Religious Discrimination in Public Facilities
Public facilities should be open to use by all. Title III of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against discrimination in public facilities, which are publicly owned and operated facilities open to the public, such as parks and community centers. Title III authorizes the Attorney General to bring suit when a person has been denied equal access to public facilities on account of race, color, religion, or national origin.
For example, in November 2003, the Civil Rights Division opened a Title III investigation of the City of Balch Springs, Texas, after the city-run senior center told seniors that they could no longer pray before meals, sing Gospel songs, or hold Bible studies. All of these activities were initiated and engaged in by the seniors themselves, and no employee of the center was involved. Nonetheless, the city mistakenly believed that the separation of church and state required it to implement the ban. In addition to the Civil Rights Division investigation, the seniors filed suit alleging that their constitutional rights were violated by the ban. After mediation by the Civil Rights Division, the city settled with the seniors on January 8, 2004. Read the Justice Department's press release.
If you believe you have been denied access to a public facility on the basis of religion, you should contact the Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination at (202) 353-8622 or send an email to FirstFreedom@usdoj.gov.