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Organisers of ‘spiritual event’ to defy City Hall ban

A policy banning religious events on City of Hamilton property will be put to the test today by Dale Butler and friends, who have planned an “inspirational, motivational and spiritual event” outside City Hall.

“Our circumstances reflect the circumstances of Jesus when he went up against the scribes and Pharisees — we are now up against the Corporation of Hamilton and the Minister,” said Mr Butler, a former Community Minister under the Progressive Labour Party.

“We decided to do what Jesus would do and go anyway.” Mr Butler and a group of actors, who will play the Disciples in an upcoming play called The Second-Last Supper, plan to give out sandwiches and spare change to the homeless at 12.15pm on Nellie's Walk.

He said the short event would include brief sermons inspired by the play.

An application to put up a banner and formally hold the event got turned down by City Hall, citing a long-standing policy against religious events on City grounds.

Mr Butler said he was informed by Mayor Graeme Outerbridge that it was an old policy, designed in part to deter marriages from being held on City Hall grounds. According to Mr Butler, a reference to “gay marriages being held” confused the issue further.

Previous mayor Charles Gosling told The Royal Gazette that he recalled such a policy remaining in the books from days gone by.

Mr Butler said an appeal to Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, who has taken over stewardship of Hamilton's administration, ended with the minister allowing a banner to go up — but affirming the prohibition on overtly religious events taking place on City grounds.

“I sent the mayor a letter asking him to repeal the whole policy, but was told the councillors are no longer meeting,” Mr Butler added.

“Mr Outerbridge did say he had been in favour of opening up the City more and had taken this to councillors, but it was rejected.”

According to City sources, a special exception was made for a National Day of Prayer held at City Hall in 2013.

But Mr Butler called the religious ban a “silly policy”, pointing to other events, such as December's anti-violence “die-in” held by church members on the City Hall grounds, as well as Christmas decorations and the appointment of a chaplain for the City.

Today's ceremony is expected to last 20 minutes and will be held in Queen Elizabeth II Park if it rains.

Dale Butler

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Published March 18, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated March 18, 2015 at 1:06 am)

Organisers of ‘spiritual event’ to defy City Hall ban

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