March 20, 2018

FL PL Meeting Room Policies Criticized

By LJ Staff

The meeting room policies of the neighboring Dunedin and Tarpon Springs PL, both in Florida, have both been the subject of controversy. The Dunedin library was sued for banning a meeting for religious purposes, while the Tarpon Springs library has restricted its meeting room to library programs, generating criticism from a political group that wanted the space. A St. Petersburg Times columnist observed that, while the two cities’ positions are well-intended, they ignore First Amendment concerns. “Free speech is too messy, too impolite and something that needs to be excluded from a ‘neutral’ public forum,” wrote Howard Troxler, who added that, yes, hate groups should also be allowed.

An interesting contrast is provided by Canada, where the London Public Library, Ontario, has for years excluded groups that hate or discriminate, reported the London Free Press. The city is currently debating a proposal to exclude hate groups from other public facilities. The library policy states, “Groups whose aims contravene municipal, provincial or federal legislation (e.g. Constitution Act, including Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) will not be allowed to book meeting facilities.” Unlike in the United States, it’s a crime to incite hatred against an identifiable group in public, so hate groups can be excluded. The policy hasn’t had to be invoked, however.