Carroll library's stance on coupon didn't violate rights

October 12, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Public Library would not have been promoting religion had it included a Biblical reference on a discount coupon to a Pennsylvania corn maze it distributed during the summer, according to an opinion issued by the Maryland attorney general.

However, the opinion also said that excluding the coupon would not have violated the maze owner's free speech rights, either.

Library officials deleted a reference to the verse Ephesians 6:17 on a coupon for Gettysburg-based Shea's Maze given to summer reading program participants because library Director Linda Mielke deemed it inappropriate.

But the corn maze's owner, Suzanne Shea, said she had not agreed to the deletion of the information. She alleged religious discrimination and claimed her right to free speech had been violated.

Shea asked state Sen. Larry E. Haines, leader of the Carroll legislative delegation, to seek the opinion from the attorney general.

Mielke said she wasn't surprised by the opinion. "It looks to me like the library did not infringe on anyone's ... First Amendment right," she said.

She said she thought the library had handled the matter correctly. "The arrangement I made with Mrs. Shea to cross out the coupon as written was the right thing to do," Mielke said.

Sun staff writer Mary Gail Hare contributed to this article.

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