AUSTIN (KXAN) — Who gets to rent Austin Independent School District’s buildings is now under scrutiny, and there’s a word of warning from the Texas Attorney General.
This started with Celebration Church in Georgetown using AISD’s Performing Arts Center on Barbara Jordan Blvd. in east Austin for its Sunday services.
Some parents and some AISD board members expressed concern because of the church’s view on marriage.
The church’s website says while it welcomes everyone, “Marriage is a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman.”
“I feel like that kind of love gets us killed,” said Candace Aylor. She has been part of a group that’s been protesting Celebration Church on several Sundays since the school year began.
They plan on being out there again this coming Sunday.
She said they’ve heard from LGBT students who operate audio and video equipment at the center.
“It is inappropriate to ask a student to serve in their role as a student for a church that is demonstratively against their existence,” she said.
Friday, AISD sent KXAN a statement:
“The district is continuing a review of its regulations concerning facility use agreements relating to the Performing Arts Center. No final determinations have been made.”
However, the Austin Civic Orchestra contacted us and said they’ve been told their Sunday performance in December will have to be moved because AISD won’t rent to outside groups on Sundays anymore.
“The orchestra is greatly inconvenienced by this change that affects community organizations throughout the city and reduces opportunities for residents to benefit from classical music, theater, educational programs and more,” said ACO Music Director Lois Ferrari. “We urge the school district to reconsider its stance and open the venue back up for the use of performing arts organizations that serve our city on all days, including Sundays, when an AISD group is not using it.”
Attorney General Ken Paxton has also weighed in. He sent a letter warning AISD if it doesn’t rent to churches, that violates Texas law and the Constitution.
“The district should welcome churches who want to rent its facilities after school and on weekends, not discriminate against some of them based on their beliefs,” the letter said. “We caution you to reconsider these changes and be respectful of the religious liberty protections afforded churches under the Constitution and Texas law.”
We asked Celebration Church if the policy review process is affecting their scheduled worship services.
They sent us a statement through their legal counsel.
“We are aware of the situation, monitoring it closely, and appreciate the guidance provided by the Texas Attorney General earlier today.”
A statement the church’s legal counsel sent to KXAN Saturday says the church’s pastor will read a message at Sunday’s services, saying they are looking for a solution to the policy change and welcome all people to attend their church.