Monday, July 6, 2009

Religious Discrimination - Meetings in Library

In 2004, Contra Costa County Library officials (Antioch, California) prohibited evangelist Hattie Hopkins from using a public room in the library for a service. The prohibition was based solely on the religious nature of the room's proposed use. She has had a long court battle to secure the right to use this room. Her attorney said, "This is a meeting room in a library that is basically open to about anything you can imagine, from meetings of political parties — the Democrats had meetings there — to tryouts for ‘American Idol’ to you name it, and that the only thing that was singled out were certain types of religious meetings."

The Supreme Court long ago said that public facilities open for general use could not have rules or policies that limited their use by religious groups. Yet the case has not been resolved until June of 2009 when the District Court said the library had to allow religious use of this facility. In this particular case, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a friend of the court brief supporting Hattie's position.

This would not be so interesting if the library had policies that restricted various types of use that included religious meetings. But to prohibit only religious use is not "avoiding an establishment of religion" (not that libraries are required to avoid that); it is simply discrimination based on religion.

Read the first part of story here, which is to the point when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to hear her case:

ADF attorneys to appeal California equal access library case to U.S. Supreme Court

Then you can see the final chapter here, where she won the case (with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund):

Long court battle ends in evangelist’s favor

Read another article about this story from the California Catholic Daily

We can be thankful there are groups like the ADF who will help people who could not otherwise afford to fight for their rights.

No comments: