Library cancels Buddhism program

By TOM MORTON, Casper Star-Tribune, February 10, 2009

Natrona, Wyoming (USA) -- The Natrona County Public Library canceled a program by a Buddhist monk scheduled for Saturday because it crossed the line between imparting information and preaching, the library's community relations director said Tuesday.

"It has an intent to proselytize, but we can't do that in a county building," Brenda Thomson said.

The talk by Kelsang Rinzin of the Heruka Buddhist Center in Fort Collins, Colo., was set as an independent event for Saturday afternoon in the Crawford Room, and not sponsored by the library, Thomson said in a news release.

The talk initially appeared to be informational, she said.

"However, advertising released by the agency responsible for the event indicates an intention to proselytize, making the event inappropriate for presentation in this public facility, and in violation of the contract for NCPL meeting space, signed by the event's coordinator," Thomson said.

The library regretted the inconvenience this might cause people, she added.

A talk about a world view would be appropriate, but teaching meditation would not, she said in an interview.

The same standard applies to people of other faiths, Thomson said.

Likewise, the library allows groups to present forums offering a variety of political views but does not allow propaganda from one perspective, she said.

"We are pretty careful about who we allow to book rooms," Thomson said.

The library has its own policy about proselytizing in addition to the county-wide ban in county buildings, she said.

Thomson notified the Heruka Buddhist Center about the cancelation on Monday, and said its staff members were frustrated.

Calls to the Buddhist center and to the Casper person who arranged the program were not returned.

Library Director Bill Nelson said he's offered to help the center and Rinzin find another place for the program.