Why do so many public institutions think they can discriminate against religion? The courts have ruled time and time again that once a building, whether it be an auditorium, a school, or an amphitheater, is opened for secular uses, it must be available to religious persons, as well.
I guess New York state officials didn't study the overwhelming number of court cases supporting religious freedom before creating policies which discriminate against religious persons.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit and asked for an emergency injunction Tuesday in federal court on behalf of a Watertown church denied the use of a public building for an Easter service. The Dulles State Office building--as with other state buildings--is open to nearly all groups in the community for any "educational, cultural, or civic" purpose, but state policy prohibits religious "activities" or "services"...
Courts have ruled in favor of two other New York churches represented by ADF attorneys with regard to equal access to public buildings, including a legal victory against the New York City Board of Education (www.telladf.org/news/story.aspx?cid=3824).
While denying Relevant Church’s request, state officials have allowed the Dulles State Office Building to be used for a wide variety of activities, including presentations of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, a performance by rock band Tough Luck, a Gamerz-LAN multi-player video game playing event, and meetings of Toastmasters.
The pastor of Relevant Church, Robert Miskowski, inquired about renting the Dulles State Office building for Easter, when attendance at the church tends to be higher than usual. The church’s meeting capacity at its own building is limited. A state official refused the request on the basis of Relevant Church’s desire to rent the building for religious use, citing the so-called "separation of church and state," and the state policy prohibiting religious expression.
State policy prohibits the use of public buildings for religious "activities," including religious services. However, the policy permits groups and individuals to use the buildings to meet and carry on "activities conducted to advance the educational, cultural, or civic climate of the community."
I'm always amazed at the number of institutions who think allowing religious organizations to meet in a place is an endorsement of religion, instead of simply giving equal access.