St. Pete Mayor Welch opens Rays stadium deal to questions and lawsuits about religious matters

“Behind me is the very place where I as a young man worshipped at Prayer Tower Church of God and Christ,” St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch said yesterday (at 15:34) in his speech announcing the proposed deal for a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays. About 4 minutes later (at 19:43), Welch referred to the site as “sacred land.”

The combination of these two statements could spell problems for the city because the word “sacred” only has a religious meaning. The word’s etymology clearly shows that “sacred” only refers to matters of divinity or divine things. By telling the story of his religious experiences on the current baseball stadium site and then referring to it as a “sacred site” could prove problematic. Welch may have opened the city to a criticism or even a lawsuit claiming that he has let religious considerations, perhaps personal ones, inform public policy decisions on this $600 million handout of public funds to wealthy owners of a pro sports team.

St. Pete Mayor Ken Welch unsuccessfully trying to bite his tongue at yesterday’s stadium announcement

We asked Welch’s communications staff: in what way is the site “sacred” to Welch or the city? Please be as specific as possible. We also asked if the word “sacred” been used in any of the discussions with the Rays leading up to the Rays deal and to provide examples if it has been used.

No answers were provided despite staff being given generous time to answer.

In his remarks yesterday, Welch used terms like “Here to stay” and also said that the proposed deal requires approval by the St. Pete City Council. However, Welch made no mention of the fact that the deal also requires approval by the Pinellas Board of County Commissioners. Despite efforts to message that this is a done deal, the deal has a long way to go.

Will this “stadium announcement” become reality, unlike other previous such announcements under previous mayors? Or will Welch’s gaffe or other considerations result in this deal not having a prayer?

As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide. Please like our Facebook page to find out when we publish our articles.