Seventh-Day Adventists Granted Permission to Solicit Residents as 'Permit Lawsuit' Progresses

The city of Alabaster, Ala., is temporarily permitting Seventh-day Adventists to solicit residents without a permit while the federal lawsuit filed by the Christian group goes through court proceedings.

The South Central Conference of Seventh-day Adventists filed a July 13 lawsuit against the City of Alabaster challenging two 1994 city ordinances that require those soliciting door to door to first register and pay license fees.

The religious group decided to file the lawsuit after a member of its Summer Student Missionary Program was ticketed on June 27 by an Alabaster police officer for selling religious texts door to door without a permit.

According to the lawsuit, the South Center Conference of Seventh-day Adventists are arguing that this requirement is a violation of their religious freedom and free speech.

"The City of Alabaster has enacted two sweeping ordinances that unconstitutionally restrict the exchange of beliefs and religious principles within the Alabaster city limits," the lawsuit states (pdf).

At the Hugo L. Black U.S. Courthouse in downtown Birmingham, U.S. District Judge Karon O. Bowdre ruled on July 18 that the Seventh-day Adventists may continue to solicit while the court case continues, saying that a verdict could be reached as late as March, according to The Birmingham News.

In response to the filing of the lawsuit, city attorney Jeffrey Brumlow issued this statement Monday afternoon, according to Birmingham's Fox 6 WRBC:

"Both Alabama state law governing door-to-door charitable solicitation, and the ordinances of the city governing the same, have been and will continue to be applied neutrally to all individuals and groups who solicit sales and charitable contributions door-to-door within the city, as well as paid solicitors for nonprofit organizations and groups.".

"The city does not and will not tolerate any form of discrimination against any group or individual on any basis," Brumlow added.

The Seventh-day Adventists restarted their Summer Student Missionary Program on Thursday, after Judge Bowdre made her temporary ruling.

The Summer Student Missionary Program involves young Seventh-day Adventists traveling in groups to pre-designated neighborhoods. The groups go door-to-door, offering free literature on their faith in an attempt to evangelize.