The City of Roses, Pasadena, California, is now getting sued by the Pasadena Republican Club for allegedly discriminating against the organization's religious and political views.
According to Pasadena Now, the Pasadena Republican Club booked a speaking event at the Western Justice Center (WJC) in February of last year only to have the event canceled just three hours prior to its commencement. The event was to host John Eastman of the National Organization for Marriage. In a complaint filed on Wednesday in the United States District Court Central District of California, the club's attorney, Anthony Caso, claims that the WJC intentionally discriminated against his clients.
"Basically, this is a Constitutional claim. When public property is involved, you cannot decide who can and cannot use the property based on their political viewpoints," Caso said.
The Western Justice Center frequently rents out one of its buildings, the Maxwell House, to a variety of political organizations and clubs. The claim provided an email from the WJC’s then-executive director, retired L.A. Superior Court Judge Judith Chirlin, demonstrating that the club's religious beliefs were the reason behind the cancelation.
"The speaker, who is Dr. John Eastman, was also the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, which is a faith-based organization advocating for traditional marriage," Caso said. “Because of that, Western Justice Center decided that, based on the viewpoints and the religious beliefs of the speaker, the Pasadena Republican Club could no longer meet in their facility."
The lawsuit demands that the WJC or the City of Pasadena pay for damages stemming from "emotional distress" while seeking an injunction to prevent future discrimination.
"Chirlin and Western Justice Center acted with malice, oppression, and wanton disregard of the law, intending to harm Pasadena Republican Club and its members for choosing a speaker who harbored beliefs contrary to those promoted by Western Justice Center," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit further states that the WJC's Board of Directors includes prominent attorneys and judges "who likewise are aware of the provisions of the United States Constitution and know that discrimination on the basis of political viewpoint and religious belief in the rental of public property violates the United States Constitution unless supported by a compelling governmental interest. Western Justice Center’s hatred of contrary political viewpoints and religious beliefs is not a compelling governmental interest."
The Western Justice Center’s current Executive Director Elissa D. Barrett, herself an attorney, told Pasadena Now that a "fair and mutual agreement" had been reached at the time.
"When this matter arose more than 18 months ago, we believed that a fair and mutual accommodation had been reached. We have heard nothing from the plaintiff since then. We are disappointed that the plaintiff chose not to contact us before pursuing litigation, especially given the centrality of conflict resolution to our mission," Barrett wrote.
"The Western Justice Center empowers people to resolve conflicts and to address forms of bias that often underlie those conflicts," she added.
Attorney Anthony Caso said that after the city and the Western Justice Center have been served, they have 30 days to respond. "We would probably see some hearings in January or February,” he said.