Policy banning religion in city parks and buildings challenged

 May 26, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

There have been many fights in recent years in the United States because religious organizations simply request to use public facilities, parks, meeting rooms in libraries, and such, on the same basis as other groups.

Many leftist officials have tried to prevent that, offering policies that openly discriminate against people of faith.

Los Angeles is part of that agenda and has just been challenged.

A report from the American Center for Law and Justice the city's policy bans "renting any city-owned facility for 'religious worship.'"

But a wide range of other uses are allowed, and that is in direct violation of the First Amendment, the ACLJ reports.

The organization says it began its action because of the "unconstitutional policy" being applied to a city of Manhattan Beach resident trying to rent space in a city-owned facility for a religious gathering.

The challenged LA practice states: "The Facility Reservation Policy governs the use of public facilities such as community center rooms, picnic shelters, swimming pools, basketball courts and sports fields that are available to the public for civic, social, educational, athletic, cultural activities and limited commercial use. The purpose of this policy is to provide use regulations and application and scheduling procedures to accommodate residents and individuals who would like to use City facilities. Facilities will not be used for religious worship or other religious purposes, political fundraisers, political advocacy other partisan campaign events, or the sale of goods or services. Candidate or ballot issue forums that present all opposing viewpoints may be accepted."

The ACLJ's client simply wanted to reserve a space to sing worship songs and watch a sermon on television.

No, and never, said the city.

The ACLJ's initial response was a demand letter, suggesting the city correct its policy.

"In general, the First Amendment limits the government’s ability to censor free speech and religious expression. The First Amendment especially protects religious speech and expression. As the Supreme Court has said, '[P]rivate religious speech, far from being a First Amendment orphan, is as fully protected under the Free Speech Clause as secular private expression.' The government cannot suppress speech solely because it is religious."

The legal team pointed out that the Supreme Court in Widmar v. Vincent held a "university policy denying a religious student club access to its facilities on equal terms violated the First Amendment."

Then in Lamb's Chapel, the justices said, "Where the government opens up public facilities to a variety of groups, religious groups must be treated equally under the First Amendment."

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