Park Service Reverses Decision, Allows Bible Distribution at Farmer's Market

A woman who was told by a park ranger that she could no longer offer free Bibles at her Louisiana farmer's market stand will now be allowed to do so after a letter from Liberty Counsel helped cause the National Park Service to reverse its decision.

"I was really just elated," the woman, Shirley Elliott, told The Christian Post. "I was just happy that I could do what I felt like I needed to do, and what the Lord wants me to do."

Elliott says she always kept Bibles in her car to give to others, but found the Thibodaux Farmer's Market near Jean Lafitte National Historic Park to be an ideal place to offer them to shoppers. She has been selling produce and homemade jellies at the market since 2011, according to Liberty Counsel, and in 2012 she set out the books along with a sign indicating they were free.

But in December she was told by a park ranger that she could no longer offer the Bibles at her stand because "they were on federal property," and she was instructed that she could hand them out in a separate area designated for literature distribution. She later contacted Liberty Counsel about what had happened.

In March, Liberty Counsel attorney Richard Mast Jr. wrote a letter to Carol Clark, superintendent of the park, to explain why the park ranger's orders were "improper and unconstitutional."

Nonprofit organizations with missions pertaining to "education, youth, and/or nutrition," according to the market's regulations, are permitted to participate in the market and distribute information alongside the vendors. "A decision to allow free distribution of the things mentioned above, while disallowing and requiring the removal of Bibles and other religious literature … would be improper and discriminatory," said Mast.

Clark responded with a letter to Liberty Counsel in which she called the situation a "misunderstanding."

"The NPS (National Park Service) respects the right of vendors to make free religious materials available," wrote Clark. "Please assure Ms. Elliott that she is welcome to offer free Bibles at her produce and homemade jellies table."

Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, said that his organization is grateful for the Park Service's reversal.

"Thankfully, Ms. Elliott did not allow herself to be bullied by those who want to remove Christianity from the public square," said Staver. "It is the right of every American to advocate a religious viewpoint. Offering books or literature to willing recipients is protected by the First Amendment. Mere disagreement with the content of the speech is not sufficient to deny those constitutional rights."

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