Santa Cruz, California — August 3, 2016. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Donald Harman against the City of Santa Cruz for banning Harman from publically conveying the Gospel on downtown public sidewalks.
Harman has a heart for the people of Santa Cruz, and has shared God’s forgiveness and salvation on public sidewalks downtown for a number of years. And the area is uniquely suitable for free expression, having long been a haven for street performers, musicians, and buskers of all kinds. Yet, on August 14, 2015, while musicians and buskers were left alone to loudly express their messages, police singled out Harman and shut his speech down, issuing him two criminal citations based solely on bystanders’ complaints of being disturbed by Harman’s noise. The police ignored a whole host of louder activities simply because no one complained about their speech.
Seeking to resolve this situation, CRE sent a letter on Harman’s behalf to Santa Cruz officials, asking them to cease their selective and discriminatory application of their ordinance. Instead, Santa Cruz defended the police’s actions, and ensured that Harman will be selectively cited because others dislike his preaching. Left with no other recourse, Harman filed a federal lawsuit.
“The First Amendment prohibits the government from banning speech because a few citizens prefer to hear something else,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “Santa Cruz cannot condition liberties on peer approval. The constitution does not recognize a heckler’s veto.”