Con Games: Church Beats State Near Aspen

The arrival of Grace Church at 1776 Emma Road in Basalt--1776 is not a misprint--roiled and soiled the community in Emma as they contemplated a megachurch, albeit a teensy one, in their midst. Dead center in the Roaring Fork Valley, the more liberal members of the town were universally concerned at the prospect of hundreds of Evangelicals worshiping in their midst.

The founders of Grace Church were nothing if not resilient and managed to beat back all challenges. The church, now visible from Highway 82, has seemed on the verge of completion for months, even though the building has yet to sport the telltale sign of the Cross. Given the inevitability of yet another Christian Church in the valley, concerned locals simply ran out of protests. A church, after all, is far more benign than a McDonald's, or so the story goes.

And that was that, from my perspective--until the wife espied the cheerful green banner in front of the Eagle County municipal building Sunday afternoon, with the words: "Grace Church Gathers Here," with the times for "Sunday worship."

Church and state, anybody? The Eagle County building is where I have caucused and voted. It's where we protested our property tax hike and signed our marriage license. Now I have no doubt that civilian groups meet in the building, and that Eagle County throws the door open to the holy and heathens alike, but to drive past a building built for the state and see the church take over, if only on Sundays, gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. A megachurch in my neighborhood I can live with, especially on private land. But a church holding services in a county buidling is like a stake by the state to the heart.

Just a beat or two after snapping the picture and retreating to my car, two men appeared outside the Eagle County building and took down the sign. Maybe there is a God after all.