Library Changes Room Use Policy Because of Legal Concerns
The restrictions on religious organizations has been removed from the policy.
Millburn Public Library officials last week approved changes to its room rental agreement after concerns were raised it was unconstitutional.
Bill Swinson, library director, said the Alliance Defense Fund based in Kansas sent the library a letter warning the policy was unconstitutional because it specifically mentioned there could be no religious services or religious discussion groups to meet at the library.
After a review by the township's attorney, he said, the Library Board of Trustees last week approved a change to the policy that removes the language about the restrictions on religious organizations. It now is along the lines of the American Library Association's guidelines for free and equal use, Swinson said.
"We just wanted a true separation of church and state," Swinson said of the original policy. "But it was too broad... It really needed to be changed."
Swinson said if a group wanted to meet and have a session open to the community to discuss religious issues, it would have been allowed. But it technically would have been a violation of the policy, he said.
The restriction also was because of the space limitations at the library and about its hours. The large meeting room holds 180 people and cannot be reserved for an undetermined time into the future, he said. There are other programs and groups that need to use the space, he said.
Plus officials normally don't allow the room to be used outside of library hours, he said, and the library doesn't open until 1 p.m. on Sundays.
Swinson has been at the library for over 20 years, and he said the use of the library meeting rooms then was nothing near how often they are used today.
"It's like a non-partisan place to meet," he said of the space at the library. "If you want to talk about traffic or taxes, this is really the place to do it."