LAKE SARANAC — A local man is hosting a Christian prayer and worship gathering Friday night at Riverside Park.
Jon Worchol said that “Prayer and Worship for Peace” the rally will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. He said no particular church or religious group is involved.
“We will sing Christian worship songs and talk a little about the word of God,” he wrote in an email to the Enterprise. “We could be five, we could be two hundred.”
In an event post he posted on Facebook, only one person had committed to attending on Thursday afternoon, although 30 others had expressed interest.
“(T)he numbers don’t look promising, but I’ve also been contacted (in) private about who will be attending, so hard to say,” Worchol wrote.
He said he decided to ask Saranac Lake officials to use the village park after some 500 people gathered there on June 2 for a Black Lives Matter rally.
“After George Floyd’s recent protest march to Saranac Lake, I read in the newspaper that the village does not issue permits to use the park, but it appears that political rallies (were) acceptable,” Worchol wrote. “I contacted the village to request permission to use the park for a Christian worship and prayer gathering. I was basically told it was not allowed.
“My last email to the village informed them that regardless, we would peacefully assemble under our First Amendment right, and asked the village to attend.”
The village did not issue a permit for the Black Lives Matter rally but did not shut it down either. Asked about the two rallies, Village Clerk Kareen Tyler cited the right to peaceful assembly enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Normally, she says, “The village is applying for park use permits to ensure proper use of the facilities and to apply for liability coverage to protect ratepayers from abuse, damage, etc.” but she said the village stopped issuing park use permits during the COVID-19 pandemic, per state rules.
She noted that on Monday Governor Andrew Cuomo raised the limit on in-person gatherings from a maximum of 10 people to 25.
She also said the Saranac Lake Farmers’ Market is permitted to use the park on Saturdays under agriculture and markets rules.