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Religious Activist Group Files Suit Against Plainfield

Liberty Counsel, which pledges to “restore poor leadership to right thinking,” accuses village of violating First Amendment rights.

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.

EdCenter November 30, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Under this poilcy an atheist group wanting to talk about the founding of the country would be fine, but another group talking about the same subject matter that might mention religion's role is not? Wow, this is a complete no brainer, the poilcy should be changed and the persons or persons who drafted and signed off on this policy should be terminated or at least receive a formal reprimand for being discrimanatory and/or stupid.
Robert November 30, 2012 at 01:20 PM
EdCenter, you'd be what I would define as a religious zealot. It clearly says in the constitution the separation of church and state! I love how you "conservatives" claim to be constitutional scholars but seem to forget what the constitution actually says. This nation is not a Christian nation, quit trying to turn our nation into a theocracy.
Sheila Raddatz November 30, 2012 at 01:25 PM
As defined by dictionary.com: Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Technically, science related groups (nature), motivational speakers (define purpose) and scouting troops (moral training) shouldn't be allowed, either. I am not saying to ban them all, the rule needs to be re-written or removed.
Tiffanie Speeling November 30, 2012 at 02:06 PM
This group is just in place to drum up controversy and cause chaos. Playing into any of it is just want they want. This isn't news, it's propaganda for a group of crazies!
Alijdfliawje November 30, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Well, at least our tax money will be well spent in the court system dealing with this kind of crap.
Tim November 30, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Yes Ed, that's right. An atheist group talking would be fine, because it would be discussing facts, and not made up nonsense. You know, like this; The Treaty of Tripoly - 1796 "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."
Ron November 30, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Just like the tax dollars to purchase and renovate of Baci to prevent a religious group from buying the property?
Olddeegee November 30, 2012 at 03:20 PM
All religious based groups (even atheist groups, which in this definition fall under that description) should be banned from public property. Taxing churches would give them a far more valid claim. Keep religion as far removed from government as possibe!
EdCenter November 30, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Robert, get a grip. I never indicated I agreed with this group's religious viewpoint. I will say that I support the First Amendment of our Constitution, and if that makes me some kind of zealot in you eyes, so be it. I also doubt very much that the group in question's use of a community room will turn our nation into a theocracy, but I could be wrong. In fact, come to think of it, I think that is how the Taliban really got a foothold in Afghanistan. Beware of Community rooms...then next staging area for America's budding theocrats!
EdCenter November 30, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I don't agree with your premise, but even so the group in question is not a religious group. They are a self-proclaimed “litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom. ACLU would also fit under the same description, although with a wider focus in addtion to religious freedom
Tim November 30, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Atheism is a religion. Just like not collecting stamps is a hobby, and not playing golf is a sport.
BitterBluePoison November 30, 2012 at 03:32 PM
Oh what a wicked web we weave..........
Tom Toth November 30, 2012 at 04:14 PM
Robert, Where in the constitution does it clearly say "separation of church and state"? You might want to check your own research before dissing conservatives. From one "constitutional scholar" to another, "separation of church and state" is not in the the Constitution, but "free exercise of religion" is there! Check it out!
Aristedes November 30, 2012 at 04:22 PM
@ Robert "It clearly says in the constitution the separation of church and state" Where?
Aristedes November 30, 2012 at 04:32 PM
@ Tim Interesting that you quoted the Treaty of Tripoli, "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..." you put an ellipsis where there should have been a dash, because the next statement qualifies the previous one, "as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen," This statement was qualifying which type of "Christian Religion" the United States was founded on...aka. not the same as Europe, you should read the whole document in context not simply take out the bits that seem to support your opinion. Indeed you are proving yourself to be a religious zealot for your beliefs.
Tim November 30, 2012 at 04:52 PM
That is not a qualifier, that is incidental to the statement of the Muslim religion of Tripoli. The statement in the treaty was made to assure our allies that our laws are not based on the christian religion(or any religion, but on secular sovereign states), and that there would be no conflict with Tripoli simply because of their Muslim faith, and that any disputes under the treaty would not be based on religious beliefs. The reason the group is being denied is a completely valid one, as what has been left out of this report, is what this group wants to do: "The suit claims Liberty Counsel applied on July 13 to use a community room in Plainfield Village Hall to “present an educational program promoting a Christian view of the founding of America,” but were turned down, according to the suit. A village official told the group they would be allowed to use the room to hold a secular presentation on the founding of America, as long as they re-filed an application removing the words “a Christian view” from the program description." The village is not discriminating against them based on their religion, they are denying them the application because it is against their policy. Just like they can deny the application of a group who wants to hold a 'kegger' there. Even though a keg is a completely legal product. It has nothing to do with the beliefs of the group. It has to do with their intended use of the facilities.
