Atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair's suit to block Pope John Paul II from celebrating mass on the Mall Sunday was dismissed here yesterday by a federal judge who said the Catholic Church has the same right as "any other applicant" to hold a demonstration on public land.
U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Gash dismissed the suit in a brief written opinion in which he said the Austin, Tex., resident had failed to cite any legal authority for her contention that allowing the Pope to conduct a religious service on the Mall would violate the Constitution.
He said the National Park Service "has simply agreed to provide crowd control services in the same manner and to the same extent as it would for any other large public gathering, whether it had religious connotations or not."
O'Hair had argued before Gasch on Monday that the use of the Mall for the mass would excessively entangle church and state in violation of the First Amendment because the government will have to provide police overtime and other services.
Gasch disagreed and said the government "has completely avoided any connection with or sponsorship of" the event, and therefore has been treating the church just as it would any other group.