MANCHESTER, CT - A federal appeals court today ruled that a Manchester church violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution by placing religious displays at the counter of a contract postal unit (CPU) it operates. The decision by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirms a lower court ruling in favor of a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and the national ACLU.

The case was filed on behalf of Bertram Cooper, a Manchester resident, for whom the CPU, operated by the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church, was the closest location at which he could conduct his postal business. The ACLU argued that the church unconstitutionally endorsed one particular religious viewpoint by pervasively displaying a variety of religious material inside the CPU, which the church operated as an extension of the federal government.

"We are pleased the court agreed that the function of religious outreach is out of place at a postal counter," said Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of the ACLU-CT. "Religious liberty is best protected when the government or those acting as governmental agents stay neutral on matters of faith."

In its ruling, the court ordered that the postal counter at the CPU be free of religious material.

CPU's are postal facilities operated by private parties on private land, and furnish postal services to places where it is not otherwise geographically or economically feasible to build and operate official "classified" post offices.

"The court's decision sends a clear message about using the machinery of the state to endorse a religious agenda," said Daniel Mach, Litigation Director for the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. "When performing basic government services on behalf of the federal government, you have to play by the rules."

Lawyers on the case include David McGuire of the ACLU of Connecticut, Mach of the ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief and attorneys from Wiggin & Dana, LLP.