Religious Liberties Banned in Florida

23 07 2007

Filed under: Orange County FL, Cypress Grove Park, Religious Liberties, First Amendment

Shirley Snyder, an Orange County, Florida, resident, had her First Amendment rights violated by authorities when they prevented her from distributing flyers in a public park inviting park-goers to attend an Easter service at her church. Snyder has filed suit.

The suit filed Friday by the Liberty Counsel in federal court in Orlando alleges that on April 1, park employees at Cypress Grove Park violated Shirley J. Snyder’s religious and free-speech rights guaranteed by both the U.S. Constitution and Florida law.

A copy of Orange County’s parks and recreation rules affirms Snyder’s claim that she and others are prohibited from handing out religious material or any notices of assembly at the park on Holden Avenue.

The suit alleges that a park employee told Snyder that she could submit written copies of her material and obtain permission after a review, but that is not part of the written policy.

Liberty Counsel filed the lawsuit against Orange County, Florida.

Snyder spoke with the park supervisor, who gave her a copy of the Parks and Recreation Department Rules and Regulations. The supervisor told her not to distribute literature again until she followed the rules and regulations which required permission to distribute literature in public parks. The supervisor told her to submit a copy of the literature along with a written request containing the specific days she wishes to hand out literature and the means of distribution. A committee would review her request and grant or deny permission.

The county’s rules violate Snyder’s constitutionally protected right to free expression. Of all places, speech in public parks is highly protected, both by history and by the courts.

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “In America, we do not need permission from a government committee prior to mechanically handing a flyer to a willing recipient in a public park. The government cannot create speech-free zones in public parks. Protecting private religious expressing was the motivating factor behind the First Amendment. The voice of freedom is most at home in public parks.”

If this person were handing out flyers educating the public on global warming, increasing tolerance for homosexuality or a woman’s right to choose, I’d bet that park officials would ignore it out of either contempt or fear. Either way, liberty and freedom of speech prevail. But not with religious liberties. Those are negotiable and “adapt” since that portion of the Constitution is a “living,” “breathing” document. Liberals never cease to amaze.




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