Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wessels Living History Farm of York NE Struggles to Meet Budget After Halting Wedding Business Over Fears of Renting to Gay Wedding Parties

Here's a story from my hometown of York, NE. There's this place in York called Wessels Living History Farm. I don't remember anything about it from my childhood, but it has been around for nearly a century and it's used as an education resource, as well as a site for events such as weddings. Until last month. That's because Wessels' board of directors voted last month of prohibit all weddings in the properties church building or anywhere else on the grounds because of the gays:
(WLHF's director Dale) Clark’s next comment alluded to the theory that the earlier board decision may have been prompted by personal issues with gay marriage as he told the membership, “The Supreme Court has made its decision and that is involved here. I’m concerned and I would like you to reconsider.” 

Clark told the membership that he was told the 10 already-booked weddings could be held – but no more after that, which means the three wedding requests made shortly after the split-board decision and any yet to come will be met with denial. 

“If this wasn’t the case, I believe we could have 25 weddings at the farm next year,” Clark said. 

Board member Elaine Stuhr argued that the books didn’t reflect that level of revenue had been generated by weddings. Clark explained that the revenue from weddings was entered into the books simply as rentals, and not specifically as weddings. 

“This area (of usage) for the farm is growing,” Clark continued. 

“My understanding is that the church, once on the grounds, was then considered non-denominational,” said Evelyn Campbell, a Wessels member, “and that it could be used for different events.” 

“No, no more, none on the grounds,” Clark said. 

“I don’t understand why the turnaround,” Campbell said. 

“The Supreme Court says . . . if a gay wedding was to be there . . . well, it wasn’t set up for that,” Conner said. “It was to educate children. This was not to be the point of the farm. Some of us have religious beliefs and we are standing up for that.” 

“Doesn’t that then jeopardize our (tax exempt) status?” Campbell asked. 

“Oh yes, and the American Civil Liberties Union will probably come after us,” said an agitated Clark. 

“We can’t jeopardize our 501C3,” Campbell said. “And how will this affect our association with the York Community Foundation?” 
Meanwhile, WLHF is still trying to figure out how to move forward financially. They typically earn about $18,000 in wedding-related revenue. They need to bring in more than 200 people for tours to make up for one wedding.

Keep in mind that Nebraska does NOT bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I disagree with this, but Nebraskans have the right to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation pretty much anywhere in the state. People might complain about it and there might be social media backlash, but this discrimination is legal.

It seems like somebody should have consulted with an attorney before making this costly decision. IMHO, as always!

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