A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction to the city of Los Angeles this week defending a Jews for Jesus member's right to free speech.
Cyril Gordon, the street evangelist who had been arrested outside an event in a public park, was supported by the court which backed his First Amendment right to pass out religious material.
"Although he was not interfering with the event, he was arrested anyway for trespassing," explained Frederick H. Nelson, attorney at the American Liberties Institute, in a statement. "We are glad that the judge saw this for what it was: content-based discrimination."
The arrest had occurred on May 7, 2006 while Gordon and fellow defendant and ministry member Tuvya Zaretsky were passing out Jews for Jesus literature outside an event held at Los Angeles' Woodley Park, where people were celebrating Israel Independence Day. Although the two had remained outside the fenced area that set apart the event from the rest of the park, police asked them to cease their activities.
Gordon was taken into custody after he was put under citizen's arrest by one of the festival's organizers on trespassing charges. The charges were dropped, however, after the defendant was required to post bail.
As part of the injunction, the judge ruled Monday that the police had wrongly arrested Gordon, and ensured that the Jews for Jesus' rights will be upheld in future incidences.
According to the court's report, "First Amendment rights to distribute literature outside the Festival must be respected, regardless of any protest by Festival organizers."
"There is no such thing as second-class religious speech," added Nelson. "As the court found, Mr. Gordon was simply exercising his constitutional right to share his faith.
According to Jews for Jesus, the evangelical ministry with a focus on Jews had handed out information at the event for the past 5 years. Nelson, along with William J. Becker, Jr., of the Becker Law Firm, had filed the lawsuit to the federal court following the 2006 incident, so that the ministry would be able to hand out literature at this year's event.
"This is a major victory for free speech, not only for Jews for Jesus, but for all other groups who wish to proclaim their faith," said Becker in a statement. "We are thankful that Mr. Gordon, Mr. Zaretsky, and their fellow believers will be free to exercise their constitutional rights at this year's event."