Tough choices, healthy debate

By The Camden Herald Editorial Board | Dec 12, 2013

Camden Select Board members engaged in a discussion last week about use of the Village Green and ultimately denied a request from a church to use the municipal property with a split vote of 2-2.

The request to use the Village Green was made in accordance with town policy, which states any group wishing to use the area must be approved by the select board. The church hoped to celebrate "Feast Day," a celebration of saints, with a group of about 20 people engaged in prayer, along with a couple of signs.

Initially, selectmen discussed the separation of church and state as a potential issue, since the church requested to use town-owned property. After discussions of that issue, it was decided the First Amendment — free speech — trumped any potential church and state issue. Further discussion brought up not only free speech but also the right to assemble.

Selectman John French pointed out political and religious groups have been denied use of the Village Green in the past. The only guidelines for use were provided by the donating Bok family, according to town officials.

Going forward, though, with requests to use the Village Green, it seems selectmen should consult the town attorney for a more clear interpretation of the policy for its use. In this case, the debate did not result in any clear answers.

Town Manager Patricia Finnigan noted groups still can congregate in the Village Green without town approval but said she felt the church group was only trying to follow the rules by requesting to use the area.

"You've put a group of citizens in a tough spot," she cautioned.

The issue of signs also was discussed, as the town would not be able to control any message presented by the group that might be interpreted as offensive to any other group of town residents.

Selectmen ended with a split vote in the absence of one member, rendering the request denied.

While we do not wish to take sides on the decision itself, the debate regarding the issue was encouraging. It showed selectmen being thoughtful and considerate of all angles and not just giving blanket approval to any and all requests to use town property.

The central location of the Village Green provides high visibility to any group event hosted there. We have long known Camden to be image-conscious and found it interesting to hear the thought process behind this decision. It is nice to hear the reasoning behind a decision rather than a simple yea or nay.


Sorry to see Tim Hortons close

It was announced this past week that Tim Hortons in Rockland has closed, putting 15 local employees out of work right before the holidays.

We were sorry to see this happen because it is hard on those workers and shows weakness in our economy.

Some locally are asking whether this is the first casualty of Wal-Mart moving off Camden Street and opening a super store in Thomaston. While the loss to the retail giant on Camden Street has likely decreased traffic to some of the local businesses, we would be surprised if that was a single factor in this decision. The new Wal-Mart just opened.

Instead this seems to be part of a larger corporate decision made by people far away from our community.

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