Quoting from the Bible has been banned in a community room at the public library in Clermont County, Ohio, and now a couple who sought to use the facility for a financial planning seminar has brought a court case.
“What’s next? Will the library board attempt to keep patrons from checking out Bibles and reading them on government property?” asked Tim Chandler, a legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is working on the case involving George and Cathy Vandergriff.
The couple asked for permission to use a public facility at the library to hold a financial planning seminar with the Institute for Principled Policy.
Under the use policy for the facility, the meetings rooms there “are available to all community groups and non-profit organizations engaged in activities that further the Library’s mission to be responsive to community needs and to be an integral part of our community,” according to the lawsuit.
“When the Library’s meeting rooms are not being used for library-related programs, the rooms are available for non-profit use by community groups. The groups may use meeting rooms for private meetings or to present programs for the general public,” it continues.
However, when Cathy Vandergriff asked in person to use a meeting room for a financial planning meeting, the conversation with the library employee took an unwelcome turn.
“When Mrs. Vandergriff indicated that the seminar would be a free ministry to the general public, the employee asked if she would be quoting the Bible in the presentation. Mrs. Vandergriff answered that she would be using the Bible, and the employee informed her that the Library’s Policy would therefore not permit her to use the meeting room,” the ADF said.
When she followed up with a written request for the use of the facility, an employee again warned about the ban on quoting from the Bible, and the written rejection soon followed. It carried the hand-written notation: “Contact Mr. Vandergriff will be quoting bible versus [sic] explained our meeting room policy.”
The ADF’s complaint, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Ohio, requests a declaratory judgment, preliminary and permanent injunctions and damages and costs for the action.
“The … Clermont Public Library Board of Trustees … is prohibiting plaintiffs from engaging in expressive activities in a generally available public forum solely due to the religious viewpoint of those activities,” the ADF said.
The library did not return a WND message requesting comment.
The complaint cites alleged violations of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution including the right to free exercise of religion, and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection and due process clauses.
“The library has no compelling reason that would justify excluding plaintiffs from these generally available public facilities solely on the basis of the religious nature of plaintiffs’ speech,” the complaint said.
“Refusing to grant this group permission to hold a seminar at a meeting room in a public library because they planned to quote the Bible is about as blatantly un-American and unconstitutional as you can get,” Chandler said. “Christian organizations shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs.”
“The denial sends the message to the Vandergriffs and other Christians that they are not deemed a valuable part of the community. Christians have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America,” the ADF’s Kevin Theriot added.
“Any government policy denying equal access rights to a group simply because it intends on quoting Bible verses does not comport with the Constitution. This is a financial planning seminar, and the library has previously allowed meetings that discuss financial planning. The fact that they may quote Bible verses during the meeting does not legally matter.”
The Institute for Principled Policy planned to sponsor the two two-hour seminars for 10 attendees April 18 and 19 at the library using Larry Burkett’s Crown Ministries materials.
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