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Needing Government Permission to Fulfill Religious Calling

Foley, Alabama — August 26, 2015. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of Pastor Raymond Williamson of Seminole Baptist Church, against the City of Foley, Alabama for banning Williamson from sharing his religious views on public sidewalks in downtown Foley.

For years, Pastor Williamson took a small group of fellow believers to Foley to witness and display signs with Bible verses from the sidewalks near a popular intersection. But, early in 2014, the City of Foley amended its “parade/demonstration” ordinance specifically to restrict Williamson’s group, requiring any group of 20 people or more, including participants and witnesses, to obtain a permit to speak anywhere in Foley. Attempting to comply with this new ordinance, Pastor Williamson made sure that he brought significantly fewer than 20 people. Nevertheless, Foley police officers issued Williamson a criminal citation for preaching without a permit because they counted the number of cars driving by towards the statutory limit.

“The ordinance effectively prevents anyone from speaking in any public place in Foley without a permit because 19 or more people will always pass by in vehicles,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “That is downright ridiculous.”

When Pastor Williamson later asked the Chief of Police how he could acquire a permit to speak near the intersection, the Chief replied that he would never be granted a permit to speak at that intersection.

“Subjecting preaching and witnessing on public ways to government licensing is a clear violation of the First Amendment,” said Kellum. “Our Constitution protects everyone’s right to speak publicly without having to secure the government’s permission first.”

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.

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