To think that an individual can cancel out the majority in this culture, this is a blatant form of, we believe, religious discrimination. —Rev. Gregory Johnson
DRAPER — First it was on, then it was off, and now it's on again.
A concert at the Draper Amphitheater on July 24 featuring popular Christian performer Michael W. Smith will go on as scheduled, despite objections from an atheist.
Smith is a contemporary Christian musician, singer, songwriter who has sold 13 million albums and won three Grammys. Having someone like Smith in Utah is a big deal, according to Rev. Gregory Johnson, president of Standing Together Ministries, and supporter of Warrior Worship Ministries.
“We don’t get to see artists of this high caliber come to us because we are a smaller evangelical community in Utah,” Johnson said.
The venue for the “Wonder, Worship and Glory” concert is the Draper Amphitheater. During a City Council meeting Tuesday night, council members decided to cancel the event because they were concerned about a lawsuit from Todd Ouzts. He protested the use of city funds for the Christian concert.
The city of Draper posted a $21,500 deposit to the concert promoter Pastor Drew Reese, founder of Warrior Worship Ministries, to secure the event, which will be refunded through ticket sales.
“It was not that they are not partnering with us or paying the bill for us or partially paying for it,” Johnson said. “It’s simply a deposit that was to be guaranteed back to them as payment from us.”
Johnson added the concert promoter will take a loss if not enough tickets are sold to cover the costs of putting on the concert, including the $21,500 deposit from Draper.
Johnson said the city is happy to have Smith perform, but said it is not a city-sponsored Christian musical event. “It is a privately sponsored event that we are simply reserving and renting and using a public venue,” he said. “We think we should be allowed to do that.”
Johnson said the concert is a wonderful family event with some of the proceeds benefiting wounded warriors, and that if someone doesn’t like an event at a public venue, they don’t have to go.
“To think that an individual can cancel out the majority in this culture, this is a blatant form of, we believe, religious discrimination,” he said.
In emails to city officials, Ouzts said the event sounded like the concert was being promoted by the city website and through ticket sales from a government office, and that is what he objected to.
“I do believe the cause of helping soldiers and their families is a noble one,” he wrote. “But when that cause is conflated with prayers and worship, it must properly remain in church or on private property, not in the public’s backyard.”
Johnson said he was baffled that the city reacted the way it did after receiving one email email objecting to the event.
“The majority of the people are thrilled that this concert is happening,” Johnson said. “One individual, to my knowledge is opposed to it. He gets to win and everybody else gets to lose, that just does not make sense.”
Wednesday afternoon, city officials released a statement that said in part:
"The mayor and City Council wanted to be judicious in their decision. After careful consideration, they announced the performance will be allowed as originally scheduled."
Ouzts released his own statement Wednesday afternoon saying: "If the concert does proceed as planned, I am in fact prepared to file a multimillion dollar lawsuit against Draper City."
Johnson said that an attorney, Frank Mylar, will call on national resources should a lawsuit materialize over this concert.