STRIKING OUT THE FIRST AMENDMENT?
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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