LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — Craig Lehman, the Lancaster County Commissioner, is urging Discover Lancaster — a tourist promotion agency — to reconsider its decision to hold its annual meeting at the Star Barn Village in West Donegal Township.
Lehman advised Discover Lancaster to change its meeting location in a letter on Monday, three days after he became aware that Star Barn doesn’t allow same sex couples to use its wedding venue.
You can read Commissioner Lehman’s full letter to Discover Lancaster below:
Dear Discover Lancaster Board of Directors,
As a tourist promotion agency, Discover Lancaster has a core mission to market Lancaster County as a special destination that welcomes all. Obviously, the more tourists who visit Lancaster County, the better for all tourism-related businesses. How the Lancaster brand is perceived by consumers determines the strength of our local tourism industry, now and in the future. What has been a positive brand may now be at risk because of Discover Lancaster’s decision to hold its Annual Meeting at the Star Barn Village.
Before last Friday, I was not aware of the Star Barn Village’s discriminatory business practice. As a result, I have changed my plans and will not attend Discover Lancaster’s Annual Meeting. Initially, I thought this protest would be enough, but after giving the matter additional thought, I now feel that more needs to be said.
Returning to the issue of branding, if Discover Lancaster holds its Annual Meeting at the Star Barn Village as planned, Lancaster County may be at risk of damaging its image as a welcoming community and be viewed as one that is intolerant. If this occurs, Discover Lancaster will have violated its core mission and potentially weakened the Lancaster brand. It could also result in impacting the number of tourists visiting Lancaster County.
The claim by the Star Barn Village that the matter is one of religious freedom is best viewed in the same branding context. The Star Barn Village has decided to use a discriminatory business practice as part of its brand. They may simply consider this a statement of their faith, or they may intend this to be a positive branding for their business. Unfortunately, this approach, perhaps unintentionally, also promotes intolerance. As a person of faith, I believe this is a conundrum for the Star Barn Village, because reflecting your faith, should not also promote intolerance.
I strongly urge Discover Lancaster to reconsider the decision to hold its Annual Meeting at the Star Barn Village. In the end, we all want the same thing; for Lancaster County to continue to be branded as a special place that is welcoming to all.
Craig Lehman, Commissioner
County of Lancaster