The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case from Connecticut dealing with the display of religious symbols at a contract post office.
The flap centered on a “contract postal unit” (CPU) in Manchester, a town of about 54,000 near Hartford. The U.S. Postal Service uses CPUs to enhance service in some parts of the country. They display postal symbols and provide many of the same services as government-run post offices but are located in private businesses.
The CPU in Manchester is run by the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church through a business titled Sincerely Yours. Backed by the Connecticut ACLU, Bertram Cooper, a city resident and Korean War veteran, sued over the CPU in 2003. He said he was upset by the religious messages in what he assumed was a government facility.
The building has the Postal Service’s familiar eagle logo on an outside wall but inside there were evangelical Christian posters, advertisements and artwork. One display invited customers to submit prayer requests if they “need a prayer in their lives.” A television monitor played religious videos.
“I’m walking into a place that’s doing government business – selling stamps, mailing parcels and so forth – and they’re doing this religious bit,” Cooper said.
When he protested to staff, Cooper was told to go to another postal facility.
U.S. District Judge Dominic J. Squatrito agreed with Cooper, and in a 2007 ruling, ordered the Postal Service to stop the promotion of religion at the Manchester CPU. Squatrito’s decision was later upheld by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
While the case was on appeal, Americans United weighed in with a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Cooper. The legal brief, joined by the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, asserted that government contractors may not promote religion.
The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the matter brings the Cooper v. U.S. Postal Service case to a close.