Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 23, 1999

Separation of church and state key to HT proposal

By Luis Puga

While the Winsted City Council took no action on a proposed community center shared with Holy Trinity, it discussed the proposal in its regular meeting Tuesday.

City Administrator Aaron Reeves said the idea, proposed by Rev. Paul Wolf of Holy Trinity, was a good one, but any such joint facility would have to be careful to ensure separation of church and state.

He said even with the assumption that no one would be discriminated against, the city would still have to proceed carefully in cooperating with a religious institution.

However, he added that as long as the facility was open to everyone, there would be no problem.

One way a joint facility could be implemented would be if Holy Trinity were to donate the funds to build the community center, and the city would pay the church for operation of the facility.

The city could also put up the money, and the church could pay for operation.

In looking for a precedent, Reeves could not really find one. He said many cities have cooperated with non-profits, but not churches.

The League of Minnesota Cities could also not provide a precedent and advised Reeves that cooperating with a church would be an issue.

City Attorney Fran Eggert pointed out that the City of Minneapolis must cooperate with St. Thomas for some of that school's facilities and parking ramps in the downtown area.

Reeves was to have met with Wolf to discuss the idea further last week.

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