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Town of Gilbert
Monday March 15th, 2010 :: 02:11 p.m. MDT

Community

Gilbert Town Council releases statement on commitment to religious freedom.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ON BEHALF OF
MAYOR JOHN LEWIS
VICE MAYOR LINDA ABBOTT
COUNCILMAN DAVE CROZIER
COUNCILWOMAN JENN DANIELS
COUNCILMAN LES PRESMYK
COUNCILMAN JOHN SENTZ
COUNCILMAN STEVE URIE

Gilbert Remains Committed to Religious Freedom

Gilbert, Arizona, March 15, 2010. Approximately six weeks ago, members of the Gilbert Town Council learned that a Town zoning code intended to help neighborhoods with traffic, parking and safety concerns had been interpreted by Town staff to mean that small church groups could not meet in their own homes. The Council immediately asked Town staff to make changes to the code and not enforce the code while changes were being considered.

Unfortunately, without the Town Council’s knowledge, one church group had already been told to stop holding meetings in their home. Last week the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed an appeal for the Oasis of Truth Church located in Gilbert. While Town staff had anticipated presenting to the Town Council proposed zoning changes at the next Town Council meeting (scheduled for March 23), ADF’s appeal reached the media on Friday, March 12, causing concern that Town of Gilbert restricted religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution.

Gilbert’s Mayor John Lewis said, “It is unfortunate that the Council did not know about information given to the Oasis of Truth Church. Gilbert is known as a family-oriented community and our faith groups are a vital part of our Town. We want to keep it that way.” Lewis continued, “Gilbert has the largest celebration of the Constitution in the United States. During the third week of September, we have an entire week of community activities available to remind us of the important principles of the Constitution.” Vice-Mayor Linda Abbott commented, “This is a community with patriotic citizens who study and defend the Constitution. We understand the importance of maintaining religious freedom.”

Upon learning of the appeal, the Town Council members expressed overwhelming support to expedite changes in the code at a future meeting. Yesterday, Mayor Lewis and Acting Town Manager Collin DeWitt attended the Sunday worship services of the Oasis of Truth Church. DeWitt said, “We had a wonderful experience as we met with the three leaders of the church and their families. We are glad that they selected Gilbert as their home.” Mayor Lewis told church leaders that he will ask Town attorneys to include ADF and the Oasis of Truth Church in the review process this week of the proposed changes that will be presented to the Town Council on March 23. Lewis said, “We welcome their input and suggestions to ensure that church groups are able to meet and enjoy their Constitutional rights. Potentially, we may have a solution to this issue this week.”

The Town of Gilbert has been one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. In spite of the economic downturn, 1,278 single family permits were issued by the Town in 2009. Currently, 221,000 citizens of Gilbert enjoy the clean, safe, and vibrant environment. In 2009, Gilbert was named as the 24th safest city in the United States and safest city in Arizona. Mayor Lewis said, “Our vibrancy is enhanced with our strong faith-based groups. Our partnership with our local ministers and pastors is excellent. Gilbert is considered a religious friendly area. Religious activities occur all over Town and most especially in our homes. The Town Council and our citizens will keep it that way.”


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Town of Gilbert
50 E Civic Center Dr
Gilbert, AZ 85296

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Town of Gilbert
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