Marion County Public Library’s Stance On Public Solicitation
Be It Religious and Other Forms
A public library is a “limited public forum.” A limited public forum is a public forum created for a specific purpose -as designated by board guidelines. For example a college campus is a designated public forum. However the schoo l is not required to allow free and equal access to its services, grounds or facilities to students and nonstudents alike (Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S . 263, 273 n.S (1981) . A library is a limited public forum in that the library is open to the public only for specified purposes, such as reading, studying, and use of the library materials and computers and meetings as designated by board guidelines.
The phrase “limited public forum” comes from First Amendment law. In this context, it means the library has created an opportunity for an activity to take place. Specifically, if a library permits at least one group to perform a function in the library, the institution has potentially created a limited public forum where all “like groups” may perform that function.
If a library fails to enforce limitations on the “public forum” it may cease to be a “limited” public forum and become just a “public forum” – – and the library could lose the ability to limit usage.
According to the ALA GUIDELINES FOR THE DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICIES, REGULATIONS AND PROCEDURES AFFECTING ACCESS TO LIBRARY MATERIALS, SERVICES AND FACILITIES, policies “should avoid arbitrary distinctions between individuals or classes of users, and should not have the effect of denying or abridging a person’s right to use library resources, services or facilities based upon arbitrary distinctions such as origin, age, background or views” – all persons should be treated in a similar fashion .
It is well established that courts will not find a public forum where the government clearly did not intend to create one . “The government does not create a public forum by inaction or by permitting limited discourse, but only by intentionally opening up a nontraditional forum for public discourse.” City of Sidney, 364 F.3d at 749 (citing CorneliUS, 437 U.S. at 802).
Moreover, the Supreme Court has stated that courts will not “infer that the government intended to create a public forum when the nature of the property is inconsistent with expressive activity.” CorneliUS, 473 U.S. at 803 . When the “principal function of the property would be disrupted by expressive activity,” such as on jailhouse grounds or military facilities, the Court has held that those spaces “do not constitute public fora.” Id. at 804.
In essence Marion County Public Library does not permit Religious, Anti Religious, or any other such institutions to hold public meetings within its facilities, conduct religious ceremonies, leave religious tracts or paraphernalia, or approach patrons within its facilities for the purpose of so li citing for said organization . Marion County Public Library holds to this rule as a means to ensure that all patrons are given equal access to our facilities without fear of discrimination albeit in any form.