Bud Kennedy

Fort Worth chapel is picture-perfect, even for warning poster

A historic Fort Worth chapel is now famous all over Los Angeles and New York.

Sort of.

A wedding photographer’s long-ago scene of the 60-year-old Rose Chapel has turned up in a nationwide poster campaign against immigration marriage fraud.

Along with the chapel, the poster shows prison cells and warns: “Marriage Fraud is a Federal Crime.”

“I guess we should feel sort of honored that our chapel looked good enough for a poster,” said Rose Lynn Scott, one of the founders of the busy chapel and Southside Preservation Hall in the Fairmount neighborhood.

“But you hate to see our chapel next to a prison.”

Printed across the chapel photo is the warning: “If you walk down this aisle for the wrong reasons ” and across the cellblock, “You could end up walking down this aisle.”

The chapel’s managers were stunned this week when a spring bride recognized her wedding chapel in new warnings from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement publicity campaign in California.

First, the managers emailed ICE asking about the photo and questioned how the chapel could be shown without permission.

Well, duh.

This is the federal government we’re talking about.

ICE can buy your photo and put it on posters all over the country with absolutely no permission.

Photographer Wendy Pandolfo of Fort Worth said she took the photo six years ago before working a wedding and later sold it through Thinkstock, part of Washington-based Getty Images.

“I didn’t even remember it, and now they’re putting it up in bus stations in Los Angeles,” she said.

“I probably made 50 cents for it.”

She’s a regular at Tuesday swing dance lessons in the Rose Chapel, originally part of a United Methodist church and then the Panther Boys Club before it was converted to a community chapel and events hall.

“The whole facility is neat, and I love the way it looks,” she said.

So did a designer at ICE.

The poster is meant to be displayed in federal and county clerks’ offices nationwide as part of ICE’s Marriage Fraud Initative, which started with the Los Angeles rollout.

Paid, mail-order or fraudulent marriages involving immigrants have been linked to smuggling, money laundering and racketeering, some of it involving Hezbollah and al Qaeda, an ICE agent told a Texas county officials’ conference last winter.

Marrying to gain legal residency is a felony carrying up to a 5-year prison sentence and $250,000 fine.

“We are trying to educate the community about why this is a crime,” said ICE press secretary Barbara Gonzalez.

She said the poster has not been sent to courthouses nationwide yet.

“It’s not in every county clerk’s office yet, but if we can get it there, it’d be good because we want people to understand the danger of marriage fraud,” she said.

But a Rose Chapel wedding is no crime.