Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District

PETITIONER: Lamb's Chapel
RESPONDENT: Center Moriches Union Free School District
LOCATION: Center Moriches School District

DOCKET NO.: 91-2024
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 508 US 384 (1993)
ARGUED: Feb 24, 1993
DECIDED: Jun 07, 1993

John W. Hoefling - Argued the cause for the respondents
Jay Alan Sekulow - Argued the cause for the petitioners

Facts of the case

A New York law authorized schools to regulate the after-hour use of school property and facilities. The Center Moriches School District, acting under the statute, prohibited the use of its property by any religious group. The District refused repeated requests by Lamb's Chapel to use the school's facilities for an after-hours religious-oriented film series on family values and child rearing. The Chapel brought suit against the School District in federal court.


Did the District violate the First Amendment's freedom of speech when it denied Lamb's Chapel the use of school premises to show religious-oriented films?

Media for Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1993 in Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in number 91-2024, Lamb's Chapel and John Stig... Steigerwald v. Center Moriches Union Free School District.

Mr. Sekulow.

Jay Alan Sekulow:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This case is about censorship of Lamb's Chapel's speech, which was entertained for the purpose of having a film series at the school facilities to show and discuss contemporary family issues.

The direct targeting of religious purpose as an exclusion under the access policy of the school district is both content based and viewpoint based, and does not meet Constitutional scrutiny.

Under what?

Jay Alan Sekulow:

Under... well first of all, we would assert that it's purely... this case is based purely on religious perspective, it's viewpoint based.

Most recently, R.A.V., but also under--

Well, so--

Jay Alan Sekulow:

--Yes, Your Honor.

Byron R. White:

--So what... what provision of the Constitution are you relying on?

Jay Alan Sekulow:

First Amendment, as applied to the States through the Fourteenth, freedom of speech.

Byron R. White:

Which part of it?

Jay Alan Sekulow:

Free speech.

Byron R. White:

Just free speech.

Jay Alan Sekulow:

Well, this case is based on three issues when it was originally brought fourth in the complaint.

The First Amendment's freedom of speech clause, there was an allegation that there was a violation of the establishment clause, and there was an allegation that there was violation of free exercise.

And, quite frankly, the nature of the discrimination that takes place here in the context of Lamb's Chapel's application being denied violates all three.

From the First Amendment perspective--

Byron R. White:

What did the... what did the court of appeals decide?

Jay Alan Sekulow:

--The court of appeals came to the conclusion that acknowledging that there were a wide diversity of uses, which the respondents have conceded as well, that, in fact, because there were no prior religious uses, the... the school district could then not allow Lamb's Chapel to meet.

They held, in fact, that it was a close question whether there was prior religious uses, but determined, based on review of the Salvation Army being there, the Southern Gospel Harmonizers, that it was no... there was no previous religious purpose in any meaningful way.

Byron R. White:

Well, as the case comes to us, do we judge it on the basis that the court of appeals was correct in saying that... that this program had a religious purpose?

Jay Alan Sekulow:

The respondents have... petitioners have conceded Your Honor, Justice White, that yes, the... the movie series was dealing with contemporary family issues from a... a religious perspective and are quite up front that it is for a religious purpose.

Byron R. White:

All right.

Jay Alan Sekulow:

Our concern here, and I think what is evident here, is that the viewpoint discrimination that has been engaged in by the school district comes from their own admissions.

The respondents have stated that the decision... and I'm quoting from their brief.

"The decision to exclude petitioners was due to the admittedly religious nature of the film and the school district's prohibition against the use of school property for religious purposes. "

They then state that, and again quoting,

"Each of these applications were denied due to the decidedly religious perspective of the film. "