In another stunning lack of conscience on the part of bureaucrats the City of Gettysburg has issued an order for a replica of an historic chapel to be vacated with the intention of it being torn down. The City has given no good reason to the organization who spearheaded and reconstructed the chapel which stands as a reminder to the service it gave to soldiers during the Civil War: namely food, medical care, fellowship and God.
From the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 5,000 volunteers of the United States Christian Commission (USCC), 1860’s currency valuation, distributed over $6 million worth of goods and supplies to those on the battlefield, in hospitals and in prisons. There was not just one chapel but hundreds built around the battlefield area to minister to these soldiers and distribute Bibles and the spiritual assistance of God.
In 2004 a gentleman by the name of John Wega refounded the USCC and at his own expense built an exact replica, as far as Civil War documents could dictate, of one of the chapels in the heart of the city of Gettysburg. The chapel has held services every Sunday from April until the end of November and it is a visitor center as well, open 24/7. Below is a picture of the interior of the rebuilt 480 sq. ft. 40′ x 12′ chapel which was built on a vacant lot with permission, at the time, of the city of Gettysburg and in compliance of all the required building codes. It can hold up to 80 people, packed in.
Now out of the blue this past Wednesday, November 17 Chaplain Wega and his group received a “cease and desist” letter from the City of Gettysburg Code Enforcing Officer stating the necessary permits weren’t applied for, and ordering the property to be vacated with the intention of demolishing it. Here is a copy of the letter:
This letter came one day before the 147th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Chaplain John Wega this day along with one of the attorneys from Liberty Institute, Hiram Sasser, who is representing him in his cause to fight what I consider to be an another outrageous attempt of government interference and grabbing at private citizens’ lauded efforts to instill not only history but a tribute to our Brave Soldiers who fought for freedom in this country. Here is Liberty Institute’s press release.
Ironically this “order” comes several days before the final service in the chapel for the year, this Sunday November 21, which will be Remembrance Day for the soldiers who lost their lives in those few terrible days on the Gettysburg battlefield. Last July the Adams County Chamber of Commerce gave the Chapel a Beautification Award.
Apparently the City of Gettysburg is trying to kick God out of their town.
Chaplain Wega gives his story here, Advancing Liberty:
In 2009 Chaplain Wega did replace his original canvas roof with a metal roof to ward off the inclement weather and added on to the deck. Attorney Sasser claims the chapel should be exempt from the need to have permits reissued under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) of 2000. Attorney Sasser and Chaplain Wega hope the situation can be resolved amicably without a need for court involvement, however the DC law firm of Wilmer Hale has also been retained in this matter. You can read their response to the City of Gettysburg and the Zoning Commission here. Wilmer Hale is representing Chaplain Wega pro bono and Liberty Institute relies on the support of generous donors in their representation of those who are under threat of their liberties being removed from an over-ambitious government or entity.
Chaplain Wega also stated to me the Boroughs Historical Architectural Review Board is also on the side of the City of Gettysburg however Board member Peggy McGee, who works across the street from the chapel is a “regular” in the chapel on her lunch hour. Go figure that one out. And a resident bought a home across from the chapel with the express purpose of being nearby so he could be a frequent visitor.
Attorney Sasser is confident based on existing federal and Pennsylvania law “The Little Chapel That Can” will prevail, and that “God” will not be chased out of Gettysburg.
Pulling info from the letter sent to Chaplain Wega and USCC, those of you wishing to express your outrage via letter or phone calls here is the information:
Borough of Gettysburg, 59 E. High St., Gettysburg, PA 17325, phone is 717-334-1160
Commonwealth Code Inspection Service, 1102 Sheller Ave., Ste. B, Chambersburg, PA 17201
You can visit the “Save the Civil War Chapel” website here.
FYI Liberty Institute is the same organization representing Catherine Engelbrecht and her Texas poll watchers against the lawsuits of the Harris County, TX Democratic Party and ACORN-connected Houston Votes. The organization relies entirely on donations to “Advance Freedom.” Hint, hint…
Crossposted at Conservative Outlooks