Private Post Office Can't Show Religious Items

A Manchester church can operate a tiny, little post office, but it has to keep any religious implements off its counter, the U.S. Court of Appeals decided Thursday.

The church in question is Full Gospel Interdenominational Church, in Manchester, which has a contract with the U.S. Postal Service to run a postal facility on Main Street.

In 2003, Bertram Cooper, a Jewish resident of Manchester sued. He had gone to the CPU because it was the closest postal service to his house but was uncomfortable with the religious materials on display, so uncomfortable that he had to drive to another post office. 

The district court ruled that the church had to remove the display and issued a permanent injunction preventing churches proprietors or other CPUs from displaying religious materials inside.

The religious displays in question included customers’ prayer requests, an advertisement for World-Wide Lighthouse Missions and a donation box for the missions, and pamphlets and flyers that include biblical passages and religious messages, according to court records. There was also a television monitor displaying Church-related videos.

In the middle of the counter was a sign addressing the display, according to court documents:
The United States Postal Service does not 16 endorse the religious viewpoint expressed
17 in the materials posted at this Contract 18 Postal Unit.

When the case was amended, the courts decided that Cooper could not challenge policies other for CPUs, so the ban was placed only on that one CPU.

The U.S. Postal Service has had a CPU in Manchester for 15 years. Before 2001, it was located in Community Place, an outreach organization. That year, the organization suspected the postal services, so the USPS solicited bids. Manchester Hardware and the church applied.

When the church received the contract, it incorporated a non-profit business, Sincerely Yours, to operate the CPU. In June 2002, Sincerely Yours opened.

The crux of the case was whether the Establishment Clause was violated.

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