Monday, May 14, 2012

Police Boot Christian from Festival in Buffalo NY

Gregory Owen has sued the City of Buffalo for infringing the First Amendment rights of many citizens who wanted to talk to him about his Christian faith during a festival on public property.  The police threatened to arrest him if he didn't leave and stop talking to passersby.

Also read Pastor Arrested for Witnessing to Muslims

-- From "Leaflets lead to lawsuit against city" by Aaron Besecker, Buffalo News staff reporter 5/11/12

The Alliance Defense Fund [ADF] has filed the federal civil rights suit on behalf of Gregory R. Owen, who asserts that Buffalo police forced him to stop handing out fliers with Christian messages during the Sorrento Cheese Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival on Hertel Avenue last July.

Other groups were allowed to hand out materials at the event, including the U.S. Army and local schools, according to the suit, which was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.

Upon arriving, [Owen] noticed two people carrying a sign with a Christian message who had been stopped by police.

After handing out their leaflets for a few minutes, Owen and his companions also were stopped by police and told they were not allowed to hand out the literature.

Shortly after, Owen and his group left.

Owen, 31, is not seeking monetary damages in the suit, according to Jonathan Scruggs, a staff lawyer with the [ADF] organization.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Police Threaten Christian With Jail for Handing Out Tracts" by Jennifer LeClaire, Charisma News 5/11/12

As one officer told [Owen], “If you hand out one more tract, you’re going to jail.”

“People of faith shouldn’t be threatened with arrest for peacefully expressing their beliefs,” says ADF attorney Nate Kellum. “The Constitution and court precedent in these types of cases is clear: officials cannot toss someone out of a public event simply because they don’t like the views he’s expressing. This is a classic example of free speech that the First Amendment protects.”

Here’s the backstory: Gregory Owen, together with a friend and members of his family, walked up and down Hertel Avenue during the 2011 Greater Buffalo Italian Heritage Festival to peacefully hand out Christian literature and discuss his faith with willing passers-by. Although the road is a public street in a section of town known as “Little Italy,” police approached Owen and told him to leave under threat of arrest, claiming that his speech violated an agreement with festival organizers.

In truth, the city issued a non-exclusive use permit to festival organizers that does not prohibit members of the public from exercising their free speech rights protected by the First Amendment. The event was free and open to the public, and the street remained at all times a public thoroughfare.

ADF attorneys filed the suit, Owen v. City of Buffalo, with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Christian messages banned in Buffalo" by Bob Unruh, World Net Daily 5/13/12

While handing out tracts to willing recipients on a public street during a public festival, Owen was approached by a police officer who declined to identify himself but told him that the Buffalo Police Department is “the law” and he should stop handing out tracts.

According to the lawsuit: “Subsequently, another police officer, Officer Slomka, arrived on the scene. She quickly informed Owen that they could not hand out tracts in the festival and explained that the prohibition was ‘by our orders.’ Owen asked for her name, and she replied: ‘Slomka, write it down.’ Owen advised that he believed the tracts to be free speech; nonplussed, Officer Slomka reiterated that they couldn’t hand out tracts there and had to go outside of the festival area to continue with their expressive activity.”

Then, “Owen inquired as to whether they would be arrested if they continued to hand out tracts in the festival area, to which, Officer Slomka replied: ‘Yes.’”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.