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by Conrad F. Goeringer

Should a professional baseball team which plays in a tax-funded stadium discriminate against fans on the basis of religious belief? Is the baseball game a strictly private event, or is it a “public accommodation”?

None of these questions were on the mind of Carl Silverman when he took his family to see a Hagerstown (Maryland) Suns baseball game in April, 1998. Carl, a Pennsylvania resident and freethinker, was surprised to discover that on that day, the Suns -- a Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays -- were sponsoring a ‘church bulletin’ night promotion. Those with a bulletin from a local church received a discount on their price of admission.

Mr. Silverman informed the ticket clerk that he was “not religious” and thus did not have a church bulletin. He was informed that he would have to pay the full price.

For Carl, this was a violation of civil rights statutes. He filed a “Charge of Discrimination” complaint with the Maryland Commission on Human Relations, arguing that the Suns’ games were not private meetings but rather a “public accommodation.” Last week (early October, 1998), however, an Administrative Law Judge ruled that while the “church bulletin” promotion favors a particular group, it does not violate state law.

Attorneys for Mr. Silverman say that will appeal the case.

go to: Background on this story

Administrative Court ruling in Silverman case (Adobe PDF format)

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