Judge OKs Bible Distribution on Sidewalk Outside School

A Florida federal judge upheld the constitutional rights of a member of Gideons International Wednesday, allowing him to resume passing out Bibles on a public sidewalk outside a school until his case is resolved.

Christian legal group Alliance Defense Fund filed a suit in April on behalf of Thomas Gray, who was threatened with arrest by sheriffs alleging that he had "no right" to distribute Bibles within 500 feet of the school. In the suit, Gray is challenging the constitutionality of the Florida statute.

The district court on Wednesday granted a motion for preliminary injunction on the disputed statute, thereby prohibiting the state from enforcing it.

"It is in the public interest to protect to constitutional freedoms," wrote U.S. District Court judge K. Michael Moore in the written ruling.

Gray and other members of Gideons Key Largo Camp never stepped on school grounds when they passed out Bibles during their evangelistic activity on Jan. 19. The group even notified the Monroe County Sheriff's Office of their plans ahead of time and school officials on the day of the distribution. Both had agreed to allow the activity.

But Monroe County sheriffs later arrested two Gideon members for being within the school's safety zone.

Attorneys with ADF contend Gray and other Christians have a constitutional right to express their faith on public property.

"Christians are not second-class citizens under the Constitution when it comes to free speech," said ADF senior legal counsel David Cortman Thursday.

"We are pleased that Mr. Gray will have the opportunity to continue his activities without fear of harassment or arrest while the lawsuit moves forward."

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