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Parent Category: News
ADF attorneys file lawsuit to help Christian denied his
constitutional rights due to oppressive ordinance that bans offending
BATON ROUGE, La. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund have filed
a lawsuit and a motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of a
Christian man whom a policeman prohibited from sharing a religious
message on a public street outside of a bar in the city of Zachary.
The officer cited a city ordinance prohibiting speech that is
“annoying” or “offensive” to another person.
expression is not second-class speech and should not be treated as
such,” said ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “Unfortunately, that’s
exactly what happened when a policeman for the city of Zachary
threatened a Christian with arrest and prosecution simply because the
expression was religious and some people might not like it. The
Constitution prohibits government officials from singling out religious
speech for censorship.”
On the evening of Nov. 18, John Todd
Netherland stood outside on a public easement to speak about his
Christian faith about 75-100 feet from the entrance of a local bar.
Even though Netherland stood on public ground and not on private
property, a police officer told Netherland he could not preach there
and instructed Netherland to move instead to the far side of the public
easement, closer to the street. The officer then warned Netherland
that if he stepped back to the place he’d been standing, he’d be
arrested and sent to jail.
Netherland assured the officer that
he would comply. Nevertheless, the officer told Netherland that if he
continued to preach, even in the new location, he would arrest him
anyway, for “disturbing the peace.” Netherland yielded to the
officer’s demand and left the area. Soon after, he called ADF for
legal help, and on June 11, ADF attorneys filed a lawsuit on
Netherland’s behalf. On Tuesday, ADF attorneys also filed a motion for
preliminary injunction, asking the court to keep city police from
stifling Netherland’s speech at that location while the case moves
The City of Zachary Code of Ordinances includes a
section on “disturbing the peace,” which prohibits “addressing any
offensive, derisive, or annoying words to any other person…or call[ing]
him by any offensive or derisive name, or mak[ing] any noise or
exclamation in his presence and hearing with the intent to deride,
offend, or annoy him….” The city ordinance does not, however, define
any of the terms used, including “disturb,” “offensive,” “annoying,”
and “noise.” A copy of the ordinance can be read at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/ZacharyOrdinance.pdf.
the city ordinance and the policeman’s application of the ordinance are
blatantly unconstitutional. There is no right for government to harass
and threaten citizens exercising their First Amendment rights in
public,” said Theriot. “We hope the court will grant our motion for
preliminary injunction so that Mr. Netherland can freely speak at his
desired location on public property while this case moves forward.”
copy of the motion for preliminary injunction filed at the U.S.
District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in the case Netherland v. City of Zachary can be read at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/NetherlandPIMotion.pdf.
ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.