SF College Allows Jews for Jesus to Spread Message Without Permits

The City College of San Francisco has agreed to settle a lawsuit and allow Jews for Jesus to distribute literature on its campus without a permit.

According to a judgment issued Wednesday by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Robert Wertheim and Jews for Jesus accepted a settlement offer by the community college that includes compensation and modified regulations regarding solicitation and distribution.

"We are pleased that the City College of San Francisco will allow free speech on its campuses in accord with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," said Frederick Nelson of the American Liberties Institute, which filed suit on behalf of Jews for Jesus.

The suit was filed against the college and the associate dean of Student Activities in 2008 after Wertheim, who heads the San Francisco branch of the ministry, was allegedly arrested by campus police for distributing literature without a permit on Ocean Campus.

The Jews for Jesus employee had been approached by security officers multiple times in 2007 and 2008 demanding that he either show a permit or cease his activities. Each time, he left the campus.

On April 3, 2008, however, Wertheim refused to comply when he was approached by campus police officers again, believing that the permit requirement violated his constitutional rights. He was arrested and held at the San Francisco County Jail for several hours before charges were dropped the following day.

"Christians shouldn't be arrested for expressing their beliefs on public college campuses," said Nelson.

The suit claims that Wertheim's free speech, free exercise and due process rights were violated. The defendants denied the allegations.

District regulations on the college's Ocean Campus required off-campus organizations and individuals to submit a request form for distributing literature and wait to be approved. Once approved, a copy of the permission granted form had to be with the solicitor at all times.

According to the settlement, the district has modified regulations to no longer require an application or approval process. The solicitor need only to inform the Office of Student Activities of their presence on campus. Their activities must also be limited to specified areas on Ocean Campus.

Jews for Jesus is based in San Francisco and currently has eight branches in the United States. Their mission is "to make the messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to our Jewish people worldwide."