CRE sends demand letter on behalf of Christian pastor who was barred from handing out information at public park during Pakistan Festival

Manassas, Va. — The Center for Religious Expression sent letter [hyperlink] today to officials with Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and Fairfax County seeking relief from a speech ban imposed on Tony Ghareeb, Pastor with Jerusalem Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Virginia, who was prevented from handing out water bottles and DVDs in Bull Run Park in Manassas on August 26, 2012, during the Pakistan Festival.

Though Bull Run Park is a publically-owned park, and the 2012 Pakistan Festival was free and open to the public, Pastor Ghareeb – an Arab-American who ministers to fellow Arabs – was forced to leave the area under the threat of arrest because Fairfax County police officers and park officials consider the property “private” during the festival. CRE wrote the letter to assure recognition of Pastor Ghareeb’s free speech rights during the next Pakistan Festival in August of 2013.

“All citizens enjoy the fundamental right to share their views in public places. These same rights extend to Pastor Ghareeb and his Christian speech,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum.

Kellum emphasized the benign nature of Pastor Ghareeb’s intended speech. “Pastor Ghareeb only sought to engage in friendly discussion, while handing out free water and DVDs on a hot day. His opinion cannot be banished just because someone happens to disagree with it.”

Kellum also disputed the suggestion that the park was private. “As long as the area remains free and open to the general public, the park is public, not private.”

CRE’s letter demands a written response within three weeks.