TYLER, Tx. - On January 7th, the U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Davis ruled in favor of a Christian couple who sued the City of Van, Texas for religious discrimination. The American Center for Law and Justice, an international public interest law firm who filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas in August 2002 on behalf of Charles and Michelle Moore, publicly announced the victory on January 9th.
"This is a total and complete victory for our clients who faced the discriminatory action of the City of Van which prohibited our clients from using city facilities because their message was religious," said Stuart J. Roth, Senior Counsel of the ACLJ.
"The court properly concluded that the city acted in a discriminatory manner. The decision sends a very powerful message that if a city permits its facilities to be used for a wide variety of purposes, it cannot legally reject a request to permit religious meetings from taking place. We are hopeful the city will now get the message and permit our clients to exercise their constitutional rights without further discrimination," he continued.
The suit contended that the city acted in a discriminatory manner when it rejected numerous requests of the Moores to use its Community Center for religious purposes. The Community Center, normally available to a wide variety of organizations, such as the Kiwanis Club, Super Bowl, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, family reunions, senior citizen events and scouting events, permitted the Moores to use the center on one occasion in February 2002; during the Feb. celebration, the Moores praised, prayed, and heard a religious message. When the Moores re-applied to use the center again, they were denied permission by the Mayer E.L. Raulston, who stated, "the center is not available for any type of religious service meetings."
The 27 page long ruling by Judge Davis deemed the city's policy unconstitutional. It concluded that they city's "resistance to allowing religious groups to use the center carries an implication of hostility toward religion and is inherently discriminatory." The court also concluded that the Moores "suffered irreparable harm" when the city denied their application to use the center. In granting the permanent injunction, the court said it "finds that a permanent injunction would prevent irreparable injury to the plaintiffs, not unduly damage the defendants, and be in the best interest of the public."
"It is clear that our clients have prevailed on every issue in this lawsuit," said Roth. "The decision is both a reasoned and sound analysis of constitutional law and clearly ensures that religious speech will not be targeted for discrimination."
By Pauline C.