Church and State Battle at Denver Airport

Roman Catholic Masses are no longer announced over the public address system at Denver International Airport because a traveler complained that the reminders violate the separation of church and state.

Noon Masses are held each Sunday and on holy days of obligation, and communion services are held Mondays and Wednesdays. Airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said the Mass announcements were made only before a service.

Faced with the complaint, the airport suspended the announcements several weeks ago by order of its attorneys.

But that action has prompted Denver’s Catholic Archbishop, Charles Chaput, to write his own complaint about the curtailment.

The city is writing a response, said airport attorney Lee Marable.

“We’ll be telling the archbishop that we plan to check with other airports to see what their policy is and whether there is anything illegal in the announcements,” he said.

‘Excessive Govt. Entanglement’?

Marable, who was home sick Wednesday, said he didn’t remember who wrote to complain about the announcements and said he didn’t have the letter at home.

“We’re perplexed,” said Greg Kail, spokesman for the Denver Archdiocese. “But we’re confident that something can be worked out and the announcements can start again. We’ve always had a good relationship with DIA.”

Kail said he could see “no excessive government entanglement with religion” by announcing Mass times at the airport.

The announcements seem like a “reasonable service to employees and passengers,” he said.

No other religious group that shares the two-room chapel — Protestants, Jews or Muslims — has regular services, but local religious leaders sided with the archbishop.

“It seems to me that the announcement of a service ought to be part of it,” said the Rev. Lucia Guzman, who served on the chapel board. “People are coming through an airport for all types of reasons, including crisis times in their lives.”

The airport chapel was paid for by DIA Interfaith Chapel Inc., which is composed of Christians, Jews and Muslims. One room is for Muslims and the other for Christians and Jews. The organization leases the space.

The chapel is often used by religious groups passing through or going on pilgrimages, and occasionally for a wedding or memorial service of an airline or airport employee, Kaye said.

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