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La Crosse Restricts Freedom on 4th of July

La Crosse, Wisc. — The Center for Religious Expression sent a letter October 24, 2012 to various city officials in La Crosse, Wisconsin requesting relief from a restriction imposed on Ryan Woodhouse that keeps him from handing out religious literature in Riverside Park on the 4th of July during an annual festival known as Riverfest. 

There is no cost of admission for Riverfest and the event is open to the public. Yet, Woodhouse was forced to stop his literature distribution under the threat of criminal arrest because certain festival officials did not agree with the content of his message. Looking forward to next year’s Riverfest, Woodhouse is seeking a reprieve from this ban via letter sent by CRE.

“It is ironic that on this day celebrating America’s independence - and the freedoms we all enjoy as citizens of this great nation - that the City of La Crosse decided to infringe on Ryan’s First Liberty, that is, his fundamental right to engage in religious expression,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The Supreme Court has observed that the First Amendment protects Christian speech as much as any other kind of speech. Just because someone complains, City of La Crosse is not at liberty to get rid of it.”

CRE’s letter expounds on the constitutional protections afforded Woodhouse’s literature distribution in a public park, noting that the city could not transform the nature of the park and that Woodhouse’s speech did not interfere with any message emanating from the festival itself.

The letter demands written response from the City of La Crosse within three weeks. “Ryan wants the opportunity to share his Christian message during the 2013 Riverfest without fear of arrest or reprisal,” Kellum explained. “The right to share ideas in the public square is too precious to ignore.”

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