What followed would eventually put Hopkins, Faith Center, the Antioch Library and Supervisor Federal Glover on the national news radar and etch their names forever in Supreme Court documents.
Things started out OK on that day as the church group held what it called a "Wordshop" in which they discussed effective prayer and other topics for an hour followed by refreshments. It was the next two hours of activities - a praise and worship service with a sermon by Hopkins - that would lead to three-plus years of litigation with Contra Costa County's legal team pitted against advocates for freedom of religion that included the U.S. Justice Department.
Hopkins had actually reserved the library meeting room for two dates: May 29, 2004 and July 31, 2004. But toward the end of the May 29 afternoon worship service a library staff member told the church group that they were not permitted to use the meeting for religious activities.
A few weeks later a county official told the group that their July 31 reservation for the meeting room had been canceled. But rather than turn the other cheek, Hopkins decided to fight back, suing the county on July 30, 2004 on the grounds that the county was discriminating against them based on their religious viewpoint.
The suit, which was dubbed "Faith Center Church v. Glover" because Glover was then the chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, first went to a district court, which ruled in the church's favor.
The county appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and won, albeit by a 2-1 margin. The church, which was represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, then appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which last week declined to take the case, in effect leaving the ruling in favor of the county.
The county's argument is that the purpose of the library meeting room is for groups to hold discussions, lectures and other educational, cultural or community activities. Groups like the Sierra Club and Democratic Club have met there and the schedule in September included a business workshop, knitting and craft groups, book clubs and a book sale.
But the library policy does not permit just any activity. For example, the Antioch Unified School District is not allowed to teach classes in the room.
"The County's exclusion of schools is reasonable in light of its purpose," the Appeals Court ruling states. "To allow the meeting room to be converted into a classroom would transform the character of the forum from a community meeting room to a public school.
"By the same token, the County's decision to exclude Faith Center's religious worship services from the meeting room is reasonable in light of the library policy so that the Antioch forum is not transformed into an occasional house of worship.
"The County reasonably could conclude that the controversy and distraction of religious worship within the Antioch Library meeting room may alienate patrons and undermine the library's purpose of making itself available to the whole community."
The church counter-argued that it's impossible to distinguish religious speech from religious worship, and that that is not the business of government. They also argued that the only thing distinguishing their use of the meeting room from other groups' use was the content of their speech.
"Given that the County has previously allowed other community organizations to use the meeting rooms for social and political causes, the specific activities described by Faith Center are indistinguishable from those the County has permitted other users, save for the fact that Faith Center engages in its activities from a religious viewpoint and holds 'religious services' that the policy prohibits," the church argued in its appeal to the Supreme Court.
"By denying Faith Center's request to use the meeting rooms simply because some of its topics for discussion or activities are Christian-based, the County engaged in precisely the type of viewpoint discrimination … (that has been) held unconstitutional."
County Librarian Anne Cain, when asked how the librarians will distinguish whether a religious group is merely engaging in discussion or in fact holding a worship service in the meeting, responded via e-mail, "The library staff will just be approving or not approving use of the meeting rooms based on what the group says they are using the room for when they fill out the application to use the meeting room."
Walter Ruehlig, who is Antioch's representative on the County Library Commission, said via e-mail, "I consider myself a man of faith but also a man of reason. I find the court (ruling) appropriate because mixing church and state does neither any lasting good. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Render unto God what is God's.
"As to the discrimination argument, religious groups can freely meet, not worship, which might involve praise, exultation and music, therein disrupting people from a library's main focus: studying, computer use and quiet reading."