Thursday, June 19, 2014

Convictions of Anti-Gay Pride Protesters Reversed

In Faust v. State of Texas, (TX Ct. App., June 12, 2014), a Texas state appeals court reversed the convictions of two members of the Kingdom Baptist Church who were charged with interference with public duties.  The convictions grew out of the church members' attempt at a gay pride parade to cross a police line formed to keep a distance between KBC protesters and the parade. The court said in part:
The skirmish line at issue here was not narrowly tailored to serve the government’s interest in public safety. All members of the church were barred from proceeding down the street regardless of whether they had previously assaulted parade-goers or not, whether they were yelling profanity or threatening words or not, or whether they were even protesting at all. Although there was evidence that the police department had received complaints about the church’s “street preaching” many times in the past, the only evidence the church had ever reached beyond the boundaries of protected speech was that one of their members, Chad Sutherland, had assaulted a parade participant at the 2011 parade. There was no evidence that Sutherland was with the church members at the 2012 parade, that any of the members present at the 2012 parade were involved with the 2011 assault, or that any of the members present were threatening any parade-goers with imminent physical injury. ....
The skirmish line prohibited all members of the church from exercising their right of free speech merely because of their association with the church. This is far too broad a limitation.... Although we do not believe that the police were required to wait until violence erupted before they stepped in, we do believe there must have been some indication that the public’s safety was at risk beyond the history of one assault by a member of the organization who may not even have been present at the time the skirmish line was in place..... Because the skirmish line was not narrowly tailored, it was an unconstitutional infringement upon Appellants’ right of free speech.
Christian News reports on the decision.