Portland, Oregon— February 2, 2024.  Today, Center for Religious Expression’s Chief Counsel Nate Kellum presented an oral argument to a panel of three judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of Meinecke v. City of Seattle, et. al.

On June 24, 2022, Matthew Meinecke went to downtown Seattle to evangelize to individuals attending an abortion rights rally.  Matthew wanted to share his faith by calmly reading Scripture in conversational tone, but some protestors reacted poorly and started heckling him.  Initially, the hecklers crowded Matthew and he moved.  But the hecklers followed and ripped Matthew’s Bible away from him, tearing it to pieces. Matthew retrieved a second Bible to read.  Then, a group of Antifa members picked up Matthew and dropped him one block over.  Undeterred, Matthew went to a nearby area to carry one with his gospel message, but Antifa members knocked him down there and took one of his shoes.  Following all this abuse, the police finally arrived.  However, they did not come to help Matthew; they ordered him to leave.  And when Matthew questioned the directive, they arrested him.

Two days later, on June 26, 2022, Matthew went to the Seattle Center, a public park where Seattle PrideFest was held, to share the gospel with those attendees.  Again, hecklers mistreated Matthew. One attendee poured water on his Bible, and other attendees spat and squirted water at him.  Ten police officers showed up, but instead of dealing with the hecklers, the police told Meinecke to leave, and they eventually arrested him for remaining.

In both situations, the police silenced Matthew, caving in to the whims of unruly mobs.  Seattle police enforced a classic heckler’s veto as police policy.  Nate Kellum argued against the policy and asked the appellate court to keep Seattle police from enforcing it.  Seattle’s attorney attempted to defend police actions.  To watch the oral argument and see how the judges at the Ninth Circuit interacted with these arguments, follow this link: https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/video/?20240207/23-35481/

“We are pleased to challenge Seattle’s heckler’s veto policy that was used to shut down Matthew’s protected speech.  We do not know how the Ninth Circuit will rule, but the judges seemed attentive to our concerns,” said CRE Chief Counsel, Nate Kellum. “Free speech is fundamental to a civilized society.  And it is the unpopular speech like Matthew’s that requires constitutional protection.”