Atlanta, Georgia — December 22, 2017. The Center for Religious Expression (CRE) filed a federal lawsuit today, contesting a Georgia World Congress Center Authority (Authority) policy that bans Eric Love from communicating his Christian faith on public sidewalks bordering a public park.
On May 6, 2017, Love, along with two friends, went to the public sidewalk bordering Centennial Olympic Park to share his faith with people entering and leaving the Shaky Beats music festival that was going on inside the park. He didn’t enter the festival or interfere with it. He just stood on the sidewalk near the entrance and peacefully conveyed his faith. However, Love and his friends were approached by Authority police, who abruptly told them they could not share their faith there, claiming they needed a permit. Love and his friends explained their constitutional rights, but the officers were unpersuaded. When one of Love’s friends objected to the police’s actions, the police suddenly arrested him and warned Love to leave. Fearing he too would be arrested, Love left.
Because Centennial Olympic Park is frequently used for well-populated events, Love and his colleagues are eager to return to share their beliefs with people passing into and out of the park, but do not want to be arrested. So, CRE sent a letter to Authority officials, requesting they lift the ban on expressive activities. But the Authority declined, instead explaining that during events, public expression is not tolerated on those public sidewalks. Love’s only option is to file a lawsuit to regain his constitutional rights.
“Public sidewalks are the quintessential place to share your beliefs, and these sidewalks are no different,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The government cannot ban free speech in such places.”