognize and respect the valuable community contribution they have made, one that should be encouraged and supported, not shunted off to the side because some of your board members are unable to see it.

Your rationale for wanting to segregate the religious groups seems contrived.

You claim that want to increase gradually the number of commercial vendors in Building C, but you have left intact most of the non-commercial informational exhibitors there, all of them non-religious, and you have left untouched the non-religious exhibitors in Building D.

We can discern no coherent rationale for leaving all the non-religious informational exhibitors untouched by the policy change and only forcing religious exhibitors to move.

Animus against religion, and specifically the pro-life message you consider to be religious, appears to them to be the only plausible motivation, and it is a palpable one given Mr. Macheroux’s statements of hostility to our clients’ booths and message.

Peter's Net was the second pro-life booth in 2014.

Peter’s Net was the second pro-life booth in 2014.

The McHenry County Fair Association is a “public accommodation” under the Illinois Human Rights Law, 775 ILCS 5/1 et seq. because it is a “place of exhibition or entertainment,” a “place of public gathering,” and a “place of recreation.” 775 ILCS 5/5-101(3), (4), (10).

Your requirement under the Illinois Human Rights Law is not to deny based on religion

“the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods, and services” of the fair. 775 ILCS 5/5-102(A).

An identical requirement binds you under Title II of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §2000a, which provides that

“[a]ll persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Your status as a non-profit organization, exempt from taxation under IRC §501(c)(3), also prohibits you from discrimination on the basis of religious belief or creed, thus putting your 501(c)(3) status potentially at risk when you, as we suggest, discriminate invidiously on the basis of religion.

It seems clear to us that your proposal to our clients falls short of the requirements of these laws.

Our clients are entitled to “full and equal enjoyment” of the fair’s “facilities, goods, and services.”

By segregating them and the other religious-based exhibitors to a faith-based ghetto, you have denied them the full and equal enjoyment of the fair’s facilities (exhibit opportunities).

No longer in the main stream of fair-going traffic and no longer in the regular mix of exhibitors, our clients are being denied the same opportunity to express their religious message to fairgoers that you grant to non-religious informational exhibitors.

Fairgoers will have to make a deliberate effort to walk to the “faith building,” which is not in the normal traffic flow, and few likely will make this effort.

These conditions are not being imposed on non-religious informational booths, or on the pro-
choice exhibitor, McHenry County Citizens for Choice, whom you leave untouched, apparently because you favor its message.

Marginalizing

  • Peter’s Net
  • the McHenry Deanery Respect Life organization, and
  • 1st Way Pregnancy Support Services

in the way you propose would be unacceptable and illegal if your actions were motivated by race.

The discrimination is no more acceptable or legal when it is based on religion.

“Separate but equal” is a doctrine that has been long rejected in race relations.

It deserves no better fate when the basis for discrimination is religion.

Your fair appropriately touts diversity as part of your appeal to the public.

You invite a full range of the community to participate as exhibitors in the fair, from commercial vendors such as Tupperware, to professionals such as chiropractors, to religious and political organizations, and others.

Maintaining diversity requires tolerance and consideration for the varying identities and needs of exhibitors, as well as for the points of view they express.

The intolerance you are showing toward exhibitors you categorize as faith-based contradicts your otherwise laudable appeal and mission.

For these reasons, we respectfully urge you to re-think your policy with respect to your category of faith-based exhibitors.

We urge you to re-integrate the faith-based exhibitors into the Building areas where other non-faith-based informational booth operators are still permitted to exhibit.

Should you refuse to do this, our clients will take appropriate legal action to secure their right to freely exercise their religion and to remain free of retaliation.

We sincerely hope this will not be necessary.

We would appreciate your prompt decision in writing in response to this letter, as we will soon need to assess and take appropriate action on behalf of our clients, should we be required to do so.

Please be so kind as to respond within two weeks of receipt of this letter, by Tuesday, June 2, 2015.

= = = = =

The 2015 Board of Directors are

  • Alden Township………Pam Linneman
  • Algonquin Township……..Kelly Sadowski
  • Burton Township…….Richard Tobiasz (Vice President)
  • Chemung Township…….Richard Crone
  • Coral Township…….Ken Bauman (President)
  • Dorr Township…….Jeff Schumacher
  • Dunham Township…….Walter Davidson
  • Grafton Township…….Dan Fruin
  • Greenwood Township…….Casey Given
  • Hartland Township…….Larry Macheroux
  • Hebron Township……..Phil Walters
  • Marengo Township…….Susan Simons (Secretary)
  • McHenry Township…….Seat Open
  • Nunda Township…….seat open
  • Richmond Township…….Chris Holian
  • Riley Township…….Kathy Meyer
  • Seneca Township…….Brett Geiseke
  • At Large…….Cynthia Erckfritz
  • At Large…….Colin Jeschke
  • At Large…….Frank Kearns
  • At Large…….Tom Linneman (Treasurer)
  • At Large…….Chad Bauer

Comments

Thomas More Society Complains to County Fair about 2015 Pro-Life Booth “Segregation” — 13 Comments

  1. Moving the Right To Life groups fits right in with Jack Franks vote on HB217.

    Those of you who jump up and down and proclaim that Jack Franks votes more Republican than most Republicans need to consider that a vote for Jack Franks is a vote for support of the LGBT agenda!

    Ask yourself:

    What in our Constitution gives the government the right to legislate how parents raise their children?

  2. Connecting dots, do you have any gay or lesbian friends?

    They’re people just like everyone else.

    Read Justice Ginsburg’s opinion on same sex rights and you might understand why constitutionally, you are on the wrong.

    I don’t doubt your religious conviction and admire your dedication to your beliefs, however, the same sex marriage issue is a losing battle for the GOP at large.

