Judge: Christian group can use community room for display

Posted: Friday, September 21, 2001

PITTSBURGH -- A federal judge said a group that promotes a religious interpretation of the U.S. Constitution should be allowed to use a suburb's community building for free.

Michael Juzwick last year sued Dormont and borough officials, saying they denied his group free access to the community room when the officials learned the group planned to display religious materials.

Juzwick said officials initially gave him permission to hold a weeklong event in the borough building's community room, but later decided that ''private'' groups must pay $35 an hour.

Juzwick said his permit to use the room for free was revoked and the borough demanded he pay $35 an hour for the 60 hours he used the room -- or $2,100.

Juzwick said borough officials told him that his event, called ''We the People 2000 -- Pittsburgh'' was private, not civic.

U.S. District Judge Robert Cindrich ruled Wednesday that if the room is free to one group, it should be free to all.

''The ruling says you have the Constitutional right to free speech, despite your ability to pay,'' said Juzwick's attorney, Mathew Staver, who works with the Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, which specializes in religious rights.

Michael Katz, the attorney for Dormont and borough officials, declined comment.

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