WAKE, N.C. — A Christian legal organization has filed a federal lawsuit against a public library in North Carolina after officials denied use of the facility for a lecture simply because the presentation was considered to be “religious instruction.”
Liberty Counsel, which has offices in Virginia, Florida and Washington, D.C., regularly conducts lectures throughout the country on the role of Christianity in the founding of America. In March 2013 and November 2014, the group sought to use the Cameron Village Regional Library in Wake, N.C. to present a lecture. However, it was denied both times.
According to a complaint filed last week in federal court, in March 2013, while initially granting use of the library’s meeting room, representative Susan Lane Partisan responded to Liberty Counsel’s reservation application by noting that “political meetings and religious instruction, services or ceremonies are not permitted” at the library.
Concerned that the library might interrupt the meeting, the organization replied by clarifying the content of the presentation.
“As you know, we plan on presenting an educational program on the foundations of America from a Christian perspective,” wrote President Anita Staver. “So, we will be quoting extensively from the Bible, the founding fathers’ religious views, and sermons from the founding era. We also plan to begin the program with a short devotional from the founding era.”
Lane then replied by cancelling the reservation.
“Since you are telling me your program includes religious instruction, then no, you would not be able to use our rooms according to our guidelines,” she wrote.
In November 2014, Liberty Counsel attempted to apply the second time, hoping that the library had changed its policy. However, Lane again denied use of the meeting room.
“Because you are planning on a devotional and prayer, that would constitute religious instruction and disqualify you from using our rooms,” she wrote. “This policy applies to groups of any religion.”
Liberty Counsel has now taken the matter to court as it alleges a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
“The County claims that the mission of its public library system is ‘to foster the pursuit of knowledge for the residents of Wake County,’ but its policies and practices foster only hostility toward religion, not knowledge of the Christian history and Biblical foundations of this nation” said Founder and Chairman Mat Staver in a press release.
“Cameron Village Regional Library violates its own mission by denying the citizens of Wake County the pursuit of knowledge of American history, particularly our religious foundation,” he continued. “Of all places, a public library should not only understand but strive to uphold the First Amendment, rather than engaging in censorship. It is astounding that public libraries continue to have these types of unconstitutional policies.”
Liberty Counsel is seeking an injunction to stop the library from treating religious and secular organizations unequally, and is also asking for nominal damages over the matter.