Controversy at the Morton Grove Public Library

I saw this article on the Chicago Tribune website today:

Morton Grove Library trustees rejects atheist blogger’s donation by Lee V. Gaines (posted on December 20, 2013)

This really bothers me. That the Board Treasurer is so ignorant and intolerant that she considers atheism a “hate group”. That she took it upon herself to act as the morality police for the community. That five members of the Library Board consider it more important to take this discriminatory stance than to accept needed funds to maintain library services.

The article makes no mention of any stipulations attached to the donation, and I confirmed that there were none—the Morton Grove Public Library wouldn’t have been required to purchase materials on atheism with the money, or take any action to promote atheism to the community. The donation was a no-strings-attached attempt by an interested private citizen who wanted to help.

Furthermore, public institutions funded by tax revenues are prohibited from taking any official stance on religious matters. To render any explicit judgement—either positive or negative—regarding the legitimacy of any religious belief or system is a violation of the public trust.

I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say with certainly, but I would be curious to know if it’s a violation of law, too.

To refuse a donation from a private individual because of that individual’s religious beliefs is an explicit negative endorsement of those beliefs. That would make it an explicit violation of the prohibition against a tax-funded public institution from taking such a position.

I encourage all interested tax-paying residents of Morton Grove to petition the Library Board to reconsider their decision. I encourage the community to consult with civil rights attorneys to establish the legality of this action.

And please understand—this is not an action undertaken by the librarians or staff of the Morton Grove Public Library. This decision was made solely by their Board.

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