Thursday, June 23, 2005

Christian-Rights Group Sues Colorado Library over Meeting Space

Christian-Rights Group Sues Colorado Library over Meeting Space. It really does not help libraries or librarians when people believe we are taking sides in the culture wars and not playing fair. We can all have our own beliefs and comment on them just like everyone else. However, libraries and library organizations should make every effort to appear even-handed. We should be reaching out and serving all our patrons (not just politically correct ones). Here is Part VII of the ALA Bill of Rights - "Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use." I think the Rampart Library District is violating the ALA Bill fo Rights in this situation.

From the site:

Liberty Counsel, a legal defense organization based in Orlando, Florida, that takes on religious-rights cases, filed a lawsuit June 16 in U.S. District Court against the Rampart Library District near Colorado Springs over its meeting-room policy.

Members of the group had twice applied to use the community room of the Woodland Park Library in late May and early June in order to “present a biblical perspective on marriage and homosexuality” that would include prayer and scripture reading. However, the library denied the requests because its policy stipulates that religious or political meetings “must provide a balanced view.”

Liberty Counsel President Mathew D. Staver called the policy “shamefully ridiculous” and commented, “This library policy would require the NAACP to invite the KKK to present its view on civil rights.” In the past several years, Staver has successfully argued cases against libraries in Texas, Florida, and Wisconsin for refusing to allow religious groups to meet.

Tom James, counsel for the library district, said in the June 17 Denver Rocky Mountain News that the library stood by its policy. “The district believes it has a reasonable and lawful policy to the use of its meeting rooms,” he said.


Anonymous said...

I spent 109 days in jail. I know that there are misguided Street Preachers (like Saul before he was Paul). I read that JESUS was a friend of the sinner. How can we win anyone if we are yelling at them? JESUS said the world is already condemned.

ACLU Defends Portales Street Preacher FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, August 4th, 2005 CONTACT: Peter Simonson, Executive Director, ACLU of New Mexico at 505-266-4622 or (cell) 505-620-0775 Portales--Some deft legal work by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico succeeded in freeing street preacher Shawn Miller from the Roosevelt County jail yesterday. Portales police arrested Miller for disorderly conduct on April 17th because allegedly he was yelling at passing cars. Miller maintains that he was merely “preaching the word of God.”

ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson said, “Mr. Miller has a guaranteed right to stand on a street corner and proclaim his faith in God to all who pass by. He wasn’t harassing or intimidating anyone. He certainly should not have spent time under lock and key for such a minor incident.” The ACLU became involved after Miller’s wife, Theresa, sent a letter requesting assistance. She and her two children had been with Miller on the day he was arrested. He was preaching in the lot of an abandoned gas station that is commonly used by street vendors. “I was preaching the word of God and not hurting anybody,” said Miller. The ACLU’s defense of Miller produced an unlikely collaboration with the American Family Association, a group that is at times at odds with ACLU positions. Attorneys from both groups consulted with each other and Miller, working together to defend him on First Amendment grounds. “Both organizations are highly principled in their philosophies and policy positions,” said ACLU Staff Attorney George Bach. “Where those principles overlap, we are eager to collaborate.” Miller was released on bond and still faces charges of disorderly conduct, in addition to resisting arrest. And in two newspapers:

My wife, our two children, and I had been going for three months to this same abandoned gas station without any incident. We were simply having a quiet Bible study on Sunday morning. The bank across the street is closed. There are two churches (Baptist & Methodist) on opposite corners from us. There is a minimal amount of car traffic and no pedestrian traffic. We are NOT there to be heard. We are simply there trying to let our light shine. We are NOT yelling at anyone because there is no one around. Sure, cars pass and see us, but there is no way we are disturbing them since we are 15 feet away from the sidewalk. This police officer decided to pick on us that day for some unknown reason. Officer Smart, Officer Wilson, and an animal control officer were in the parking lot adjacent to us at about 9:45 and they stayed for about 20-30 minutes. Then they all left.

