Tifton city leaders still considering an ordinance that would ban civic organizations downtown

Tifton city leaders still considering an ordinance that would ban civic organizations downtown

TIFTON, GA (WALB) - Tifton city leaders say they need more time before amending an ordinance that would ban civic organizations from owning a building downtown.

Tifton city leaders want to make sure there is a level playing field downtown. Right now, civic clubs and private lodges are allowed downtown but storefront churches are not.

"In order to treat religious organizations and secular organizations the same we have to exclude clubs and lodges from downtown,” said Rob Wilmont, City Attorney.

"If you put something down there for a club they may only meet once a month or once a week and that's not generic to a vital downtown business and what we're trying to promote downtown," said Jamie Cater

They're currently aren't any civic clubs or lodges downtown. Wilmont said it's important for city leaders to make a decision that doesn't discriminate against religious organizations.

" That's basically federal law, you have to treat secular organizations the same way as you treat religious organizations and not discriminate," said Rob Wilmont.

No one asked to speak at a public hearing on the ordinance Monday night, but city council members put off a decision.

"We really need more clarification," said Jamie Cater, Mayor.

The proposed changes would allow civic clubs to meet in downtown businesses such as restaurants, but they would not be able to buy or rent their own building. Mayor Cater wants to make sure any ordinance does not prohibit religious groups from expressing themselves.

“If an Evangelists wants to rent out the theatre and come and they want to pray, they want to have a service. I can't vote no on that and I won't vote no," said Mayor Cater.

Leaders hope to figure out the details during a workshop in a couple of weeks.

City Leaders are encouraging Civic Organizations express their concerns by contacting them at city hall.

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