Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ohio Library Sued For Requiring Opposing Viewpoints On "Controversial" Speech In Its Community Room

Liberty Counsel filed suit today in Youngstown, Ohio, against the Newton Falls Library Board of Trustees after the group's application to use the Newton Falls Public Library Meeting Room was denied when library officials deemed the subject of traditional marriage to be "controversial." The suit argues that the Library Policy violates the First Amendment.

The Library Policy states that the Community Room is available to "nonprofit organizations" for "programs of a civic, cultural or educational nature." However, the Policy also states the following: "If a program deals with a controversial subject, then all sides of the issue must be presented." Liberty Counsel applied to use the Community Room for specific dates at the end of May and on June 6 or 13, 2005. The application stated that the meeting would present a biblical perspective on traditional marriage. The meeting would include prayer and scripture reading. Kerry McCrone, the library director, denied the application on May 23. With the denial, the library director sent back a copy of the Policy with language highlighted stating that if a program deals with a controversial subject, all sides of the issue must be presented. In other words, the Policy requires that any time a "controversial subject" is discussed, the opposing viewpoint must also be presented.

Library officials ought to know that a policy which purports to ban "controversial" speech is unconstitutional. Under the library policy, any member of the public may use the Community Room to conduct a meeting on any topic so long as it is not controversial, in which case the library requires the speaker to present the opposing view. This library policy would require meetings designed to show support for our troops to include anti-war protesters, like Cindy Sheehan. The government can not compel its citizens to violate their conscience in order to express their viewpoint.