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Mayor Suthers assures pastor his 'Jesus' ads will continue to get out

June 28, 2016 Updated: June 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm
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The Rev. Lawson Perdue can relax. His "Jesus is Lord" bus bench advertisements won't be canceled, Mayor John Suthers told the Colorado Springs City Council at their luncheon meeting Tuesday. 

The flap over whether to allow such religious ads occurred from a miscommunication, Suthers said.

"Apparently, we had one complaint alleging the bus bench (ad) was an establishment of religion," the mayor said. "A city attorney was contacted without talking with Wynetta (Massey, the city attorney) or the mayor's office. There was some discussion about placing the ad on bus benches.

"Mountain Metro (Transit) conveyed their understanding of that to the contractor. The contractor contacted the pastor and asked could he change the message ."

Suthers, who served as Colorado's attorney general for 10 years before becoming mayor, said he has had "quite a bit of experience in this area."

As long as the ads aren't discriminatory or content-based, the city will continue its "open forum" advertising, he predicted.

"The only problem - once you start down that road - you have to stick with it," Suthers said.

Hate speech or profanity can be banned, but other advertising can't.

"In a couple of months when we see our first Satan ad, know that this is the way we're going. . I would not be surprised if the Freedom From Religion group bought some bus bench ads, and that's OK.

"We're not going to cancel (Perdue's) ability to advertise" without letting the council know that some legal complication was encountered.

Perdue, a 15-year pastor at Charis Christian Center on the city's west side, said he was told that if the name "Jesus" were allowed, hate messages would have to be allowed, too.

Monday, the city issued a statement declaring, "The City takes First Amendment issues very seriously, and strives to fully comply with Constitutional Law. This commitment requires that advertisements and policies are regularly reviewed for content and legality. Mountain Metro Transit recognizes that it acted hastily in asking Pastor Perdue to change his messaging. The city attorney's office is working diligently to ensure that the advertising policies comply with the law. During this review, no action will be taken and Mountain Metro Transit will continue Pastor Perdue's advertisement as they currently appear."

Perdue said his church has been advertising on Mountain Metro benches for three years. The ads two years ago said "Celebrate Jesus." Last year's ad said "Experience Jesus," and the new ads - on 20 benches around the city - say "Jesus is Lord."

The minister said he had been told by Mountain Metro last week that such ads wouldn't be allowed after his contract expired July 10.

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