Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School Dist., 508 U.S. 384, 4 (1993)

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Cite as: 508 U. S. 384 (1993)

Opinion of the Court

on school property because "[r]eligious purposes are not included in the enumerated purposes for which a school may be used under section 414." In Deeper Life Christian Fellowship, Inc. v. Sobol, 948 F. 2d 79, 83-84 (1991), the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit accepted Trietley as an authoritative interpretation of state law. Furthermore, the Attorney General of New York supports Trietley as an appropriate approach to deciding this case.

Pursuant to 414's empowerment of local school districts, the Board of Center Moriches Union Free School District (District) has issued rules and regulations with respect to the use of school property when not in use for school purposes. The rules allow only 2 of the 10 purposes authorized by 414: social, civic, or recreational uses (Rule 10) and use by political organizations if secured in compliance with 414 (Rule 8). Rule 7, however, consistent with the judicial interpretation of state law, provides that "[t]he school premises shall not be used by any group for religious purposes." App. to Pet. for Cert. 57a.

The issue in this case is whether, against this background of state law, it violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, to deny a church access to school premises to exhibit for public viewing and for assertedly religious purposes, a film series dealing with family and child-rearing issues faced by parents today.


Petitioners (Church) are Lamb's Chapel, an evangelical church in the community of Center Moriches, and its pastor John Steigerwald. Twice the Church applied to the District for permission to use school facilities to show a six-part film series containing lectures by Doctor James Dobson.2 A bro-2 Shortly before the first of these requests, the Church had applied for permission to use school rooms for its Sunday morning services and for Sunday School. The hours specified were 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the time


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