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Monday, May 11, 2009

News releases:  8/6/2010  |  5/12/2010  |  5/11/2009

No more Mt. ‘Hushmore’: Free speech preserved at national parks

ADF attorneys secure victory for religious expression in iconic American parks, monuments
Friday, August 06, 2010

WASHINGTON — A federal appellate court ruling declared Friday that federal regulations requiring individuals and groups to have permits in order to exercise their First Amendment rights in “free speech areas” and public forums at national parks and monuments are unconstitutional. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior on behalf of Michael Boardley after a ranger at Mount Rushmore National Memorial stopped him and others for passing out religious literature without a permit near the park’s visitor center.

“The First Amendment is the only permit a Christian or any American needs to engage in free speech on public property. The court was right to reach this conclusion,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. “Certainly, it made no sense to enforce unconstitutional regulations that deny free speech at the foot of Mount Rushmore--a place where four men who championed America’s freedoms are immortalized in stone.”

“It is unlawful to engage in expressive activities within any of this country’s 391 national parks unless a park official first issues a permit authorizing the activity. Michael Boardley argues this licensing scheme is overbroad and therefore unconstitutional on its face. We agree,” states the opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. “Requiring individuals and small groups to obtain permits before engaging in expressive activities within designated ‘free speech areas’ (and other public forums within national parks) violates the First Amendment…. We have no choice but to hold the regulations unconstitutional in their entirety.”

“This important decision means that Mr. Boardley and all Americans who visit our beautiful national parks and monuments will be able to exercise their free speech and religious expression rights without further unconstitutional barriers,” said ADF Legal Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker.

In August 2007, Boardley and a few others passed out gospel tracts near the front entrance of Mount Rushmore without incident or comment from park officials. The next day, a park ranger approached the small group and informed them that in order to distribute the tracts, they had to have a speech permit--which would have taken two days to obtain. Boardley returned home to Minnesota and made multiple requests for a permit, but the document never arrived. The park service did not grant Boardley a permit until ADF attorneys filed the federal lawsuit Boardley v. U.S. Department of the Interior with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in November 2007.

In March 2009, the district court found that a portion of one of the regulations challenged in the lawsuit was unconstitutional. However, ADF attorneys filed an appeal with the D.C. Circuit in May 2009 contesting the continued requirement that individuals, not just groups, must obtain a permit in advance before engaging in free speech or distributing literature in designated areas of national parks across the country. Friday’s decision in the lawsuit reversed the district court’s ruling that upheld the problematic regulations.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. 

www.adfmedia.org | twitter.com/adfmedia

 

ADF attorneys available to media after hearing over free speech censorship at national parks

Mt. Rushmore situation sparked lawsuit over requirement that individuals obtain permit to exercise First Amendment rights at national parks, monuments
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WHO: ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum and ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker

WHAT: Available for media interviews following hearing in Boardley v. U.S. Department of the Interior

WHEN: Thursday, May 13, immediately after hearing, which begins at 9:30 a.m. EDT

WHERE: U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, East Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, 333 Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington

WASHINGTON — Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Nate Kellum and ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker will be available for media interviews Thursday following a hearing in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior, brought by a Christian man kept from sharing his faith at Mt. Rushmore National Park in South Dakota.

ADF attorneys filed suit on behalf of Michael Boardley after a National Park Service ranger stopped him and others for passing out religious literature without a permit near the park’s visitor center. In the appeal, ADF attorneys are asking the D.C. Circuit to review federal regulations requiring individual persons, not just groups, to apply for a permit before exercising their First Amendment rights in designated areas of national parks and monuments across the country.

“The First Amendment is the permit for a Christian or any American to engage in free speech on public property,” said Kellum. “It’s ironic that the National Park Service denied freedom of speech at the foot of Mt. Rushmore, where four men who represent America’s freedoms are immortalized in stone.”

In August 2007, Boardley and a few others passed out gospel tracts near the front entrance of Mt. Rushmore without incident or comment from park officials. The next day, a park ranger approached them and informed them that to distribute the tracts they had to have a speech permit, which would have taken two days to obtain. Boardley returned home to Minnesota and made multiple requests for a permit, but the permit never arrived. The park service did not grant Boardley a permit until ADF attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in November 2007.

 

In March 2009, the district court found that one of the regulations challenged in the lawsuit was unconstitutional. However, ADF attorneys filed an appeal with the D.C. Circuit in May 2009 over the continued requirement that individuals, not just groups, must obtain a permit in advance before they may engage in speech or distribute literature in designated areas of national parks.

“The government cannot require small groups and individuals to obtain a permit before exercising their constitutional rights,” said Hacker. “We hope this appeal will restore free speech and religious freedom not just for Mr. Boardley, but for others visiting national parks and monuments as well.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. 

www.adfmedia.org | twitter.com/adfmedia

 

ADF attorneys ask for free speech to be restored at U.S. national parks

ADF attorneys ask court to review regulations used to silence Christian at Mt. Rushmore
Monday, May 11, 2009

WASHINGTON — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a notice of appeal Monday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Boardley v. U.S. Department of the Interior, asking the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review federal regulations that require even individuals to apply for a permit before exercising their First Amendment rights in designated areas of national parks across the country.  ADF filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Minnesota man prohibited from passing out religious literature near the visitor’s center at Mt. Rushmore National Park.

“The First Amendment is our permit to engage in free speech on public property,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Heather Gebelin Hacker.  “It’s unbelievable that the National Park Service would deny freedom of speech at our national parks, especially at the foot of Mt. Rushmore, where four men who represent America’s freedoms are immortalized.”

On Aug. 9, 2007, Michael Boardley and a few other individuals passed out gospel tracts near the front entrance of Mt. Rushmore without incident or comment from park officials.  The next day, a park ranger approached them and informed them that they had to have a speech permit.  Without the permit, they could not distribute the tracts, but it would take two days to obtain one.  After Boardley returned home, he made multiple requests for a permit, but the permit never arrived.  The Park Service did not grant Mr. Boardley a permit until after ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit on Nov. 2, 2007.

On March 17, 2009, the district court found that one of the regulations challenged in the lawsuit facially violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.  The focus of the appeal is the regulations’ requirement that even individuals must obtain a permit in advance before they may engage in speech in designated areas of national parks.

“The government cannot require small groups and individuals to obtain a permit before exercising their constitutional rights,” said Hacker.  “It is our hope that this appeal will restore free speech and religious freedom not just for Mr. Boardley, but for others visiting national parks and monuments as well.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. 

www.telladf.org