Roanoke, Virginia — July 25, 2019. Recently, the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) secured CRE Client Dianna Orea’s right to share her faith on public ways in Roanoke during the Roanoke Pride Festival.
In April, Orea and a few friends went to share their faith on a public street during the Roanoke Pride Festival. Shortly after arriving, Orea initiated friendly conversations with people nearby. But, she was soon approached by a Roanoke police officer, who abruptly ordered Orea and her friends to stop talking and leave the festival area. Orea pointed out her right to speak on a public street, but the officer disagreed, asserting that the festival organizers controlled the area during the festival, and because they did not want Orea there, it was a crime for her to remain. Under threat of arrest, Orea was forced to go outside the boundaries of the festival area, where there were few people with whom she could share her evangelistic message.
Orea contacted CRE, which sent a letter on her behalf to City of Roanoke officials, explaining the First Amendment protects Orea’s right to speak in public places when an event is occurring that is free and open to the public. The letter requested that Roanoke provide assurance that Orea would not be banned from the Pride Festival and other such events in the future. Fortunately, the City of Roanoke agreed, ensuring that Orea’s freedom to share her faith at Roanoke public events.
“Public streets and sidewalks are a constitutionally-appropriate place to share your beliefs, especially during events that are free and open to the public,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “We are glad to remind Roanoke to respect these longstanding principles.”