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Fair reverses course, allows pro-life booths

Updated: August 1, 2012 6:04AM

GRAYSLAKE — Two nonprofit pro-life groups had to fight for their booths at next month’s Lake County Fair .

Lake County Right to Life has held a booth at Lake County Fair for 37 years. A Lake County Fair Association employee told the agency their application for a booth was rejected because of the three-dimensional fetus display the pro-life organization has used every year.

According to their attorney, Peter Breen, executive director and legal counsel with Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based nonprofit law firm defending life, religious and marriage liberty, protested the action. Fair officials reversed that decision and said LCRTL and Peter’s Net, a nonprofit evangelical organization, could have booths, Breen said.

“We’re glad that they have decided to do the right thing. Had the fair stood on its rejection, we would have taken further legal action,” Breen said.

The application of Peter’s Net was allegedly denied because the same fair employee who denied LCRTL said she felt Peter’s Net went beyond what was authentically Catholic, complained about the pro-life message, using fetal models and alleged “complaints” had been made about the booth. Peter’s Net has had a presence at the fair since 2009.

However, fair board President Kelli Kepler-Yarc said the issue was never about the two vendors’ content.

“We have about 116 spaces. We’ve double the applications for those slots,” Kepler-Yarc said. “We had no intent of censoring content or enforcing the public. It was strictly a business decision.”

She did say there have been “concerns” voiced about the fetus display in the expo hall, but could not provide any specific instances or numbers.

Many young children go through the expo hall, she noted.

“We reviewed and considered the material. We decided to continue welcoming them as vendors,” Kepler-Yarc said.

Breen said fair officials refused to provide written documentation for the initial rejections.

“There was no mention of lack of space. Other booths were approved after our organizations applied,” Breen said. “I’m glad that the folks at the fair reversed course.”

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