REHOBOTH BEACH — A pastor in Delaware will preach at an Independence Day rally on the public beach in defiance of the city’s refusal to grant him a permit to hold church services at the location over its belief that doing so would violate the separation of church and state.
Pastor Robert Dekker of New Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lewes told reporters that he recently submitted a permit application to host eight church services at Rehoboth Beach over the summer, but received a letter of rejection from the city manager.
“I am so sorry to inform you that I cannot grant your request to have church services on the public beach in Rehoboth. I cannot mix Church and State,” it read. “I trust you understand. Wishing you the very best.”
In response to the rejection, a supporter organized a freedom rally on the beach and invited Dekker to preach. The church has now created flyers inviting the public to the event, and exposing the city manager’s denial of the permit.
“Pastor Robert Dekker, in defiance of tyranny, will give a sermon on the public beach at the end of Rehoboth Avenue,” the flyers state. “Join the local churches on Independence Day as we assemble for a peaceful worship service.”
Dekker recently told reporters that he believes it is important for Christians to hold church services in the public square.
“The issue for me is that [I] see opportunities diminishing around us to provide the help that I think the community needs more than anything. When you take the light off of the city, there’s going to be darkness,” he said. “If there isn’t anybody that’s going to preach the good news, then people are going to be left in the dark because no one will hear it.”
According to the Huffington Post, Rehoboth Beach is a “gay-friendly” destination for tourists.
“Those coming to Rehoboth for the first time will find that the gayest block in town is Baltimore Avenue,” wrote columnist Peter Rosenstein. “[You can go] to happy hour and late-night dancing all on the same block, with nearly all the businesses owned and operated by members of the LGBT community. You can stop by CAMP, the Rehoboth LGBT Community Center, and get all the information you need for a great weekend or the whole summer.”
However, a historical sign displayed on the beach outlines that on “January 27th, 1983, the Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church was incorporated by the Delaware legislature for the purpose of establishing a permanent campmeeting ground and Christian seaside resort.”
As word of the rally on the beach has gone national, members of the public have expressed support to Dekker.
“I stand with you on the right to conduct a peaceful service at the beach. I was absolutely outraged that this government official had the nerve to state you can’t because of separation of church and state,” wrote one supporter named Kristina. “Don’t give in, don’t back down and keep the faith, brothers and sisters! My family will be with you in spirit on the fourth!”
“I stand with New Covenant Presbyterian Church on the right side of the line in the sand,” wrote another named Susan. “As a Texan I know what side of that line to stand on. I will be in prayer for Pastor Dekker and all in attendance for the Rehoboth Beach service.”