Panama City Beach, Florida — April 12, 2016. The federal court for the Northern District of Florida granted Richard McMahon a preliminary injunction today, ensuring McMahon of his freedom to peacefully share his faith at the Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally later this month.
Last May, McMahon attempted to pass out gospel tracts in Frank Brown Park, a public park, to attendees of the event that is free and open to the public and well-attended. But organizers of the event told McMahon that he was not allowed to do so at the public event. A Panama City Beach police officer backed up this assertion, claiming the event organizer could make any rules it wanted, and warned McMahon he would be arrested for trespassing in the public park if he continued to pass out tracts.
McMahon contacted CRE, which filed a lawsuit on his behalf along with a motion for preliminary injunction. Granting the motion, the district court recognized the serious problem with giving a private entity limitless discretion to suppress on First Amendment expression in a public park during a public event. The preliminary injunction allows McMahon to return to future Thunder Beach events to peacefully pass out gospel tracts while the case proceeds.
“The government cannot enforce the unfettered speech preferences of private parties in a public park any more than it could enforce unconstitutional rules of its own design,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “We are encouraged by the district court’s strong stance in support of free speech.”