Saugatuck Public Schools addresses concerns over rental agreement with local church

Posted at 10:32 PM, Jan 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-16 22:32:07-05

SAUGATUCK, Mich--  Several concerned residents attended the board meeting for Saugatuck Public Schools on Monday to discuss the district's recent dealings with a local church.

Many parents were upset after learning the district signed a rental agreement with Third Coast Community Church, allowing them to hold their weekend services at the high school. Several residents argued while it's legal, they don't think it's smart.

"Did it not occur to you that it might not be illegal, but it might be in poor judgement? Did it not occur to you that it may not be illegal but maybe I ought to get an opinion," said one parent at Monday's meeting.

Others claim the church is against the LGBTQ community, which has a large presence in the Saugatuck area. The pastor from Third Coast was at Monday's meeting and said that's simply not true.

"One of the misconceptions unfortunately is that we are an anti-gay church group and that's not true. We welcome people from all walks of life and gender orientations to worship with us. We, like a lot of churches, don’t do same gender weddings, but that does not inhabit anyone’s membership within our church," said Pastor Aaron Brown.

"I feel very welcomed there and my family feels very welcomed there," said church member Jennifer Klein, who is a lesbian with a wife and two kids. She said she attended Monday's meeting to help alleviate concerns about the church.

The superintendent of Saugatuck Public Schools says with school budgets lacking everywhere,  the decision to rent out to the church was a business one.

"Any revenue we bring in offsets general funding for programming. So it's a $24,000 rental agreement for the year and that certainly pays for some coaches and extracurricular activities," said superintendent Rolfe Timmerman.

The superintendent is allowed to act on behalf of the school board, so that rental agreement is not illegal. However, the district says it will be looking at its rental policy in the future.

Third Coast Church said they would not be offended if the board went back and discussed a different arrangement with them following Monday's meeting.