Tuscaloosa, Alabama — October 24, 2022. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) filed a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Christian evangelist Rodney Keister. Keister and the Center for Religious Expression are asking the Supreme Court to hear the case and ultimately overturn an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which stifles Keister’s freedom of evangelical speech.
Keister wants to share his faith with University of Alabama students and others who happen to be passing by on a city-owned sidewalk bordering the UA campus. Keister doesn’t cause trouble. He hands out Gospel tracts, occasionally sings or praises God aloud, and talks and prays with anyone willing to join.
But when he tried doing so on March 10, 2016, UA officials stopped him. They informed him that he would be arrested for trespassing if he did not stop, relying on a UA policy that requires sponsorship from a university entity and approval ten business days before communicating religious sentiments on campus.
Courts have consistently held public areas, including city sidewalks, are open to everyone and their constitutionally protected speech. But the district court and the Eleventh Circuit saw Keister’s case differently, ruling that UA wants to treat the sidewalks differently and gets to do so. Therefore, CRE is bringing this issue to the Supreme Court through a cert petition in the hopes the court will take this case and right the previous legal wrongs of both the district and appellate courts.
“Rulings of the lower courts fly in the face of well-settled precedent that city-owned sidewalks must remain wide open for expressive activities like Keister’s,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The ruling gives UA, a public university, more power to restrict speech on public sidewalks bordering its property that they do not like. That is wrong and backwards. The Supreme Court must reverse this erroneous decision and ensure that city sidewalks remain free for speech.”
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.