Faith-Based Postal Services? No Way, JSPAN Tells Federal Appellate Court

Citizens should not have to endure religious proselytizing to buy stamps, mail a letter or transact other business with the Post Office. That is the gist of the argument JSPAN presented to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Cooper v. U.S. Postal Service. The Cooper case began in Manchester, CT, where the Postal Service was not able to provide all of the postal services needed in the community. Rather than open a branch Post Office, it contracted with the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church, Inc. to operate a contract postal unit (CPU). The Post Office utilizes hundreds of CPUs around the country to provide services at a lower cost. The church began to proselytize and distribute religious messages as an inseparable part of its postal operations. Patrons were forced to watch religious videos as they stood in line, and various types of religious literature were displayed. To read the JSPAN brief, click here. A federal district court in Connecticut determined that the activities of the church and the Post Office were unlawful under the Establishment Clause based on finding pervasive administrative “entwinement” between them. But the court refused to find that the church was performing a “public function.” JSPAN decided to file an amicus brief in this case because of a concern that lines between church and state could be blurred if the government were able to contract out some of its traditional functions to private religious organizations without subjecting them to the requirements of the Establishment Clause. According to the brief, which was filed jointly on behalf of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League and JSPAN, the activities of the Postal Services are so clearly governmental in nature that the state cannot be permitted to escape responsibility by allowing them to be managed by a supposedly private agency.