Thursday, September 15, 2005

Liberty Counsel Settles Dispute With Colorado Library That Rejected Its Application To Use Community Room

After filing a federal lawsuit in Denver, Colorado, Liberty Counsel has now settled its dispute with the Rampart Library District Board of Trustees after its application to use the Woodland Park Library Community Room was denied.

The original Library policy stated that the Community Room is “available to nonprofit civic, cultural and educational organizations for events open to the public.” Additionally, the policy stated the following: “Meetings open to the public that are religious or political in nature must provide a balanced view and [meet] with the Board of Trustees’ approval.” Liberty Counsel applied to use the Community Room for specific dates at the end of May and on June 6, 2005. The application stated that the meeting would present a biblical perspective on marriage and homosexuality. The meeting would include prayer and Scripture reading. David Mula, the director, rejected the application, stating that Liberty Counsel would have to invite someone to present an opposing viewpoint on marriage.

Liberty Counsel filed suit. The library has now repealed the prior policy and adopted a new one that no longer discriminates based on the viewpoint of the speaker or message. The Library also agreed to pay attorney fees and court costs. The settlement has now been submitted to the federal district court in Denver for approval.

We are pleased that the library responded to the suit by repealing its unconstitutional policy. One library official was quoted in a newspaper as saying that she expected to start a dialogue by rejecting Liberty Counsel’s application, not start a lawsuit. But when government officials enforce policies that censor religious viewpoints, they ought to expect consequences. For over two years, the American Library Association has recommended that discriminatory facility usage polices be repealed. It’s time local libraries heeded the warning.

Interestingly, the ALA's "Library Bill of Rights" states: "Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use."