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Citizens jailed for religious speech on Bourbon Street

Charlie Butts   ( Thursday, October 04, 2012

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is suing New Orleans over an ordinance that violates the constitutional right of free speech.

Joe La Rue, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, tells OneNewsNow what the city has done is to, in effect, criminalize any religious speech on Bourbon Street at night.

"So you and I could be walking down the street, for instance, and we could be talking about just about anything and we'd be fine," he says. "But if you turned to me or I turned to you and said, 'God bless you,' we could be arrested, we could be subject to fines and we could be imprisoned for up to six months."

Several people have been cited and jailed for violating the ordinance. ADF represents one such person, a New Orleans pastor named Paul Gros, who was not arrested because he heeded a police officer's warning to shut up. La Rue says the officer's instructions are patently unconstitutional.

"And this is the problem," he remarks. "A lot of people just don't realize that religious speech is just as important and just as protected by the Constitution as any other type of speech, and it's really sad that we have to bring this type of lawsuit to make that point."

Previously, Gros had gone to Bourbon Street two evenings a week -- for over three decades -- to share the gospel. ADF is asking the court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional so their client and anyone else can engage in free speech in the popular tourist area.

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