Ohio City Grants Free Speech for Independence Day

by | Jul 13, 2011 | Charisma Archive

fireworks
Copyright Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez

An Akron, Ohio,
man was restored his civil liberties just in time for Independence
Day. City officials reversed course and allowed Christian man Jason
Robinson to peacefully share his faith near this year’s Fourth of
July fireworks show at a public park.

The decision came
after the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance of Christian
attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people
to freely live out their faith, sent the mayor a letter on Robinson’s
behalf. The letter urged the city not to violate Robinson’s
constitutional rights at the annual downtown fireworks display.

“Mr. Robinson
desires to convey his religious beliefs through activities protected
by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the
letter states. “Religious expression is speech and is entitled to
the same level of protection as other kinds of speech.”

Robinson and his
family began sharing their faith near the Akron fireworks show on
July 4, 2010, by displaying a sign with an image of Jesus and the
words “There is hope,” and handing out traditional gospel message
tracts.

Although the
family was peacefully expressing their beliefs on public sidewalks,
police prohibited them from doing so and threatened Robinson with
arrest if he did not stop. Out of fear of being arrested, Robinson
ceased activities.

“Christians
shouldn’t be silenced and threatened with arrest for attempting to
express their beliefs at a free public event on public property,”
says Jonathan Scruggs, ADF litigation staff counsel. “The city did
the right thing by directing police officers to stop restricting such
constitutionally protected expression. It was especially fitting on a
day when our nation celebrates its freedom.”

About a week
after ADF attorneys sent the letter to Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic,
he issued a directive on June 29 to police officers, stating that
they cannot restrict such expressive activities on streets or
sidewalks around the area. Robinson and his family were able to share
their faith at this year’s Akron Independence Day fireworks display
without incident.

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