The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the city of Pittsburgh, seeking to void a new cable television contract that provides a full-time channel to a religious group.

The Pittsburgh chapter of the ACLU filed suit in U.S. District Court contending that the contract between the city and Warner Cable Corp. is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of church and state.

The contract includes a provision to grant Christian Associates of Southwestern Pennsylvania a channel and more than $60,000 for equipment to produce local, religion-oriented programming.

The ACLU, which filed the suit on behalf of three persons, said Christian Assocaites excludes some religious groups from membership. Christian Associates represents 22 church bodies comprising 2,250 congregations in nine counties. Its members include the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Christians, Anglicans and other Protestant denominations.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Rev. Jesse Cavileer, minister of Allegheny Center Unitarian Church; Joseph Houle, minister of the Metropolitan Community Church; and Sam Lane, a member of American Atheists.

Cavileer said Jewish groups and most Unitarian sects were excluded from Christian Associates.

City Solicitor Mead J. Mulvihill Jr. said the city's procedures in awarding the franchise to Warner were proper.

"The city did not request the channel for Christian Associates, nor could it stop the successful bidder from providing this or any other access channel," he said.