Here’s a new church/state lawsuit (see actual complaint here), and one in which the Alliance Defense Fund is on the right side for a change. The city of Idaho Springs, Colorado refused to allow a religious group to use the city council chambers for a National Day of Prayer meeting that was planned for the city grounds outside the building (they wanted to use the chambers in case of inclement weather). They had the permit to hold the meeting outside, but a city administrator said they could not use the inside facilities because the meeting was of a religious nature, citing city policy which said:
The following rules and regulations concerning the use of Council Chambers at Idaho Springs City Hall have been established by the City Council and will apply to anyone requesting to use chambers for meetings. The City Clerk, or her designee, will be in charge of administering and implementing this policy. City Council shall have sole discretion to determine whether an event will be permitted.
- City Council, departments, commissions, boards, and agencies of the City will have priority for scheduled use of facility.
- Outside groups wishing to reserve meeting rooms must be non-profit, community service oriented, or other government entities.
- Private social events, meetings of private businesses, meetings with religious content and religious ceremonies are not permitted.
The ADF correctly says that this amounts to viewpoint discrimination and violates the right to equal access to public property for religious groups on par with non-religious groups. I don’t know why so many schools and cities, in particular, have such a difficult time with access issues. They’re pretty much settled law, reiterated in both Lamb’s Chapel and Good News Club as well as other cases. If you’re going to allow use of public facilities to community groups, you cannot deny that access to religious groups. The access must be equal for all groups regardless of the viewpoint expressed at the meetings.