Broome Community College
A public college that banned a church from meeting on its property has scrapped its policy of discrimination and is now allowing equal access to campus facilities.
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys have reached a favorable settlement with Broome Community College in Binghamton, N.Y., a school in the State University of New York system, on behalf of North Pointe Church.
The church, led by pastor Kenneth Mulligan, met in the building for several months, according to the original complaint. Members would sing, pray, take communion and discuss social issues. Mulligan’s sermons often addressed topics such as financial responsibility, marriage improvement, child rearing, forgiveness, sexual purity before marriage and the importance of maintaining a strong work ethic. Church volunteers ministered at local prisons, donated their time to help elderly with yard work and repairs and arranged family social events.
In February, the church was told it was no longer permitted to meet in a rented facility on campus. College administrators banned “religious services” and prohibited the church from continuing to rent space. They claimed they had received complaints about the church meeting in a public facility.
ADF attorneys, along with attorney Raymond Dague of Syracuse, filed North Pointe Church v. Moppert with the U.S. District Court for the northern district of New York on Feb 23. They argued churches are allowed equal access to public facilities under the law and that the college cannot discriminate against them because of the religious nature of their meetings – especially when they are paying customers.
Just days after the filing, the community college told the court it would shut down its facilities on weekends, claiming it would cost the college less to do so. But, according to ADF, “evidence revealed that Broome’s buildings actually remained open on the weekends for other uses.”
ADF attorneys have now reached a settlement with the school and filed a voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit with the court today. The college has agreed to reimburse legal fees and costs.
North Pointe Church was forced to find another location for its services during the litigation – and it plans to continue meeting at the new site. However, ADF notes, “the change in the Broome policy removes an unconstitutional barrier for any church that wishes to meet on the campus on equal terms with other groups in the future.”
ADF Litigation Counsel Daniel Blomberg said in a statement: “Churches shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs. We are pleased that Broome Community College now recognizes the constitutional right of churches and other religious groups to meet in public meeting facilities on the same terms as other groups.”