The Supreme Court Monday upheld an appeal against the City of Albuquerque and allowed a New Mexico church to use a city-owned building to show a film about Jesus and to distribute Bibles.
The justices let stand a federal appeals court ruling that Albuquerque had failed to show a compelling interest justifying its policy barring sectarian instruction and religious worship at the city's senior centers.
The case began in 1994, when the Rev. Don Kimbro, pastor at the evangelical Church on the Rock, wanted to show a film titled "Jesus" and to distribute Bibles at a city-owned senior center.
The city denied the request, citing a federal law that provides funding for senior centers but requires that they not be used for sectarian instruction or religious worship.
The church sued, saying the city allowed the senior centers to be used for a wide variety of public events. A federal judge ruled for the city, but the appeals court said Albuquerque's policy constituted viewpoint discrimination.
The city appealed to the high court, saying, "Congress may prohibit core religious activities in federally funded senior centers consistent with this court's current view" of the First Amendment. The high court sided with the church.