Pastor seeking to share Gospel on Bourbon Street sues over religious speech ban

Michelle Keahey Oct. 1, 2012, 3:42am

NEW ORLEANS - A New Orleans Pastor has filed a lawsuit the City of New Orleans for enforcing a city ordinance that prohibits religious, political, and social speech on Bourbon Street after dark.

Paul Gros filed the lawsuit against the city and Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu on Sept. 20 in federal court in New Orleans.

According to the complaint, the New Orleans City Code places a fine and possible prison time for those who violate the city ordinance by engaging in the prohibited conduct. The violation can result in a misdemeanor conviction and fine of not more than $500 with a possible imprisonment of six months in jail, the suit says.

Gros is pastor of Vieux Carre Assembly of God Church, located on Daupine Street, which is in the French Quarter and one block from Bourbon Street.

The suit says that for the past 30 years, Pastor Gros has shared his Christian faith with those in the French Quarter community.

"Because Pastor Gros firmly believes a large number of people found on Bourbon Street at night need to have saving faith in Jesus Christ, he wants to go there at that time and share the gospel message with them," the lawsuit states.

The New Orleans religious speech ban was adopted by the New Orleans City Council and approved in Oct. 2011.

Gros argues that the ban is unconstitutional and in violation of Gros's right to freedom of speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Additional defendants include Stacy Head, Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, Susan G. Guidry, Diana Bajoie, Kristin G. Palmer, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, Ernest F. Charbonnet, in their official capacity as Council members for New Orleans City Council, Ronal Serpas, in his official capacity as Superintendent for the New Orleans Police Department, and M.J. Field, individually and in his official capacity as Police Officer for the New Orleans Police Department.

The plaintiff is asking the Court to declare that the ordinance is unconstitutional and violates Gros's right of freedom of speech, enter an injunction stopping the defendants from restricting the defendants from applying the ordinance, and for an award of damages, court costs, and attorney's fees.

Gros is represented by Nate Kellum of Center for Religious Expression in Memphis, Tennessee, R. Bradley Lewis in Bogalusa, and Joseph E. La Rue of Allian Defending Freedom in Scottsdale, Arizona.

U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:12-cv-02322

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