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THOMAS MORE SOCIETY

A National Public Interest Law Firm June 26, 2012 By: Email to info@lcfair.com Fax to 847-680-7260

Lake County Fair Association 1060 East Peterson Road Grayslake, IL 60030 Re: Peters Net Exhibitor Booth Denial Dear Lake County Fair Association and Board Members: We represent Peters Net, an Illinois not-for-profit, educational, and evangelical organization. Peters Net recently applied for a booth at the Lake County Fair, as it has in years past, but was unjustly and illegally denied this year, as described below. The mission of Peters Net is to provide information to those interested in learning about the Catholic faith, and to invite them to participate in the Catholic Church. As part of its mission, Peters Net staffs booths at various county fairs to offer information about neighboring Catholic parishes and the Catholic Church worldwide, including its teachings and practices. The organizations banner proclaims: Peters Net, Welcome to the Catholic Church. Examples of Catholic information available to interested fairgoers include: a register of all participating Catholic parishes in the county with representative bulletins from each; displays depicting Catholic sacraments, the Ten Commandments, and the Stations of the Cross; a papal flag; a fetal model presentation visually supporting the Catholic Churchs pro-life message; crucifixes, rosaries, and holy cards; religiously-themed games and prizes for children; free literature and other free hand-outs; and advertising regarding local catholic radio stations. Each element of the Peters Net booth depicts or explains a Catholic practice or teaching. Volunteers engage interested patrons in conversations about the Church and its practices, rituals, and teachings. Patrons who express further interest are invited to join or return to the Catholic Church. Peters Net grew out of a booth at the fair in 2009 hosted to publicize the then-new Catholic parish of St. Raphael the Archangel in Antioch. A number of fairgoers asked about other Catholic parishes in the county, and Peters Net was organized to better serve county fair patrons by offering information about all participating Catholic parishes in the county, and about the teachings and practices of the Catholic faith. The Peters Net booth has proven popular with fair patrons who offer frequent praise, and its ministry has been lauded by the Archdiocese of Chicagos official newspaper, Catholic New World. In 2012, Peters Net again applied for a booth contract for the Lake County Fair to be held in late July. However, in May, your employee, Kathleen Van Dien, notified Ms. Paula Emmerth, Peters Nets founder, that permission to exhibit would be denied. When asked to explain the denial, Ms. Van Dien responded that the vetting jury and she personally felt that the organizational message conveyed by Peters Net went beyond what was authentically Catholic. She specifically complained about the groups pro-life message, including use of fetal models, and claimed that this message went beyond
29 S. LaSalle | Suite 440 | Chicago, IL 60603 | www.thomasmoresociety.org | P: 312.782.1680 | F: 312.782.1887
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

Lake County Fair Association-Peters Net Page 2 of 3 June 26, 2012 communicating information about the Catholic Church. She also alleged complaints about the booth, but could not or would not provide details. Ms. Emmerth asked Ms. Van Dien whether she was censoring its message. Ms. Van Dien said that indeed she was. She said she was doing so to protect the public from your message and that the fair was neither the time nor the place for this topic. Ms. Van Dien also refused to put the rejection in writing for Peters Net. We are writing this letter because Ms. Van Diens rejection of the booth application illegally discriminates against Peters Net on account of its Catholic religious beliefs and practices. Ms. Van Diens stated disdain for Catholic teaching and the vetting jurys decision to censor the booth from the Fair exhibit a clear unlawful intent to discriminate on the basis of religion. Since the Fair is a public accommodation under the Illinois Human Rights Act and Title II of the federal Civil Rights Act, these actions, if persisted in, expose the Fair to religious discrimination liability. The Fair Associations conduct respecting Peters Net is also illegal because it contravenes the conditions for its 501(c)(3) public charity status, viz., that it must refrain from discriminating, inter alia, on the basis of religion or political preference. (See, the Fairs Vendor Overview, which promises that it does not discriminate according to race, sexual orientation, religion or political preference.) Peters Nets message falls directly within the category of religious expression, and its suppression is a suppression of religious practice and religion. But the Catholic message also has political ramifications, which were, we are sure, not lost on Ms. Van Dien or the vetting committee. Since by its own nondiscrimination policy the Fair may not prefer one political message to another, so too it may not silence one religious message over another. We are certain the Fair never considered rejecting applications by the Republican or Democratic party booths. Its silencing of Peters Net is likewise unjustifiable and illegal. We also note that the Fairs behavior contravenes its policy to accept Information Booths, defined as not-for-profit organizations such as libraries, service groups, churches, etc. As a service group supporting Catholic parishes and the Catholic faith, Peters Net squarely falls into this approved category, and so its application should have been approved. The Fairs reservation of rights under the Vetting section of its Vendor Overview does not allow it to discriminate against an otherwise acceptable booths religious message and its manner of expression. Nor may it discriminate against religious speech in reliance on a stray negative comment or complaint concerning its content or means of expression. Nondiscrimination with respect to religious and political speech in a public accommodation requires some measure of deafness to complaints of disgruntled listeners. Otherwise, mere griping would sanction religious discrimination. In the same way the Fair does not censor opposing political booths, it must not allow the religious messages it favors and censor the religious messages it opposes. The Fair Associations denial of a permit to Peters Net to exhibit at this years Lake County Fair is illegal and indefensible. Please immediately grant permission to Peters Net to have its booth again in this years fair, just as it has in prior years fairs. Should the Lake County Fair Association refuse and persist in its illegal discrimination against Peters Net, we are prepared to pursue the matter with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, in court, and before other appropriate forums, and even beyond the scheduled Fair dates, to protect our clients rights both for this year and in the future.

29 S. LaSalle | Suite 440 | Chicago, IL 60603 | www.thomasmoresociety.org | P: 312.782.1680 | F: 312.782.1887


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King

Lake County Fair Association-Peters Net Page 3 of 3 June 26, 2012 We request advice of your decision immediately, so that we will have adequate time to pursue legal action to secure relief for our clients, should the need arise. Please be so kind as to provide your response by Friday, June 29, 2012. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Very truly yours, ___________________________ Peter Breen Executive Director & Legal Counsel ___________________________ Thomas Olp Affiliated Attorney

29 S. LaSalle | Suite 440 | Chicago, IL 60603 | www.thomasmoresociety.org | P: 312.782.1680 | F: 312.782.1887


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King