A sheriff's deputy watched us for about five minutes a week that day. Many police cars had driven by throughout the previ ous months WITHOUT incident. Officer Smart then came back at 11:05. I went over to him and extended my hand and said, "What is the problem, officer?" He said, "You need to tone it down." I said, "I am preaching to my family and we are not bothering anyone. This is free speech and you can not stop me." He said, "We have been getting phone calls about you pointing and yelling at cars." I said, "I was not yelling at cars and was not pointing and I was not bothering anyone. This is free speech and you can not stop me. If you have a problem with me being on this property, I will go to the sidewalk." He said, "I do not have a problem with you being here, you just need to tone it down." I said, "If you are going to arrest me, I am going to go to the sidewalk because it is public property." So I went to the sidewalk (for the first time). By this time, Officer Wilson arrived. Officer Smart looked at Officer Wilson as I was walking away to the sidewalk and they both shrugged. I was standing on the sidewalk looking at the officers. Officer Smart said, "Come back here." I did not want to get arrested for trespassing, so I stayed where I was. I said, "No, I am staying on the sidewalk because it is public property." He then came towards me. I have seen the TV show "COPS." I thought it best to get on my knees and put my hands in the air to show that I was not resisting arrest. At this time, a University police officer also drove up. So, there were three police cars at this abandoned gas station, obviously causing much attention and causing people to rubberneck. Officer Smart came and handcuffed me and took me to his car. I said, "There are drug dealers and bars in this town and people getting killed, but that’s ok, I'll gladly be arrested for preaching the Gospel." When I got to his car, I asked, "Why am I being arrested?" He said, "For disorderly conduct and obstruction. You can not walk away from me if I am asking you questions."

Here is a list of disputable statements that Officer Smart made in his statement of probable cause when he arrested Shawn on April 17:
(1) Officer Smart states that at approximately 1105 hours he was dispatched to 2nd St. and Ave C in reference to a subject “yelling” at vehicles driving by: --Officer Smart’s statement does not mention anything about being at the self-pay gas station next to where we were earlier that morning; he doesn’t state why he was there at that time: was he dispatched, or was he there out of his own choice? --Was Officer Smart dispatched as a result of a 911 call? Is there a recording of the call or can a transcript of the conversation be obtained?
(2) Officer Smart states Shawn was “standing in the area”: --What area exactly was Shawn standing in?
(3) Officer Smart states Shawn appeared to be attempting to call out to vehicle occupants as the drove by: --Shawn was facing Matthew, Michelle, and me as we sat in a semi-circle in our folding chairs facing him. The three of us had our backs to 2nd St. and Shawn was facing the street, but we were between him and the street. Officer Smart would have been able to see that Shawn was talking to us because he pulled into the abandoned gas station parking lot right next to where our chairs were positioned and where Shawn was standing. Officer Smart would have been able to see that we were interacting with Shawn as well as Shawn talking to us.
(4) Officer Smart states he attempted to advise him of his presence: --How exactly was he attempting to advise Shawn of his presence? Shawn was aware of Officer Smart’s presence; Shawn had walked over to Officer Smart’s police car when Officer Smart got out of his car.
(5) Officer Smart states he repeatedly told Shawn to calm down and listen and Shawn continued to get louder with his objections each time Officer Smart tried to discuss the issue: --What was the issue that Officer Smart was trying to discuss with Shawn? --The only thing Shawn told Officer Smart was that he had the right to free speech and he had the right to preach out on the streets.
(6) Officer Smart states Shawn walked back to the curb: --Shawn had never been at the curb to have walked back to it; Shawn has never stood on the curb during any of our street meetings.
(7) Officer Smart states that Shawn continued “yelling” out at vehicles: --There were only two things Shawn said when he was standing on the curb and both statements were to Officer Smart: 1) He told Officer Smart he had the right to preach on the sidewalk because it was public property; 2) When Officer Smart told Shawn to come back to where he was, Shawn told Officer Smart that he would stay on the sidewalk because it was public property (in Officer Smart’s statement, he doesn’t even mention this part of the conversation with Shawn) --Shawn did not yell anything out to the vehicles that were passing; his comments were only directed at Officer Smart.
(8) Officer Smart states that he once again advised Shawn to stop and at that point he got down on his knees and began waving his arms above his head: --Shawn got on his knees and raised his hands over his head as soon as Officer Smart took a step toward him to let Officer Smart know he was not resisting him or anything. Shawn was not waving his hands over his head; and the only thing he said when he got to his knees was that he had the right to preach on the sidewalk.
(9) Officer Smart states that as Shawn’s actions were disrupting the flow of traffic he advised Shawn if he did not stop he would arrest him and Shawn’s reaction was “I don‘t have to listen to you”: --Officer Smart never told Shawn that if he didn’t stop he would arrest him; Officer Smart just walked over to where Shawn was on the sidewalk, got out his handcuffs, and arrested him. --As previously stated, the only thing Shawn said when he was on his knees was that he had the right to preach on the sidewalk. Two other quick points concerning Officer Smart: (1) Officer Smart did not read Shawn his Miranda Rights; you can see that on the arrest report and Shawn has stated that he was not read his rights. (2) Officer Smart does not mention his conversation with me: after he arrested Shawn and put him in the back of his police car, Officer Smart handed me Shawn’s keys and told me Shawn was being arrested for obstruction. He said when someone complains, he has to do something about it. I told Officer Smart that Shawn was not yelling at the passing cars; the four of us were simply having our bible study out here on the streets. Officer Smart then told me he had no problem with us practicing religion on the streets but people can’t walk away from him when he’s talking to them. From my standpoint, it appears that Officer Smart got mad that Shawn walked away from him to the curb.

