Court Modifies Ruling Prohibiting Contract Post Offices From Promoting Religion

Information from both cases below:

A Connecticut federal district court has granted an appeal by the U.S. Postal Service to “amend a declaratory judgment and injunction” issued in April prohibiting contract postal units from posting displays that involve religious proselytizing. “In Cooper v. United States Postal Service the court limited its ruling to the contract postal unit operated by Sincerely Yours, Inc. (SYI), eliminating an earlier ruling which applied to all contract postal units l. The court  also modified its injunction to more specifically indicate the proselytizing activities of SYI that are to be prohibited.” Religion Clause Blog

The U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut had found in favor of Bertram Cooper, in a case brought with the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT), against the United States Postal Service (USPS).

The case involves a contract postal unit in Manchester, Conn. owned and operated by an evangelical church, the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church, through a non-profit subsidiary called Sincerely Yours, Inc. (SYI). Inside the SYI unit, in addition to standard USPS equipment, décor and paraphernalia, there were numerous religious displays, including a poster asking if customers “need prayer in their lives”, Church-related artwork and photographs, and a television playing various religious programs created by the Church.

Cooper, an elderly veteran and Manchester resident, asked representatives of the SYI unit to remove the religious displays, but was informed that if he did not like them he could go elsewhere for his postal services. Cooper filed suit against the USPS seeking to have the displays removed on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment of the Constitution, and an order obliging the USPS to monitor all contract postal units for similar proselytizing materials.

SYI later joined the suit on the side of the USPS. In its ruling, the court found that the religious displays at the SYI contract postal unit violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and issued an injunction ordering their removal. It also ordered the USPS to provide “adequate and ongoing” notice to all of its 5,200 contract postal units nationwide that, in providing postal services, they must not act in a manner that proselytizes or advances religion. The court further stipulated that USPS must implement “adequate and ongoing” procedures for monitoring compliance with the order. USPS appealed the decision.

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