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Ohio library limits use of meeting rooms after lawsuit

By The Associated Press
06.16.08

BATAVIA, Ohio — A public library in southwest Ohio has sharply limited use of its meeting rooms following a lawsuit over meetings with religious purposes.

The Clermont County Public Library board in the county east of Cincinnati will allow only library programs in its meeting rooms.

“We regret that this policy change will have the effect of not allowing the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and other nonprofit groups the ability to use our meeting rooms,” said Joe Braun, the board president.

The 10-branch system this week changed a policy that had allowed meetings of such outside groups, but prohibited political, religious or social events.

A suit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati claimed a couple’s First Amendment rights to free speech were violated when they were blocked from holding a free financial-planning seminar because they planned to quote from the Bible.

David Langdon, attorney for county residents George and Cathy Vandergriff and the Institute for Principled Policy, said the case would continue. The couple is seeking unspecified compensatory damages.

“The Clermont County library board has taken the position that rather than allowing groups to access our library and use it for meetings to discuss financial issues from a religious perspective, we’re willing to just shut it down,” Langdon said.

Langdon also filed a similar federal lawsuit in March for the Citizens for Community Values.

That group, based in suburban Cincinnati, charges the Columbus-area Upper Arlington Public Library with violating its constitutional rights, saying members were told they could not use a community meeting room for an event that would include singing and praying.

Upper Arlington library officials said praying and singing are elements of religious services, which are not allowed under its policy.


Related

Justices decline to hear Calif. church's bid to meet in library

9th Circuit had ruled that public libraries can block religious groups from worshipping in public meeting rooms. 10.01.07

Ohio library sued for canceling religious meeting
Federal lawsuit says library director told group it couldn't use community meeting room for discussion on 'Politics and the Pulpit' if event included singing and praying. 03.11.08

Ohio library can't block religious group's meeting
Federal judge prohibits public library from excluding activities it deems religious, though ruling doesn't express opinion on whether policy is constitutional. 08.15.08

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