Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Library Room Use Policy Violates Establishment Clause

In Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries v. Glover, (ND CA, June 18, 2009), a California federal district court held that a policy of Contra Costa County (CA), that opens county library meeting rooms for use for many educational, cultural and community activities, but not for religious services, violates the Establishment Clause. Previously, the 9th Circuit had held that the exclusion does not violate the free speech protections of the 1st Amendment. (See prior posting.) Now, however, on remand the district court concludes that the policy violates the excessive entanglement prong of the Lemon test. It concludes that it is likely "the County would be called upon to inquire into religious doctrine in order to determine whether a particular activity qualified as a religious service." The court issued an injunction against enforcement of the policy, to take effect July 6. However it dismissed damage claims against various individual defendants on the basis of immunity. Yesterday's Contra Costa Times reported on the decision, as did a release from the Alliance Defense Fund.