“Mere religious worship” doesn’t cut it

Quin Hillyer in the Examiner comments on a bizarre decision by the ultra-liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that singles out what that court calls “mere religious worship” for exclusion from a forum used by community and cultural groups. A district court had issued a preliminary injunction ordering a library in Northern California to allow a religious organization to use library meeting rooms that Democratic Party groups and community organizations take advantage of, at least until the court can hear and decide the full case on the merits. The Ninth Circuit reversed.
Preliminary injunction cases usually turn on a balancing of the hardships that would result from issuing or denying the decree. As Hillyer notes, here the balance plainly seems to favor the injunction: “if the library allows a religious meeting to be held behind closed doors pending constitutional review, no permanent harm is done the library;” if the religious group is denied use of the library, any speech rights implicated are irretrievably lost for the period of time it takes the case to wend its way through the courts.
However, the Ninth Circuit found that no constitutionally protected speech rights are implicated in a case involving “mere religious worship.” The court found that such worship does not constitute religious speech, and thus is not protected by the First Amendment.
In a dissent to the Ninth Circuit’s decision not to rehear the case, Judge Bybee shows how the court’s ruling “disregards equal-access cases stretching back three decades, turns a blind eye to blatant viewpoint discrimination, and endorses disparate treatment of different religious groups.” Bybee explains that the refusal to allow

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