Christian group suing Plainfield over public meeting room policy
Sun-Times Media November 29, 2012 7:25PM
Updated: January 1, 2013 6:27AM
A Christian advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against Plainfield, calling village policy prohibiting religious groups from using a public community room “unconstitutional.”
Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based nonprofit, filed the suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The organization specializes in litigation, education and policy, and provides free legal assistance to advance “religious freedom, the sanctity of life and the family,” according to its website.
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.
Plainfield officials cited village policy prohibiting the room to be used for “religious services or other religious purposes,” in their decision, the suit said.
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.
Liberty Counsel said in the suit it still wants to hold the program from a Christian perspective. It calls Plainfield’s policy vague and arbitrary, claiming it violates the group’s constitutional right to free speech.
“The village expressly discriminates against religious speech and viewpoints,” Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said in a news release on its website. “Whether it is the result of ignorance, religious hostility, or bigotry, religious viewpoint discrimination is unconstitutional.”
Village officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
The four-count suit claims violations of the group’s constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection, as well as violations of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The lawsuit asks a judge to issue an injunction allowing religious groups to use Plainfield’s public meeting space, plus an unspecified amount in “nominal damages” and court costs.