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Court: Ohio library can’t prohibit meeting because of religious elements

ADF attorneys pleased with decision keeping library officials from denying Christian group use of public meeting room

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal court ruled Thursday that an Ohio library violated the Constitution when it denied Citizens for Community Values access to its meeting room on the grounds that the proposed event contained “inherent elements of a religious service.”  Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of CCV against the Upper Arlington Public Library Board of Trustees on March 7.

“Christian groups shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs, and we are pleased with the court’s recognition of that,” said ADF Legal Counsel Tim Chandler.  “The court agreed that the government cannot treat people with non-religious viewpoints more favorably than people with religious viewpoints.  It also concluded that it’s not the library’s job to determine what elements constitute a religious service and then discriminate on that basis.”

Shortly after CCV requested permission to hold a seminar in one of Upper Arlington Public Library’s meeting rooms, which are readily available to community groups, the group was denied access.  A library official noted in the denial that CCV’s proposed activities contained “elements of a religious service” and that the group was therefore prohibited from using the room because of the library’s meeting room policy barring “religious services.”

The event is part of a series of meetings held throughout Ohio to explain what current laws and the Bible have to say about Christian political involvement.  The meeting was to include prayer, singing, and a time of thanking God for the freedom Americans have to take part in the political process.  The court found the elements to be protected speech and that prohibition on use of the meeting room therefore “constitutes unlawful viewpoint discrimination, and consequently violates Plaintiff’s First Amendment free speech rights.”

“Christian groups have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America,” said Chandler.  “The only wall that separates religious groups from public meeting rooms is the wall built by government officials who fail to understand the Constitution.”

ADF-allied attorney David Langdon of Cincinnati was co-counsel in the case.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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Timothy D. Chandler
Timothy D. Chandler
Senior Counsel, Vice President of Church & Ministry Alliance Engagement & Strategic Projects
Timothy D. Chandler serves as senior counsel and vice president of Church & Ministry Alliance engagement & strategic projects with Alliance Defending Freedom.