    Have you noticed national candidates straying away from the issue more readily?

    The finaly point I have is you would say that we are a Christian country and I would agree, but counter in saying that America is a free country and allows you the right to pursue your own religious beliefs unmolested by the government.

    The moment, however, you believe our government should legislate based on your religiously based morality is the moment you have stepped to far.

    At that point, you are trying to instill a Theocracy upon the rest of the people.

    You know who overwhelmingly have theocracies?

    Muslim countrys.

    Not in my backyard, sir.

  3. This isn’t about gay rights though.

    Human beings, many viable outside the womb, are being denied human rights and a public entity is trying to suppress the 1st Amendment here.

    A public entity should not pick and choose favorites.

  4. Jack Franks is part of the LGBT community.

    He’s really wanting to come out as a woman next after trying to be a conservative representative.

    He will do anything for votes.

  5. Allen if they were suppressing them then the Abortion groups wouldn’t be allowed at all.

  6. Ms Uppity has been reading people magazine too much.

    The only thing Jack Franks has in common with Bruce Jenner is a tan.

  7. Laughing at Wow saying this is a free country.

    America is totally in the wrong on all issues related to what God has chosen for man.

    That’s why the ship is sinking.

  8. And Cindy, what is beautiful is I can love you as my countryman for having that opinion.

    America is great isn’t it?

  9. The thing that Mr Skinner fails to mention is that the pro choice groups and politicians will all be in the same area away from business – same as the pro life folks.

    So to say there is a faith ghetto is absolutely absurd.

  10. Take a look at the first contract sent to Pro-Life groups.

    It says, “Faith Tent.”

    It’s news to me that the Pro-Choice folks are being shunted away from where crowds walk.

  11. No discussion of relocating McHenry County Citizens for Choice?

    McHenry County Citizens for Choice
    Not-for-profit which advocates for the right to have an abortion.
    http://www.mcccprochoice.org

    Peter’s Net
    Former name of Catholic Culture.
    http://www.catholicculture.org

    Catholic Culture is a subsidiary of Trinity Communications Group which is based in Fort Wayne, IN.
    Trinity spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ through concerts and other events.
    http://www.trinitycommunications.org

    McHenry Deanery
    This is part of the Catholic Church.
    A deanery is part of the Catholic Church organizational structure as a group of parishes within a diocese.
    The deanery itself does not have a website.
    http://www.rockforddiocese.org
    http://www.stmarymchenryil.org
    http://ceorockford.com/ed/ReligiousEducationYouthMinistry/AboutOurDeaneries.aspx

    1st Way Pregnancy Support Services
    A Johnsburg non-profit that advises women of alternatives to abortion.
    Does not believe abortion is a viable option.
    http://www.mchenry1stway.org

    Thomas Moore Society
    Not-for-profit law firm protecting religious and other freedoms, based in Chicago.
    http://www.thomasmoresociety.org

    McHenry County Fair Association
    A nonprofit.
    http://www.mchenrycountyfair.com

    Officers of the McHenry County Fair Association
    President: Ken Bauman, Union, Illinois
    Secretary: Susan Simons, Marengo, Illinois
    Vice President: Rich Tobiasz, Spring Grove, Illinois
    Treasurer: Tom Linneman, Hebron Illinois

    Larry Macheroux, the Hartland Township representative on the Board of Directors of the McHenry County Fair Association mentioned in the article above, is retired from the McHenry County Sheriff’s office.

    Lawrence Macheroux retired on July 1, 1997 after 32.42 years of service and is receive an IMRF pension.
    2014 – $54,841
    2013 – $53,740
    2012 – $52,640

    IMRF = Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which is one of the 18 pension funds in the Illinois Pension Code, and covers most municipal employees outside of Chicago, and most county employees outside of Cook County.

    Thus most city, town, village, park district, library district, township, county police (but not city / town / village police), conservation district, forest preserve, school district (not teachers and administrators) are in IMRF.

    There are all sorts of exceptions, such as not all townships have a pension plan in IMRF, some smaller towns downstate are not in IMRF, etc.

    His wife Mary is also receiving an IMRF pension after retiring on September 1, 1997 after 25.33 years of service.
    2014 – $8,637
    2013 – $8,463
    2012 – $8,289

    Back in 1997, salaries were lower and many pension benefits were lower.

    Those retiring now receive larger starting pensions.

    The $8,000 pension is likely due to only having 25 years of service (not sure of actual years worked) and perhaps she worked part-time.

    That’s why the Illinois Education Association (IEA) ads we heard a few years back about the “average” pension were so misleading.

    Left unstated were how many years worked to receive that pension, if only full-time employees were included, and how quickly the employee recoups their lifetime employee contribution in the form of a pension (most recoup their lifetime pension contributions in the first 1 – 2 years of retirement).

    With the exception of a small number of people, IMRF members participate in Social Security in addition to IMRF, and are entitled to full retirement benefits from each.

    So in addition to the combined $63,478 2014 pension, the Macheroux’s also receive Social Security.

    After $6,000 or so in property taxes, there’s plenty left over for retirement living.

    Larry Macheroux is also mentioned in the book Murder in McHenry, by Paul Scharff and Keith Bettinger, which is about the murder of Paul’s father and one of Paul’s employees at the Lakemoor pub he owned in 1981.

  12. Cal, I spoke to the fair today and they said otherwise.

    The faith groups could, instead, rent a tent, do what jack franks does, and be on the main drag.

    Instead, they are claiming to be victims.

  13. ‘Connect the dots’ is right on about Franks being a shill for PersonalPac and the whole LGBT agenda ….he’s a phony rat.

    He gets campaign contributions from all kinds of weirdos …..

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