WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today declined to consider an evangelical group’s plea to hold religious services in a public library.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco had ruled that public libraries can block religious groups like the Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries from worshipping in public meeting rooms.
The Contra Costa library system in the San Francisco Bay area allows groups to use its facilities for educational, cultural and community-related programs.
“Although religious worship is an important institution in any community, we disagree that anything remotely community-related must therefore be granted access to the Antioch Library meeting room,” the appeals court concluded in a 2-1 decision.
Allowing worship services would amount to having taxpayers subsidize religious exercises, argued the Contra Costa County, Calif., Library Board, which operated the facility in Antioch, Calif.
The Sacramento-based church is led by Pastor Hattie Hopkins, “who believes that there are many people who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, but are reluctant to set foot inside a traditional church building,” Hopkins’ lawyers said in asking the justices to take the case.
Hopkins had sought to use a meeting room in the branch library at Antioch on two occasions in 2004.
The group held its first meeting, but the library rescinded its approval for the second.
The Faith Center persuaded a federal judge to order the library to allow the second program to go ahead.
The Bush administration intervened on the group’s behalf at the appeals court. The administration did not take a position at the Supreme Court.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a legal group founded by James Dobson and other social conservatives, is representing the Faith Center.
The case is Faith Center Church v. Glover, 06-1633.