Friday, June 24, 2016

UPDATE; City threatened with free speech lawsuit for Jesus ban

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2016 at 1:47 PM

UPDATE: Mountain Metro Transit just issued this statement on the advertising matter:
A recent citizen complaint about certain advertising on bus benches has caused City Transit staff to undertake careful review of both the advertising and Transit’s current advertising policy in relation to the requirements of the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The Establishment Clause prohibits the endorsement of a specific religion or its tenets. Transit is working with the Office of the City Attorney concerning the matter and Transit’s advertising policy going forward.
————————ORIGINAL POST 1:47 P.M. FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016—————————

A local pastor says his church's advertisements on transit benches using the word Jesus won't be allowed anymore, because by allowing the reference to Jesus, the city would also have to allow hate messages, he's been told.

"They had one complaint," says Lawson Perdue with Charis Christian Center, "and because of one complaint, they said they're not going to allow me to use the name of Jesus in my advertising any more. If they allow me to do that, they said, they would have to allow hate messaging. They told me I could advertise my church but not the name of Jesus."

Perdue says he's spoken with someone at the mayor's office who stood firm behind the decision by Metropolitan Mountain Transit in banning the Jesus signs. He's also talked with four City Council members, he says, all of whom were "horrified" by the exclusion.

Mayor John Suthers' spokesperson Jamie Fabos says the mayor's office referred Perdue to the transit office and never passed judgment on the question. Perdue didn't say he spoke with the mayor himself.

The bench messages have said "Celebrate JESUS," "Experience JESUS," and "JESUS is Lord."
  • Courtesy Charis Christian Center
  • Barbara and Lawson Perdue.
The messages appear on 30 benches around the city, Perdue says. His advertising contract expires at the end of June, and he learned of the city's decision to bar the word Jesus when he contacted the city to renew the contract.
Perdue has contacted a "national" lawfirm with a 90-percent win record at the Supreme Court, and the firm has agreed to take his case.

He'll probably win, says Mikey Weinstein, who leads the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which works toward removing the influence of religion in the military ranks. While Weinstein often finds himself fighting against fundamentalist Christians who he says want to impose their religion through the military chain of command, in this case, he stands with the Charis group.

An attorney himself, Weinstein says the Jesus messages are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

"I don't like that at all," Weinstein said when told of the city's ban against the name Jesus. "I think that's wrong. To me, this is a violation of their First Amendment rights. We would caution the city of Colorado Springs to prepare for a lawsuit. I don't think this is one they're going to win."

The danger, he says, is if you silence one faction of public expression, "where do you draw the line?"

Perdue says he doesn't agree with some messages he sees on signs, "but I'm not complaining."

"It's just crazy," he adds about the city's decision. "That's why our nation was founded."

The Indy contacted the city and Mountain Metro Transit requesting comments, we will update this posting if and when we hear back.

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