A street evangelist in Goldsboro, N.C., about 200 miles east of Charlotte, recently won a lawsuit solidifying his right to spread the gospel to anyone he chooses while he is in public.
Anthony Denham, a proud public evangelist in his local town, was given full permission on Tuesday to continue on his Christian work when his lawsuit against the city of Goldsboro passed. Previously, he had been told by a city police officer that he would need a permit to express his religious beliefs in public.
"No one should have to obtain a permit in order to talk about their beliefs in public," said Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Counsel Nate Kellum in a statement. "The city is to be commended now for agreeing to correct this and no longer apply the law in a way which violates the First Amendment rights of its citizens."
The contested incident occurred when Denham was handing out religious publications while on a street corner. He was then approached by a police officer who told him that he would need a permit to hand out Christian literature. After speaking to a major at the police department, the evangelist was told that it broke the city's ordinance on picketing.
When nobody could explain on what grounds the assertion was made, Denham went to ADF, a legal alliance that defends the right to hear and speak the "Truth," which immediately filed a lawsuit on Jan. 10.
Goldsboro court officials ultimately supported the evangelist's First Amendment right to share his faith publicly without obtaining a permit.
ADF feels the Denham v. City of Goldsboro case has more than an individual impact, but that many Christians will gain much from the case.
"Speech is protected under the First Amendment and cannot be restricted only to those who have a permit granted by the city. The First Amendment was created to keep speech free and protect speech that may be unpopular," added Kellum in a statement. "This settlement demonstrates that Goldsboro officials understand that and will no longer require permits for people to simply exercise their constitutional rights.
"That's good for the entire Christian community and, incidentally, for those of other viewpoints as well."