On November 21, 2019, following legal action filed by Center for Religious Expression (CRE), the federal court for the Southern District of Georgia issued an order commanding Augusta-Richmond County cease from unconstitutionally banning Eric Love’s evangelistic speech on public sidewalks in the County.
In June of 2018, Love shared his message of God’s love and forgiveness on a public sidewalk in downtown Augusta, near the annual Augusta Pride Festival. He used a handheld amplifier so he could speak and be heard without yelling. But officers of the Augusta-Richmond County Sheriff’s Office soon stopped Love, and forced him to cease his amplified speech immediately. Love stopped, and tried to reason with the officers, but the officers would not compromise, and arrested Love for “disorderly conduct.”
CRE sent a letter to the County on Love’s behalf, asking them to drop the inappropriate ban, but they declined, warning two separate ordinances prohibited Love from speaking with amplification at any volume, anywhere in the County, at all times. Left with no other way for his message to be heard, Love filed suit and asked the court to preliminarily order the County to cease the ban. And today, the federal court did just that, issuing an opinion recognizing that in broadly banning amplification, the County exceeded its authority and infringed on First Amendment rights.
“The right to be heard is firmly established in case law,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “We’re thankful for the district court’s ordering the restoration of Love’s right.”
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.