The trial of a Portales street preacher accused of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest has been set for Jan. 27.
Shawn Miller, 33, was arrested on April 17. Roosevelt County Magistrate Court Judge Jane Martin is presiding over the case and presided over Miller’s pre-trial conference on Wednesday afternoon.

Miller was released in early August from the Roosevelt County Detention Center after more than three months in custody. He posted a $3,000 appearance bond.

Miller is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Portales Police Department officer Charles Smart was dispatched at 11:05 a.m. on April 17 in reference to a subject yelling at passing vehicles.

Miller repeatedly told Smart he didn’t have to listen to him because he was preaching the word of God and wasn’t doing anything wrong, according to the police incident report. Miller walked away from the police officer and continued yelling out at vehicles when he was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Authorities have said Miller's preaching was creating a disturbance to passing motorists, and he was arrested because he did not give a responding officer any opportunity to remedy the situation.

On Wednesday, Miller said he doesn’t believe he was treated fairly during his arrest. He said he had to sit in jail for 109 days.

“If it wasn’t for the ACLU, I’d still be in jail,” Miller said. “The whole thing is a joke. I thank God for my wife. I give my wife a lot of credit for believing in me. She kept calling and e-mailing the ACLU.”

Miller has at times held a sign and preached on the Roosevelt County Courthouse in front of Portales City Hall. Miller chants his messages to drivers on First Street. He said his sign reads, “Where is God in Portales?”

“We have constitutional rights,” Miller said. “I was not doing anything. I wasn’t bothering anybody. I had never been arrested until I got to this town.”

Miller said jail wasn’t a “pleasant” place to be in, but he kept his faith in God.

“The whole experience concerned me,” Miller said. “God revealed himself to me while I was in jail and encouraged me. God has blessed me and my family.”

I now cannot get a job in Pensacola, Florida. Every time they run a background check, it comes back with this court case pending. No one wants to hire me. Can you please help me? I was not doing anything, and I do not know why they are doing this to me.

George Bach A.C.L.U. Attorney: (505) 243-0046
Mike DePrimo & Steve Crampton A.F.A. Attorneys: (662) 680-3886
Shawn Miller
2470 Trailwood Dr.
Cantonment, FL 32533
(850) 476-8368

Anonymous said...