Panama City Beach, Florida — February 18, 2016. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) filed a federal lawsuit today against the City of Panama City Beach, challenging the City’s unconstitutional policy that prohibits Richard McMahon from peacefully passing out Gospel tracts in a public park during the Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally.
On May 1, 2015, McMahon went to Frank Brown Park and began handing out Gospel tracts to people as they walked by. But he was soon stopped by organizers of the event, who told him that he was not permitted to pass out Gospel tracts. Pursuant to this policy, a Panama City Beach police officer warned McMahon that he would be arrested if he continued giving people Gospel tracts at the event. Thunder Beach freely allows the entire public to enter the event and communicate, but McMahon’s distribution of Gospel tracts was prohibited.
McMahon sent the City a letter, asking only that they allow him to peacefully share his views in that public park, but the City refused to relent. Left with no alternative, McMahon filed a lawsuit to secure his First Amendment rights.
“Passing out literature is a time-honored and harmless method of expression, especially when conducted in a wide-open public area, like a park,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “Citizens have a constitutional right to share their beliefs in public places during public events. Where the public is free to walk, they should be free to talk.”