A self-proclaimed “litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom” filed a federal lawsuit against the Village of Plainfield Wednesday, alleging that its First Amendment rights were violated when its request to use a Village Hall community room was denied.
Liberty Counsel says it applied to use the room to host a presentation on the United States' founding era and founding fathers.” According to the group, the presentation would be told from a Christian viewpoint.
Village staffer DeAnn Snodgrass, who handles requests to use the community rooms, did not discuss the lawsuit, but explained that village policy prohibits use of the room for religious presentations.
“We’re not allowed to open up our location to commercial or religious [groups],” she said.
Under the policy, the rooms may be used for purposes including educational, cultural, civic and informational events, business meetings or training seminars and meetings of official agencies and committees.
The room may not be used for activities including private parties, purely social gatherings, commercial uses, religious services or purposes, weddings and political action committees. Read the entire community room policy by clicking here.
Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver, who was on his way to California to argue another First Amendment lawsuit Thursday, said the village's policy is unconstitutional.
"We were told the policy does not allow any discussion of religion," he said. "It bans religion."
Staver said the Florida-based group, which also has offices in Virginia and Washington, D.C., planned to host the founding fathers event "earlier in the year," but could not pin down a specific date.
"We have affiliated attorneys all over the country," he said. "We have events all over the country."
Staver said his organization has asked for a preliminary injunction and hopes for a hearing by the end of the year.
"We're asking for the policy to change because it's unconstitutional," he said.
Liberty Counsel’s website proclaims the organization’s aim is to “restore the culture by advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family.”
The site lists “projects” including “Adopt A Liberal” and exhorts followers to “join us as we pray for God’s powerful intervention in many liberals’ lives” by choosing a liberal from a list posted on the site or finding their own to “adopt.” Adoptable liberals listed on the website include President Barack Obama, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
According to the website, Liberty Counsel is a 501(c)(3) organization funded by donations from individuals, churches and other organizations.
“Liberty Counsel provides pro bono legal assistance in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the family,” the “About us” section of the website states.