City of St. Louis agrees to end unconstitutional literature distribution policy

ADF-allied attorney secures settlement, Christian ministry free to share faith at public park during annual ‘PrideFest’ events
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ST. LOUIS — The city of St. Louis has agreed to scrap a problematic literature distribution policy after a federal court ordered the city to stop enforcing it as part of a lawsuit filed by an Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney. The policy was used to prohibit members of a Christian ministry from distributing literature and speaking about their religious viewpoint at an annual “PrideFest” event that celebrates homosexual behavior.  The ministry filed a voluntary dismissal of its lawsuit Wednesday after reaching an agreement with the city.

“Christian groups shouldn’t be banned from public areas for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF-allied attorney Rick Nelson of the American Liberties Institute, who served as lead counsel in the lawsuit. “We are pleased that the city of St. Louis now recognizes the First Amendment rights of ministries who wish to share their viewpoint on important social and moral issues at events taking place at public locations.”

In June 2006, members of Apple of His Eye Ministries were threatened with arrest by St. Louis officials for handing out Christian literature and speaking about their faith at Tower Grove Park during the annual PrideFest event. In April 2008, Nelson filed a lawsuit and a motion for preliminary injunction on behalf of the ministry against the city of St. Louis. The court issued the preliminary injunction to prohibit enforcement of the city policy last June, four days before the 2008 PrideFest event began.

The court then issued a permanent injunction two weeks before the PrideFest event in June 2009, which allowed members of the ministry to express their viewpoint at the park this year. The order protects the ministry’s literature distribution activities in the future at all public parks, public squares, and other public places within the city of St. Louis--including public sidewalks.

The lawsuit, Apple of His Eye v. City of St. Louis, was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division.

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.