Local News

Some say Dogwood Festival is not being fair

Posted April 14, 2008 11:30 p.m. EDT
Updated April 24, 2009 9:18 a.m. EDT

— The crowd at a heated Fayetteville City Council meeting spilled out onto the street Monday night as hundreds of people came to speak against a Dogwood Festival policy barring religious and political booths.

Festival organizers have barred churches and other religious groups from setting up informational booths at the April 25-27 event.

“How can we tolerate such an unconstitutional stance?" Michael Fletcher asked.

Carrie King, executive director of the Dogwood Festival, said the policy prohibiting churches was created eight years ago. But organizers are strictly enforcing it this year after receiving complaints from people offended by churches and political candidates advertising their causes.

“It's a concern. It's a concern that they're not allowing churches to come,” said Ernest Smith, pastor of Manna Church.

“This is not true,” Dogwood Festival Chairwoman Mary Talley proclaimed.

Churches can apply as food vendors, but can't distribute any literature from the booths.

Talley also said she is "deeply surprised" the policy became so controversial.

“You know, it hurts. I'll go ahead and put it out there. We're trying to do something for the community, trying to bring it together,” she said.

Other folks said they understand the policy and don't want the protests to put a damper on the festivities.

“It's a good, wholesome family entertainment day and it should stay just exactly that,” Greg Hathaway said.

But the majority of people with whom WRAL spoke with said their rights are being taken away.

“We're not out proselytizing. We're just showing the love of Jesus in a practical way,” Smith said.

Talley stressed Monday night that she does not want anyone to feel excluded. City Council members have asked the board of directors to take a look at the policy.

Fayetteville has not yet signed on to host next year's festival.