How’s it go?

Hypocrisy be thy name?

For the powerful, struggling is for other people. And better to ignore those struggles than acknowledge their clear existence. Right? Because that must be the best path forward.

Or, so it seems, that is the thinking of a majority sitting on the Lewiston City Council.

The council recently entertained three applications to hold outdoor musical events on city property, a very standard process governed by city code to ensure that public safety officers are both aware of and prepared for large public events.

According to the application for a July 8 event at Simard-Payne Memorial Park, the event would feature a DJ using an amplifier, along with acoustic guitar, singing, and free barbecue. The applicant estimated about 100 people might attend.


The application for a Sept. 9 event at Kennedy Park, would feature much the same, music amplified through speakers, singing, and free barbecue. The attendance is estimated at 50 people.

The third application, for a July 15 event in Kennedy Park, outlined similar amplified acoustic guitar, along with singing, and free barbecue for about 200 people.

None of the events intend to serve alcohol and all three received the support of police and fire departments and city code officers.

The first and second applications were approved. The third one was denied.

The difference?



The first application was filed by A-Hand-Up & R-Hom Recovery, a sober recovery house with locations in Lewiston and Augusta. The second was filed by Christ 1 Ministries, a Lewiston-based ministry run by Pastor Esdras Solis. That event is intended to highlight the plight of the homeless in Lewiston.

The third? It was filed by the Church of Safe Injection, a nonprofit agency located in Lewiston with a mission to reduce harm associated with active drug use. The organization is a syringe service program certified by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and one which raises funds for scholarships for recovery residences and advocates for policies that support overdose prevention and safe use sites, according to its mission statement.

The event was intended to raise awareness of harm and to provide education on harm reduction, but it was denied because a majority of the council doesn’t support the group’s mission.

Enter hypocrisy.

As many people know, especially those in recovery and the experts and advocates who support them, for many people the road to sobriety is walked in the shadow of faith. A sober existence can be one of personal forgiveness, enlightened through belief.

A public event organized by a sober house is fine. An event organized by a Christian ministry is fine. But an event organized by a group working to help people with active addiction, and keep them safe, is not?


How, if not supporting the work to help people — including people experiencing substance abuse — do we find solutions to build a better community?

To be fair, part of the rationale of the council majority to reject the Church of Safe Injection’s application was because they didn’t want to see drug paraphernalia handed out in Kennedy Park.

On Wednesday, Zoe Brokos, the church’s executive director, noted that while the group’s syringe service program is supported as part of the Governor’s Office of Opioid Response, there was no plan to hand out paraphernalia at the event.

Had she or anyone else from the Church of Safe Injection attended the City Council meeting when councilors took up their application, that would have been good information to share. But, no one from the organization attended. The organizer completed the application in late May, wrote a check for $50, and waited for approval.

Given the organization’s controversial mission, the group could have been more proactive, perhaps even noting that other local organizations – including St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and Tri-County Mental Health Services – planned to participate in its Community Appreciation Day in support of the educational event.

But, even though they failed to speak in support of their application before the council, people in Maine have the constitutional right to assemble in an “orderly and peaceable manner” to consult upon the common good.


The common good here is facing — as a community — the need to make sure our friends and neighbors are safe, to help people moving toward recovery, and to demonstrate Lewiston is a city where people matter.

The council’s majority made it very clear that people in recovery and living in sobriety are welcome to gather in a public space. As are organizations of faith. But people who are experiencing substance use disorder and who, with support and faith might be able to move into recovery, are not welcome here.

For four elected officials who express such concern about how poorly people view Lewiston, this is why.

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