Las Cruces, New Mexico — March 7, 2017. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) obtained relief for Souls Ministries against City of Las Cruces officials, ensuring Souls Ministries will not be forced to present an objectionable non-Christian message as a precondition to hold a festival in a public park.
For over a decade, Souls Ministries has coordinated Kids Kindness Day, a public festival geared toward children. The event is intended to be a Christian outreach. It is free and open to the public, whereby Souls Ministries partners with groups who distribute Bibles, evangelize, and donate school supplies to needy children in the community. But, after years of holding the event without incident, the City abruptly shut down Kids Kindness Day 2016, on the eve of the day it was supposed to occur solely because Souls Ministries declined to provide a booth to an organization promoting a non-Biblical stance. Due to the short-notice cancellation, Souls Ministries was left holding the bag and footing the bill.
CRE sent Las Cruces a demand letter explaining Souls Ministries’ First Amendment right to control the message it sends the community through vendors with which it affiliates. In response, the City acknowledged its error, compensated Souls Ministries for losses incurred because of the 2016 cancellation, and promised Souls Ministries that it will be allowed to utilize the park in the future without interference with its identity or speech.
“We are encouraged that Las Cruces agreed to respect Souls Ministries’ First Amendment rights,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The government cannot censor a religious entity because it disagrees with the message.”