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Dallas Arboretum Pulls Plug On Scheduled Religious Event

By Annie Potasznik & J.D. Miles | CBSDFW.COM |
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - New Saint Peter Presbyterian Church will hold its Easter week service somewhere other than the Dallas Arboretum for the first time in a decade this year.

But the botanical gardens told the church to look elsewhere for their annual event. Members of the New Saint Peter Presbyterian Church were taken aback and question why the arboretum would pull the plug with such little notice.

“There’s no place in Dallas where you can enjoy the glory of God and nature like the Dallas Arboretum,” says church member Brian Marsh.

The church sent an email to members saying “The Dallas Arboretum has a new policy in effect that prohibits any religious services on their grounds (except for weddings). Sadly, this means that a beloved 10 year New Saint Peter Presbyterian Church tradition must relocate.”

But Arboretum officials deny that religious groups are barred from holding private events after hours. On its website, the nonprofit that oversees the 66-acre site promotes itself as a venue for birthdays, weddings and lectures. A spokesperson, who declined an interview on-camera with CBS 11 News, released a statement saying the decision to cancel was because “The Dallas Arboretum feels strongly that we must watch over the usage of space on our property and parking lots by those who wish to rent it for a private event after public hours. We need to protect our neighborhoods, watch the traffic flow and provide security personnel for traffic congestion and crowd control.”

The Arboretum’s board chairman says the church event is the same night as a popular concert there and claims the church invites the public to attend.

“We have no idea how many people are coming and that is where the parking issue is coming in,” according to Arboretum Board Chairman Brian Shivers. But parking shouldn’t be an issue, according to church members who claim about 75 people attend the annual event.

“We’re really disappointed in the attitude of the Arboretum,” one church member told CBS 11 News.

Shivers said he isn’t aware of such a policy and that it would be set by the staff not the board.

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