Illegally placed Christian mini library removed from Illinois highway after FFRF alert

Top image: shot of a Little Free Library on the side of an Illinois highway. Bottom: The same stretch of highway, sans Little Free Library.

The Illinois Department of Transportation removed a Christian Little Free Library that was unlawfully placed on government property after the Freedom From Religion Foundation alerted it.

A concerned community member informed the state/church watchdog of a religious “Little Free Library” at the intersection of Old Route 66 and Livingston County East. A Little Free Library is essentially a small kiosk filled with books where community members can take and leave a book for free. This library, however, was stocked entirely with Christian books, and there was a Latin cross painted on the side of the library. The Illinois Department of Transportation manages the right-of-way to that strip of land. Therefore, the library could easily have been perceived as being owned and controlled by the Illinois government.

“The government cannot constitutionally show favoritism towards religion over nonreligion, or one religion over other faiths,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Samantha Lawrence wrote to the Illinois Department of Transportation. “Religious imagery and a Christian-only little free library on state property sends an exclusionary message that may needlessly alienate travelers and community members who are non-Christians, including the nearly 30 percent of the population who are not religious.”

FFRF asked the Illinois Department of Transportation to investigate the situation. If the library was located on state property, the religious imagery must be removed and the library was not permitted to only promote one favored religious viewpoint, FFRF emphasized.

FFRF’s letter moved the Illinois Department of Transportation to take action.

“The Illinois Department of Transportation has not posted or has no record of a permit issued to install this small kiosk within the state-maintained highway rights-of-way in that location,” a department official recently responded. “Last week, our local IDOT field maintenance yard crew inspected the area and removed the ‘Little Free Library’ kiosk in accordance with our policy regarding signs, billboards or advertising on IDOT property and Illinois highways right-of-way.”

FFRF appreciates the Illinois DOT’s swiftness.

“An overtly Christian library being operated on government property gave the impression that this was being done with the approval of the state of Illinois,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re glad that our notifying the Illinois Department of Transportation got this illegally placed structure removed.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,200 members and a chapter in Illinois. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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