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Blind woman banned from Rhode Island park over sharing Christian faith can return

Blind woman banned from Rhode Island park over sharing Christian faith can return

The Westerly Library and Wilcox Park of Westerly, Rhode Island, which is overseen by the Memorial and Library Association. | Facebook/Westerly Library & Wilcox Park

A blind woman who was banned from a Rhode Island park after sharing her Christian faith with others will be able to return to the park, following litigation.

Last year, Gail Blair was barred from entering Westerly Library and Wilcox Park by the Rhode Island Memorial and Library Association, which controls the public property.

First Liberty Institute, which helped represent Blair, announced Thursday that they had reached an agreement with the association to allow Blair to return and share her beliefs.

“We commend the Rhode Island’s Memorial and Library Association for resolving the case and recognizing our client’s religious liberty,” said Jeremy Dys of First Liberty in a statement. 

“Our client is thrilled that she can once again enter the park across the street from her home and talk with other visitors.”

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A former nurse who has been blind since 1991 due to a disorder, the 63-year-old Blair was known to share her faith and hand out copies of the Gospel of John to park visitors.

Last summer, library association officials banned Blair from coming to the park, claiming that she was trespassing and harassing park visitors when engaging in evangelism.

In June of this year, Blair filed a complaint against the association before the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, accusing them of discrimination.

“I do not follow people and harangue them. I do not argue with those who wish to end any conversation I might initiate. I do not carry around a can seeking donations for myself or for my church,” said Blair, as recorded in the complaint.

“From time to time I attempt to start a conversation with passersby, and if they are willing, I offer them a copy of the Gospel of John and explain my beliefs. I have had many positive interactions with men and women that I’ve met in this way.”

For their part, the association denied any wrongdoing in the matter, posting a statement to Facebook at the time in which it labeled Blair’s claims “one-sided” and “unsubstantiated.”

“We vehemently deny any claims of discrimination or wrongdoing. We do not engage in nor tolerate any forms of discrimination,” they stated back in June.

“All proper procedures and policies are followed in regards to any and all incidents that take place on our property … We remain committed to serving all patrons and the surrounding communities with upmost honor and dignity.”

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In addition to being a reporter, Michael Gryboski has also had a novel released titled Memories of Lasting Shadows. For more information, click here.  

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