NATCHITOCHES, LA - The ACLU's free speech lawsuit on behalf of Christian protestor Edwin Crayton forced the City of Natchitoches to repeal the unconstitutional ordinances in question, which prompted a final consent judgment affirming that Mr. Crayton's rights were violated. Federal district court Dee Drell signed off on the agreed order last Thursday.
"We celebrate the victory for free speech and applaud the wise decision of Natchitoches to repeal these ordinances, which were repugnant to the Constitution on their face, to every person in the city and as applied to Mr. Crayton," said Joe Cook, Executive Director, ACLU of Louisiana. "The City Council knew or should have known better than to put such a law on the books in the first place that effectively stifled free expression in public places."
In October of 2006, Mr. Crayton peacefully picketed for about 40 minutes on a public sidewalk in Natchitoches with a sign that said: "Christians: Wal-Mart Supports Gay Lifestyles And Marriage. Don't Shop There." He was then approached by a Natchitoches police officer who refused to allow him to continue protesting without obtaining a permit. Despite the passage of several weeks after application for a permit, the Mayor failed to approve Mr. Crayton's request, which resulted in the ACLU sponsored lawsuit on his behalf.
Then, in November, the court issued a preliminary order that prevented the City from requiring a permit of Mr. Crayton before protesting. Subsequently, the City repealed the offending ordinances, and agreed to an order declaring them unconstitutional. Additionally, Mr. Crayton was awarded $1 in nominal damages, which served as a symbolic acknowledgement of the harm done to him.
"Mr. Crayton brought this lawsuit to vindicate his right to be heard on a matter of great religious significance to him," said Katie Schwartzmann, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Louisiana. "He was never concerned about recovering money from the City. He just wanted the unconstitutional laws off of the books, and for the City to learn that it is unacceptable to interfere with someone's constitutional rights."
The ACLU is the oldest and foremost defender of civil liberties embodied in the Constitution. The ACLU defends the rights of individuals without regard to their beliefs or the message they convey, which may differ from the organization?s polices or positions.
ACLU cooperating attorney Jane Johnson and ACLU staff attorney Katie Schwartzmann served as counsel for Mr. Crayton.
See the Court's Order here.