Monday, April 26, 2021

Cutoff of Pastor's City Council Invocation Did Not Violate 1st Amendment

In Gundy v. City of Jacksonville, Florida2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78850 (MD FL, March 22, 2021)-- decided last month but just available on Lexis-- a Florida federal district court dismissed a suit by a pastor who contended that City Council president Aaron Bowman improperly shut off plaintiff's microphone in the middle of the invocation that he was offering. Finding that plaintiff's 1st Amendment rights were not violated, the court said in part:

First, the Court finds Mr. Bowman's actions were not viewpoint discrimination. Mr. Bowman's comment when interrupting Plaintiff and the subsequent removal of Plaintiff's amplification were for the stated purpose of preserving the invocation for its intended purpose. That purpose, according to the City, was to maintain "a tradition of solemnizing its proceedings . . . for the benefit and blessing of the Council." ...

During his invocation, Plaintiff's remarks were at times objectively disparaging of the City Council and the incumbent administration.... While the remarks might have been entirely appropriate if delivered in a more public forum or even Plaintiff's pulpit, they were subject to the reasonable and viewpoint-neutral limitations set by the City for the invocation period — a nonpublic forum.

Plaintiff has filed an appeal. Florida Politics has additional background on the case.