Evangelical Group Banned From Tulsa Housing Projects
Another report involving government attempts to restrict Christian organizations – this time out of Tulsa, Oklahoma where an evangelical group has been banned from a housing project they have been ministering to for the last 20 years.
Missouri based Child Evangelism Fellowship, which works to improve the lives of underprivileged children says it has been prohibited from conducting Bible study classes in public housing projects in Tulsa, potentially violating a Supreme Court ruling that upheld religious groups’ right to the use of public institutions.
For more than two decades, the fellowship has hosted a religious-themed summer program in Tulsa’s tough housing projects, designed to keep children from falling victim to the temptations of drugs and crime.
However recently, the fellowship was told that it was in violation of a long-standing policy prohibiting religious instruction on public housing property, said Larry Koehn, who heads the organization’s chapter in the city.
“They said they have a policy now whereby we can’t come in and talk about God or Christ,” Koehn said. “We can come in and play games and talk about moral things, but we can’t mention the name of God.”
Koehn said he was informed of the decision by Youth at Heart, a non-profit company that administers recreational programs for the Tulsa Housing Authority. A company representative said she had been told to refer all calls about the evangelical group to the housing authority.
Subsequent attempts to get housing authority officials to explain whether the evangelical group would be allowed back into the projects were unsuccessful.
Mathew Staver, founder of the Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm specializing in religious cases, said he will file a lawsuit in federal court against the housing authority if the fellowship isn’t allowed back in.
“The rules are fairly straightforward,” he said. “Some people dig their heels in and don’t want to deal with it.
Koehn, 58, who has been working in Tulsa as a missionary with his wife since the mid-1980s, said he has encountered similar resistance before.
“Last fall, one of our schools said we couldn’t hold a club after school for the same reasons,” he said. “I contacted the Liberty Counsel and they wrote a letter to the school board explaining equal access, and they let us in.”
A couple of weeks ago a similar case involving government restricting Christians took place in San Diego when the county told a pastor and his wife that they could not hold Bible studies in their home. That story is still developing.