Santa Cruz, California — July 5, 2017. The federal court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction today, prohibiting the City of Santa Cruz from enforcing unconstitutional laws to ban Donald Harman from sharing the Gospel on a public sidewalk.
Harman simply wants to share the message of God’s forgiveness and salvation on downtown public sidewalks – the same location where street performers and musicians regularly have long performed. But on August 14, 2015, Santa Cruz police targeted Harman, selectively banning his speech while leaving others free to express themselves. Harman was issued two criminal citations under an ordinance banning “annoying” sounds, because bystanders disliked his expression.
CRE sent a letter to Santa Cruz officials, asking them to cease their unconstitutional policy, but they declined. With no other option, Harman filed a lawsuit and requested an injunction to end the discriminatory ban on his speech. Recognizing the inherent unconstitutionality of banning speech deemed “annoying,” the court held the ordinance violated First Amendment rights, and could not stand. The injunction allows Harman to return to the sidewalks of Santa Cruz and evangelize without fear while the case continues.
“This is a significant victory for free speech,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The constitution has no tolerance for laws that ban speech based on annoyance.”