Monday, February 11, 2008
Nebraska sidewalk witness wins free-speech battle
The police department in Hastings, Nebraska, has been forbidden by a federal court from interfering with Christians witnessing on public sidewalks.Kevin Pulver just wanted to stand on a public sidewalk adjacent to Hastings College and share his faith with anyone who was interested in listening.But according to Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel Nate Kellum, local authorities objected to Pulver's presence and his message."He met much resistance from the Hastings Police Department," says Kellum. "They came out there no less than 13 times, coming up with various reasons as to why he could not be there, and finally they threatened him with arrest if he continued to express his faith in public."The attorney says Pulver was aware his actions might irritate local authorities."He was sure not to trespass on the private college. He didn't even try to do that," Kellum explains. "He stood in the one place where every citizen is guaranteed a fundamental right to free speech, and that is the public sidewalk. And yet the police officers didn't seem to recognize his rights." Pulver was eventually charged with disturbing the peace and violating a city noise ordinance, but the court later agreed those charges were "trumped up." "In a very cordial way, he tried to explain that he had a constitutional right to be on a public sidewalk and share his views and...the police officers simply did not heed that message," explains Kellum. "And so, in order to give Mr. Pulver the freedom which the First Amendment guarantees, he had to be assured of that right through litigation." The U.S. District Court for Nebraska ordered the City of Hastings to repeal the unconstitutional ordinance that was used to threaten Pulver. That action will guarantee he can share the gospel on public sidewalks without fear of reprisals from police. Kellum says the quick decision by the court sends a message to other cities that they must respect the free-speech rights of all citizens.
As in the days of Noah....