Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

Blind justice: Free speech prohibited on public sidewalk outside Calif. courthouse

Posted by faithandthelaw on February 9, 2010

ADF attorneys file suit against L.A. County officials after police, judge order man to stop free speech activities outside San Fernando Courthouse

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

LOS ANGELES — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit Monday against Los Angeles County officials on behalf of a Christian man who was prohibited from sharing his faith on a public sidewalk outside the San Fernando Courthouse. County officials told Anthony Miano that he could only conduct his free speech activities across the street on a sparsely used sidewalk.

“Christians shouldn’t be prohibited from expressing their beliefs in a clearly public area. Our courts should understand this more than anyone else,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. “This man was doing nothing other than exercising his First Amendment right to peacefully share his faith with people willing to interact with him or accept his religious literature. That is a protected free speech activity that cannot be outlawed on a public sidewalk, whether it is near a courthouse or anywhere else.”

Beginning in July 2008, Miano routinely stood on a public sidewalk outside the San Fernando Courthouse from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. to share his faith and distribute religious literature. But on Aug. 26, 2008, a Los Angeles County sergeant and a deputy sheriff stopped Miano and told him that he was not permitted to speak or hand out literature at that location. They provided him with a copy of a general order from the L.A. County Superior Courts detailing its regulation of speech activities outside county courthouses.

In December 2008, ADF attorneys sent the San Fernando Courthouse Presiding Judge Robert J. Shuit aletter explaining that the general order he directed the officers to issue to Miano did not prohibit Miano from exercising his constitutional rights.

ADF attorneys contend that Miano was well outside the 100-foot zone from the courthouse’s operational doors. The only doors within the 100-foot range from Miano’s free speech activities are largely unused emergency exits.

ADF-allied attorney John Stewart, of Orange, is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit, Miano v. McCoy, whichwas filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.
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