Monday, July 15, 2013

Settlement In Lawsuit Challenging Park's Exclusion of Religious Activities

Last week the parties filed a Notice of Settlement in O'Neal v. Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of  East Baton Rouge, (MD LA, filed 7/8/2013).  The federal lawsuit (full text of complaint) had been filed in June 2012 after park authorities told the Voices of Mercy Outreach Ministry that it could no longer use Cadillac Street Park for its Sidewalk Sunday School Outreach program. Park rules prohibit religious use of the facilities, but enforcement of the park policy made it difficult for the Ministry to reach at-risk youth who lived in low income neighborhoods near the park. The lawsuit alleged free speech, free exercise, Establishment Clause and equal protection violations. According to a July 12 ADF press release announcing the settlement, now:"the park commission has agreed to amend its Special Event Permit Policy and allow the group to meet at the park for four months without security and insurance and with the opportunity to reapply for a permit at the expiration of that time."