This past spring, Pastor Robert Dekker of New Covenant Presbyterian Church applied for a permit to hold Sunday services on the Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach this summer. His application was denied based on separation of church and state grounds. That started a controversy that got national attention, with Dekker doing several interviews for both local and national media outlets. However, Dekker doesn't really feel that the denial of his application was an attack on religious freedom.
Dekker organized a "Freedom Rally" and prayer service today on the beach at Rehoboth Avenue. The rally was attended by a few hundred people. The service featured prayers, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and patriotic songs, including "Delmarva's Morning News" co-host Judy Mangini singing the national anthem. During the Pledge of Allegiance, the crowd put extra emphasis on "God." One of the speakers was a World War II who described his experience after the invasion of Normandy, as Allied troops marched across France to liberate the country from Nazi occupation. In his sermon, entitled "A Line In The Sand," Pastor Dekker said he was thankful for being allowed to hold the service on the beach. He told the crowd that freedom was something that comes from God and not government, and is something to be cherished. He prayed for guidance from God for the leaders of both Rehoboth Beach and Delaware.
Beachgoers who spoke with WGMD were supportive of Dekker's right to exercise his freedom of religion, and for religious groups to be able to hold services in public areas, such as on a beach. They said if people didn't like it or didn't want to hear or see it, they had the right to move somewhere else away from the service.
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