SEASIDE — The Seaside Library has been ordered by a federal court judge to pay $10,500 to a Florida nonprofit organization for failing to allow the organization to conduct a religious meeting in the library’s community room.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman ordered the payment in June without written comment.

In addition to the penalty, the library also will have to pay attorneys’ fees and court costs.

Library Director Reita Fackerell, who learned of the judgment this week, said the library board is reviewing and updating its 10-year-old policy manual.

One of those policies, which prohibited the library’s meeting rooms from being used for “religious services or proselytizing” was removed by the Seaside City Council in May as a response to the lawsuit filed in February by the Liberty Counsel.

The counsel claimed the library’s policy violated the U.S. Constitution because it discriminated on the basis of religious content and viewpoint.

The legal brief declared the policy a “blatant violation of Liberty Counsel’s constitutional rights.”

“It’s really a fine line between freedom of speech and proselytizing,” Fackerell said Tuesday. “The new policies we will recommend will be in line with any changes that have occurred with the Supreme Court.”

The board’s recommendations will be submitted to the City Council and to City Attorney Dan Van Thiel.

Fackerell said the penalty and other costs will be taken out of the library’s $573,000 budget.

At the time the library’s policy manual was written, it followed U.S. laws and the Supreme Court’s rulings Fackerell said.

The Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit stemmed from a request by Benjamin Boyd, of Enterprise, who wrote a letter on Aug. 6, 2010 seeking to use the meeting room from 4 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 5, 2010. He identified himself as an Oregon volunteer with the Liberty Foundation, now known as the Liberty Counsel.

Boyd said in his letter that the foundation “would like to sponsor a free evangelical outreach in Seaside to help mold children into responsible and respectful citizens by shaping their moral consciousness from a Christian and Biblical viewpoint.”

He added that the program’s purpose was to “educate the children from a Christian perspective and a Biblical basis so they can better understand how to be good students, friends and ultimately good people within society.”

A library employee left a voice message on Boyd’s telephone denying the application, saying that the library policy prohibited religious services or proselytizing.

The foundation called the library on Dec. 1, 2011 to enquire again about using the room and was refused, according to the court brief.

The Liberty Counsel’s website says the counsel is an “international, nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life and the family since 1989.”

It is funded by individuals, churches and organizations and provides pro bono legal assistance in the “areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the family.”

During its 2011-12 fiscal year ending June 30, the Liberty Counsel was involved in at least 21 legal actions, including the lawsuit against the Seaside Library, according to its website. Although some of the cases are ongoing, the counsel was successful in 11 of the actions, the website said.


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