Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

ADF seeks to end religious discrimination policies at more than 750 government-run facilities

Posted by faithandthelaw on June 9, 2010

LEAWOOD, Kan. — The Alliance Defense Fund sent letters Monday to 151 governmental entities urging them to end unconstitutional policies on their books that restrict or forbid access to public meeting rooms for religious purposes.  The policies govern more than 750 public facilities across the nation.

Government officials frequently refuse or restrict Christian churches, groups, and individuals when they attempt to reserve facilities otherwise open to the public at schools, libraries, parks, and community centers–a practice routinely determined to be unconstitutional by the courts, as explained in the ADF letters. Several lawyers in the ADF alliance of more than 1,600 attorneys assisted with distribution of the letters.

“Christians shouldn’t be excluded and restricted from using public meeting rooms and other facilities simply because they plan to express a Christian viewpoint,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “The Constitution prohibits the government from deciding who can and cannot use space based upon which viewpoints are being discussed during those meetings. Public officials can’t give preferential treatment to some views over others.”

Unconstitutional policies restricting–or outright prohibiting–such usage have gone unchallenged in most cases, keeping churches, religious groups, and Christian individuals from discussing their faith in public places where others are readily allowed to discuss their non-religious views.

“Whether it’s the denial of religious services and seminars, Vacation Bible Schools, church potlucks, Bible studies, or a Christian author discussing an upcoming book, countless groups and individuals are having their constitutional rights violated while those with non-religious affiliations enjoy unrestricted access for their activities,” Oster said.

Since its inception, ADF has successfully litigated and/or funded numerous legal matters that have resulted in policy changes at more than 1,900 public facilities that now provide equal access for religious groups. For example: 

  • Last month, ADF attorneys secured a settlement in the lawsuit Verdugo v. Osceola County, in which a Florida public library changed its unconstitutional policy prohibiting a Christian man from holding a religious seminar.
  • ADF attorneys secured a court order last June preventing a California public library from banning a Christian group from its public meeting room. In the suit Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries v. Glover, the court ruled that Contra Costa County officials cannot ban meetings it labels “religious services.”
  • ADF attorneys worked together last year with officials in the city of Richmond, Calif., and the town of Elk River, Minn., to rectify problematic policies that prohibited religious meetings in their community centers.
  • ADF is also representing a New York City church that is fighting to be allowed to continue renting a public school facility for its religious services. In Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York, city officials are violating the church’s constitutional rights by denying it rental access to public school buildings based strictly on the fact that it wishes to use the space for worship services. 
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