Saturday, August 13, 2011

Police Halt Bible 'Noise,' Preacher Sues City

After a Christian was forbidden to preach the Gospel with a microphone in public, a freedom-of-speech lawsuit now has this Virginia city studying how to revise its noise ordinance.
"The City of Winchester's noise ordinance goes far beyond the scope of permissible regulation for a traditional public forum."
For background, read Massachusetts Court Rules Against Christian Free Speech and also read Philadelphia Judges Rule Homosexual Rights Trump Christian Message

UPDATE 9/1/11: City settles lawsuit, pays preacher attorney fees, and plans to change ordinance

-- From "Street preacher filed action stating rights violated at 2010 Apple Blossom Festival" by Alex Bridges, Northern Virginia Daily 8/13/11

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg alleges Winchester police officials denied the rights of Michael Marcavage to preach to crowds at the 2010 Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. The lawsuit also claims the noise ordinance police used to order Marcavage to stop preaching through an amplified microphone remains unconstitutionally vague. Marcavage is identified as director of Pennsylvania-based Repent America.

[Police Lieutenant John] Danielson received a complaint from an unidentified male who said he felt uncomfortable with the person using the amplifier and microphone, according to [Staunton defense attorney Rosalie Pemberton] Fessier. The officer observed the activities and concluded the noise from the amplifier to be very loud considering the ambient sound at the festival and thus violated the ordinance, Fessier states.

Fessier also cites evidence as seen in videotaped footage of the street preaching activities. . . .

In her memorandum Fessier states the plaintiffs did not suffer a "constitutional injury" and therefore lack standing to pursue their claims.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Winchester residents make noise over ordinance proposal" by Alex Bridges, Northern Virginia Daily 8/11/11

A proposal to change the city's "outdated" noise control rules and let nightclubs operate without the currently required permits met opposition this week.

Some of the city's noise regulations are under scrutiny in a lawsuit filed in federal court.

Street preacher Michael Marcavage claims police violated his right to free speech when they forced him to stop preaching through an amplified microphone to people gathered for the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in May 2010. The suit also claims the city ordinance on noise control that police cited in their action is invalid.

The city issues permits for nightclubs in any of the three zoning districts for restaurants that offer live music or karaoke during certain times of the week. Permits often come with conditions such as limitations on noise, number of police responses in a time period and hours during which they can provide music. Zoning Administrator Vincent Diem said his office fields complaints and then he must go to the pertinent agencies to investigate matters further.

[Zoning Administrator Vincent] Diem said he and City Attorney Anthony Williams have been working on the noise ordinance. The proposal notes the noise ordinance "is arguably outdated and requires improvement."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "City sets preacher's speech rights on stranger's 'comfort' level" by Bob Unruh, World Net Daily 8/6/11

Last year, [Marcavage] was at the Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester. After checking with the police department ahead of time, he used a public address system to carry his message to listeners.

However, he was ordered to shut it down. . . .

[Police Lieutenant John] Danielson told Marcavage: "That gentleman [pointing at a third party] just said he's not comfortable with what's going on. That's a violation of our city code."

He continued, "You can talk all you want, you just can't use this system."

"The ordinance constitutes an outright prohibition of certain verbal expression without any reference to objective characteristics of that expression, such as volume, and it does so through the use of vague terms and unascertainable standards," said the brief, compiled by Rita M. Dunaway [of Rutherford Institute.]

Just weeks ago, as part of the case, a Winchester police officer also admitted under oath that he was ordered to go undercover to monitor street preachers. According to the officer's statement, he used a recording device to film the preachers as they expressed their sincerely held religious beliefs during the 2010 Apple Blossom Festival. Winchester city officials have repeatedly refused to resolve the matter out of court.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.