The Mercury News published on 20 September, 2006, an article about a split decision by a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, rejecting the use of a community building in a Contra Costa library. Though the article does not mention whether the ACLU was directly involved in this litigation, the outcome is squarely on point to the ACLU’s national policies.
The federal trial court had ruled that the Faith Center Church Evangelistic Ministries could use library meeting rooms on an equal basis as any other private group which sought the use of such rooms. This was in line with the most recent US Supreme Court decisions – that public facilities cannot discriminate either for or against religious groups in the use of such facilities.
Though the trial court was correct, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision. The panel decision was split, with two judges voting to exclude religious votes. The dissenting judge said, “Rather than adopting a policy of neutrality and placing reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on every group that uses the library meeting rooms, the county has gone to great lengths to exclude a non-disruptive community group based on the views it wishes to express.”
The opinion of the dissenting judge is in accord with the most recent Supreme Court decisions. The Ninth Circuit, however, is by a huge margin the most reversed Circuit in the nation. This decision will probably be reviewed by the whole Ninth Circuit, and/ or taken to the Supreme Court.
The facts, but not the legal conclusions here, come from this article: