Tuscaloosa, Alabama. — June 9, 2020. Today, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals from the final judgment of federal district court that allows the University of Alabama (UA) to prevent Christian evangelist Rodney Keister from handing out literature and talking to people on a bordering city sidewalk.
Keister wants to share his faith with UA students and others who happen to be passing by on public sidewalks bordering UA campus. He doesn’t cause trouble. He just hands out Gospel tracts, occasionally sings or praises God aloud, and talks and prays with anyone who’s willing.
But when he tried doing so on March 10, 2016, UA officials stopped him and informed that he would be arrested for trespass if he did not stop, relying on a UA policy that requires sponsorship from a university entity and approval ten business days in advance of communicating religious sentiments on campus.
While the entire public can walk there, Keister lacks requisite approval.
On city sidewalks, courts have repeatedly refused to tolerate the kinds of restrictions UA imposes. But the district court in Keister’s case sees things differently, holding that UA wants to treat the sidewalks differently and gets to do so.
“The district court’s ruling flies in the face of well-settled precedent that city-owned sidewalks must remain wide open for expressive activities like Keister’s,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “The ruling gives UA, a public university, more power to restrict speech on public sidewalks bordering its property than private entities have. That’s backwards. The Eleventh Circuit must reverse this erroneous decision and ensure that city sidewalks remain free for speech.”
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 http://www.crelaw.org.
Post by Nate Kellum