Blind justice: Free speech banned around courthouses
December 17, 2014
San Bernardino, California — December 16, 2014. Center for Religious Expression (CRE) attorneys filed suit today against San Bernardino County officials on behalf of Mark Mante who is prohibited from sharing his Christian faith on public sidewalks and ways outside of two San Bernardino Courthouses. Per policy, County officials warned Mante to refrain from speaking or handing out literature referencing his Christian beliefs in the public spaces in or around courthouse grounds.
Going back to 2007, Mante had routinely stood on public ways outside the historic San Bernardino Courthouse and shared his faith. But on Dec. 3, 2012, a Deputy Sheriff stopped Mante and told him about a Court Order that required Mante to abandon his expressive activities and leave the area. He provided Mante with a copy of the Order detailing a policy regulating speech activities outside of county courthouses. Mante soon learned that he could be subject to sanctions up to $1,500.00 each time he tried to share his Christian faith.
With the advent of the new Justice Center in San Bernardino, Mante hoped the policy would change, but he was informed by officials that the policy prohibiting his religious expression would apply there as well.
Mante brings his lawsuit so he can freely express his views in public areas surrounding both courthouses.
“Christians shouldn’t be prohibited from expressing their beliefs in a clearly public area. Our courts should understand this more than anyone else,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “This gentleman was doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment right in peacefully sharing his faith with people willing to interact with him. This is protected free speech activity that cannot be outlawed on a public sidewalk, whether it is near a courthouse or anywhere else.”
Center for Religious Expression is a servant-oriented, non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian legal organization dedicated to the glory of God and the religious freedom of His people. For more information, visit http://www.crelaw.org.