Ohio man’s speech set free on Independence DayADF letter sparks City of Akron to allow Christian man, his family to share faith on public sidewalks during fireworks display at public park
Monday, July 11, 2011
ADF attorney sound bite (7/11/11): Jonathan Scruggs
“Christians shouldn’t be silenced and threatened with arrest for attempting to express their beliefs at a free public event on public property,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Jonathan Scruggs. “The city did the right thing by directing police officers to stop restricting such constitutionally protected expression. It was especially fitting on a day when our nation celebrates its freedom.”
On July 4, 2010, Robinson, his wife, and their children began sharing their faith near the Akron fireworks show by displaying a sign with an image of Jesus and the words “There is hope” and by handing out traditional Gospel message tracts. They peacefully expressed their beliefs on public sidewalks close to the public park where the free event took place, yet a police officer threatened to arrest Robinson if he did not stop, insisting that the fireworks display was considered a private event. Robinson ceased his expressive activities out of fear of arrest.
Approximately one week after ADF attorneys sent the mayor of Akron a letter urging the city not to violate Robinson’s constitutional rights at the annual downtown fireworks display, the mayor issued a directive last month on June 29 to Akron police officers, stating that they cannot restrict such expressive activities on streets or sidewalks around the area. This came just in time for Robinson and his family to share their faith at this year’s Akron Independence Day fireworks display, which they did without incident.
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.