Free to Witness
November 24, 2015
Foley, Alabama — November 18, 2015. The federal District Court for the Southern District of Alabama granted Pastor Raymond Williamson a Preliminary Injunction today, affirming Williamson’s right to share his Christian faith on public sidewalks without having to ask and receive the City’s permission to do so.
Pastor Williamson and a small group of fellow believers had been witnessing on the sidewalks of Foley, Alabama, at the intersection of highways 59 and 98, once a month for several years without incident. However, in 2014, the City changed its parade ordinance to require a permit before anyone could publically proclaim their beliefs with others, if 20 or more people would be participating or witnessing the event.
On August 16, 2014, Williamson and 13 fellow believers went to Foley to share their message publically. But despite Williamson having fewer than 20 people with him, the City criminally cited Williamson because the City counted the cars driving by as part of the 20-person limit. When Williamson asked what he would need to do to get a permit to speak at that intersection, the City informed him that he would never receive a permit to speak there.
Williamson contacted CRE, which filed a lawsuit and a Motion for Preliminary Injunction on Williamson’s behalf. Ruling on the motion, the District Court recognized the inherent danger of imposing a permit requirement on protected speech in public places, such as city sidewalks. Consequently, the District Court granted Williamson’s motion, allowing him to go back out and share his religious views in Foley without fear of criminal sanction.
“Affording government officials the discretion to decide whether a person can speak leads to arbitrary and irrational decisions, as the ban on Williamson’s speech clearly illustrates,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The First Amendment ensures that every American has the right to publically share their beliefs without fear of sanction.”
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.