Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oregon Public Library Challenged on Meeting Room Use Policy

Lawsuit filed against Seaside Library. (The Daily Astorian, 3/2/2012)

Excerpt:   Liberty Counsel is seeking a federal judge’s order declaring the policy unconstitutional and requiring the library to allow public meetings in its community room “without regard to the religious viewpoint or content of Liberty Counsel’s message, on the same terms and conditions as any other group that is permitted to use the room.” 

It is also seeking damages and attorney’s expenses. 

City Manager Mark Winstanley referred questions to City Attorney Dan Van Thiel, but Van Thiel could not be reached. 

Library Director Reita Fackerell also referred questions to Van Thiel. However, she said the current policy was adopted by the library board and that the Seaside City Council did not review it. 

The library’s policy says, in part, that meeting rooms cannot be used “for religious services or proselytizing.” It also prohibits the “solicitation or development of business, for profit or for fundraising … for individual political campaigns or partisan political recruitment, or for gambling or games of chance.” 

The policy also states that the primary purpose of offering a meeting room free to community groups and individuals is to “provide space for educational and cultural enrichment and lifelong learning.” It goes on to say that the policy is to “support the library’s role as a gathering place for all ages, creating a sense of community and neighborhood belonging and a welcome environment for all.” 

The proposed program 

Boyd said the proposed program would include speakers to “provide the children various perspectives on history and traditions contained in the Bible and seek to demonstrate how those traditions fit within their modern world. 

“The overall purpose of this program is to educate the children from a Christian perspective and a biblical basis so they can better understand how to be good students, friends and ultimately good people within society.” 

A library employee contacted Boyd and left a voice message denying the application, according to the brief filed with the federal court on Monday. The only reason given, the brief said, was that the library policy prohibited religious services or proselytizing.

Comment.  It's clear in Wisconsin that this denial of a one-time use of a library's meeting room for a Liberty Counsel-sponsored program is contrary to by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman's 2000 opinion.

From Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Public Library Administration and Governance

1 comment:

Michael Koszalka, Library Director West Allis Public Library said...

Paul - A valuable reminder that all public library administrators and trustees need to heed. Check your meeting room policies to ensure they comply with the Adelman 2000 opinion. Consistency in policy is imperative.