Seattle, Washington— April 18, 2024. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) won a crucial legal victory for free speech at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The appellate court held Seattle police could no longer apply a heckler’s veto on Matthew Meinecke’s evangelistic speech, instructing the district court to preliminarily enjoin the city policy. Consequently, Meinecke is now free to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in Seattle without fear of arrest while the case is still ongoing.

On June 24, 2022, Meinecke went to downtown Seattle to evangelize to individuals attending an abortion rights rally.  He wanted to share his faith by reading his Bible in a conversational tone, but some protestors did not take the Scriptures well.  Initially, hecklers crowded Matthew and forced him to move.  The hecklers then followed Meinecke and ripped his Bible away from him, tearing it to pieces.  Meinecke retrieved a second Bible to read, but then a group of Antifa individuals wearing black masks and garb physically picked up Meinecke and dropped him on concrete one block over.  Undeterred, Matthew went to a nearby public space to carry on with his gospel message, but the protestors were unrelenting.  They knocked him down and took one of his shoes.  Following all this abuse, the police finally arrived.  But they did not come to help Meinecke.  They ordered him to leave instead, accusing Meinecke and his Bible reading as being the problem.  And when Meinecke questioned the directive, the police arrested him.

Two days later, on June 26, 2022, Meinecke went to the Seattle Center, a public park where Seattle PrideFest was taking place, to share the gospel with those attendees through Bible reading.  Again, hecklers mistreated Meinecke.  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 soon arrested him for sharing his Christian faith in the public space.

In both situations, the Seattle police improperly silenced Meinecke by caving in to the whims of unruly mobs, enforcing a classic heckler’s veto as a matter of policy.  The Ninth Circuit recognized the unconstitutionality of Seattle’s policy, reversing and remanding the decision from the district court, stating, “We agree with Meinecke: the restrictions on his speech were content-based heckler’s vetoes, and the City has not carried its burden to justify those restrictions.”

“We are pleased the Ninth Circuit recognized the impropriety of Seattle’s heckler’s veto policy.  The holding provides much needed relief,” said CRE Chief Counsel, Nate Kellum. “Free speech is fundamental to any civilized society. It is the unpopular speech like that of Meinecke’s that requires constitutional protection.”

The 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