stephanie November 30, 2012 at 05:37 PM
EdCenter had the only logical argument. I'd disagree with the validity of Roberts statement. Separation of church and state doesn't mean the persecution or legal exclusion of religion. The boy and girl scouts are faith based organizations. They should be allowed to rent a room there. Although, I'm not an advocate of the group id say they are absolutely correct and batting them based on religion is unlawful. The unsettling part is its the local government doing this. Plainfield shouldn't waste tax dollars defending the suit but should amend their policy ASAP
Olddeegee November 30, 2012 at 05:54 PM
My point is, if you insist that you're an atheist group, and you meet as such under the name "Atheist group", you should be considered a religious group subject to the same restrictions. Although, Tim, if you want to form a Not Collecting Stamps group, I'm listening because a group based on that could legitimately meet on village property.
Sheila Raddatz November 30, 2012 at 06:04 PM
In a court ruling over an inmates right for a study group in 2005: “Atheism is [the inmate's] religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being,” the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said. The court decided the inmate’s First Amendment rights were violated because the prison refused to allow him to create a study group for atheists.
Lisa S. November 30, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Unless they call themselves a 'religious' organization the Village should not have made that distinction.Had they simply allowed this event to happen it would have likely passed quietly with no one in attendance. That being said...this is going to be a huge waste of tax dollars we don't have.
Tim November 30, 2012 at 10:41 PM
What does one court opinion have to do with reality? Legislation in Indiana attempted to make Pi equal to 3, does that make it true? I think you are getting confused and thinking the absence of belief means Atheist, which is incorrect in reality. Gnostic -> Purports specific belief as to the definitive existence of a god. Agnostic -> Does not purport to know for certain if there is or is not a god. Theist -> States that they know there is a god Atheist -> States that they know there is no god. On this scale, there are; 'Gnostic Theists', which are what most people who follow the Abrahamic religions would be classified as. Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc... 'Agnostic Theists', which believe there is a god, but make no claims to the certainty of it either way. Examples are usually individuals within the above groups, but not any specific group as a whole. 'Gnostic Atheists', which believe there is no god, and make statements of certainty to that effect. 'Agnostic Atheists', which make no statements of certainty one way or the other. They simply don't care, anymore than you not caring how many arms Vishnu has makes you an anti-vishnuist. Gnostic -> Knowledge of certainty Theism -> belief in god So, simply posting the opinion of one court, without passing on the situation of which they were judging, is misleading at best. I bet you would find that they are 'Gnostic Atheists'. You would be wise to not stereotype groups you are not informed about.
Tim November 30, 2012 at 10:46 PM
Or to think of it another way; All birds have wings. Does it make sense to say that if something has wings, it is a bird?
ScienceTeach December 01, 2012 at 01:48 AM
What if jjc wanted a cohort to meet there? Subject...comparative religion?
Tom Nosal December 03, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I strongly stand behind this policy. It makes total sense from a village standpoint and is an acceptable policy. The policy does not restrict and group. It is restricting the activity allowed in the room so that the village can remain neutral in its civic duty of supplying a resource to all residents. If you read the entire policy, it not only restricts religious activities, but also political and business activities aimed at selling merchandise, There a plethora of religious locations throughout Plainfield where this group would be welcomed to hold their meetings. Makes you wonder on the real reason this group chose to sue the village instead of changing their location.
EdCenter December 03, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Tom Nosal, you may stand behind the policy all you like, but the Constitution it what actually determines whether the policy at issue is valid. The village’s policy currently prohibits reserving a room for “Religious services or other religious purposes.” From the article, it is clear the group in question was not looking to use a community room for a religious service, but rather a discussion of certain historical events from a “Christian” perspective. I just cannot fathom how anyone in the village leadership would be so narrow minded as to think that it is permissible to practice viewpoint discrimination. Did they even consult a lawyer when drafting this policy? This is pretty basic stuff.

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