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Rutherford Institute Attorneys File Lawsuit Over Philadelphia Activist Arrested for Distribution of Religious Materials

Contact: Nisha N. Mohammed, Rutherford Institute, 434-978-3888, ext. 604, Nisha@Rutherford.org

 

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 25 /Standard Newswire/ -- Rutherford Institute attorneys have filed a civil rights action in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania over the right of a Pennsylvania resident to peacefully distribute religious pamphlets on a public sidewalk. The complaint, filed on behalf of Raymond Frantz, charges that law enforcement officials violated Frantz’s First and Fourth Amendment rights to free speech and freedom from unreasonable seizures when they arrested him for attempting to distribute religious literature to passersby on a public sidewalk.

 

“The First Amendment right to distribute literature on public sidewalks is essential to freedom,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Without such freedom, the liberties our forefathers fought and died for will be lost.”

 

For over 15 years, Raymond Frantz has regularly distributed religious tracts on public sidewalks in Philadelphia, being careful not to block or impede access to pedestrian traffic, refraining from distributing literature to pedestrians who indicate they do not wish to receive it and cleaning up the area of distribution when he has finished leafleting. His lawsuit alleges that on April 9, 2005, while distributing leaflets, Frantz was approached by a police officer, who informed him that the local ordinance pertaining to the distribution of commercial and non-commercial handbills forbade handbilling and ordered him to cease distributing the leaflets. Frantz’s complaint alleges that the officer did not ask Frantz if he had reached the end of his day’s distribution of tracts, as required under the ordinance, but proceeded to arrest him for failing to clean up handbills within a 100 foot radius at the end of the day as required by a city ordinance. Although the charge against Frantz was ultimately dismissed, his complaint alleges that thereafter another officer threatened to arrest him for passing out religious tracts while on a city sidewalk.

 

Frantz claims he was exercising his right to free speech by passing out religious literature to those who were willing to receive it. In filing suit against the two police officers, Institute attorneys point out that the actions of the two police officers were unwarranted and violated Raymond Frantz’s First and Fourth Amendment rights to be free from speech censorship, free from unwarranted arrest and to equal protection of the law.

 

Founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.