Court employees win right to continue on-site Bible study

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A group of San Diego Superior Court employees have been given the go-ahead to resume their lunchtime Bible study after they reached a settlement with the court, which tried to stop the meetings.

The court was sued in 2006 after court administrators adopted a new policy requiring groups to get written approval to use empty offices for off-the-clock meetings. When leaders of the Bible study submitted their request, it was denied by officials who cited separation of church and state issues. About 10 people participated in the Bible studies.

"This lawsuit was not about compensation," said Mindy Barlow, the plaintiff in the suit. "It was not about personal grievances—in fact, I have immense respect for my superiors within the court system. I just wanted the judicial system to uphold justice and apply the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

"My colleagues and I want to continue holding a Bible study here at the court on our own time, and we are thrilled that the court allowed us that constitutional privilege, just as they have allowed other groups to meet in empty rooms in the court."

Barlow was represented by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a Murrieta-based legal defense organization.

Their attorneys argued that by rejecting their right to hold the Bible study, the San Diego County Superior Court violated the group members' First Amendment rights of free speech and free exercise of religion because they allowed secular groups to use the facilities.

As part of the settlement, the San Diego County Superior Court agreed to pay some of the attorney's fees.

As a result of the case, Advocates for Faith & Freedom has created an informative booklet that details Barlow's case and explains its First Amendment implications.

To receive the booklet or for more information, call 1-888-588-6888. There is a suggested donation of $10 for the booklet.