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Settlement on the books: Fla. library allows religious seminar in meeting room

ADF lawsuit prompts Osceola County to change bad policy prohibiting religious use of its public meeting rooms

MIAMI — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys secured a settlement and a dismissal order Tuesday in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a Christian man whose attempt to reserve a public library’s meeting room for a religious seminar was rejected by Osceola County officials.  Last year, officials with Hart Memorial Central Library notified Anthony Verdugo that a policy prohibiting religious uses precluded his “Religion in America” seminar from taking place because of its religious content.

“Christians shouldn’t be excluded from using community rooms at public libraries simply because the subject of their meeting is religious,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “The county did the right thing by amending its problematic policy so that people with religious views are not singled out for discrimination when attempting to use publicly available meeting space.”

In October 2009, library officials rejected Verdugo’s application to reserve a meeting room for a seminar to be presented by the Christian Family Coalition entitled “Religion in America,” which was set to address current social issues in the U.S. from a biblical perspective. ADF attorneys filed the suit Verdugo v. Osceola County the following month with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, arguing that the library system is in violation of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by rejecting Verdugo’s request and enforcing a policy prohibiting the religious use of its public meeting rooms.

In a similar case, 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” at the Antioch Branch Library. In addition, ADF attorneys worked together last year with officials in the city of Richmond, Calif., and the town of Elk River, Minn., to rectify similarly 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.

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.