Pinal County library denies man’s request to host story time with Christian-themed book
PINAL COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - A legal battle is brewing over the first amendment at a Pinal County Library, which is the issue of separation of church and state at hand. An east Valley man said he was denied public access to host a children’s story time because he planned to read a Christian-based book.
The county told him it’s an issue of separation of church and state, even though that doesn’t appear to be addressed in their library guidelines. The saga began before Christmas when Ricardo Frias sent an email to the San Tan Library asking to host a story time with a Christian-themed book. But after the new year and several follow-up emails, he finally got an answer. “He was eventually denied that opportunity and denied access to the library,” said Andrew Gould, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute. Gould is representing Frias.
When Frias asked why he was being denied, a county representative sent an email back that said, “because the building is county owned we have to be careful about the separation of church and state and we aren’t allowed to offer the space for church or religious activities that could be considered preaching.”
“That of course is unconstitutional and illegal. You can’t just exclude Christian groups. You can’t just exclude certain messages and books in a public library because they’re Christian or you don’t agree with their viewpoint,” said Gould.
Gould said his client was sent the general guidelines for the use of meeting rooms, which Arizona’s Family got a copy of. “The guidelines for use of the library room are pretty basic. They didn’t have any exclusions that pertained to the viewpoint nor could they,” said Gould.
Gould sent a demand letter to Pinal County Monday demanding they reverse their denial of Frias’ story time request. Arizona’s Family reached out to Pinal County to ask for their side of this story, and a spokesperson sent us this statement:
While the county has responded to Arizona’s Family, Gould said he and his client hadn’t heard a peep. “I haven’t heard a single response from them,” said Gould. “The bottom line is Mr. Frias deserves right as a citizen to have access to that library to read this book.” Gould said in the demand letter their institute had given Pinal County until Feb. 7 to grant Frias access to the library for this. Otherwise, they plan to sue for a violation of the constitution.
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