Religious groups may operate Tulsa recreation centers

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2002

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Religious organizations could be operating four of Tulsa's municipal recreation centers by the end of the summer.

Mayor Bill LaFortune, criticized previously for saying he hoped to ''bring God back to city government,'' said the centers would have closed if the groups had not come forward.

''I want the record clear that these centers will not be used as a vehicle to evangelize or for the purpose of conversion to a particular faith,'' LaFortune said.

Two of the groups already running centers, Paradise Baptist Church and the Christian group Families of Murdered Children, began their partnerships with the city while previous Mayor Susan Savage was in office.

''There certainly is a track record of doing this with the prior administration,'' LaFortune said. ''I'm just trying to follow and track very closely with what President Bush is doing.''

By mid-July, Sanctuary Evangelistic hopes to open Owen Park, said the Rev. Milford Carter. Redeeming Faith Church is expected to take over another center when a city-operated summer camp ends, said Clay Bird, an aide to the mayor.

The only criteria to participate in programs at Owen, Carter said, ''is following the guidelines of decency. We want people who can get along with each other.''

City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter said the city is conducting a review before signing contracts with the two additional churches.

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