Seattle court vindicates free speech rights of public evangelist
Seattle, WA—A Seattle court last week rescinded a restraining order against an outdoor evangelist, after Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) raised concerns about its restrictions on free speech.
Matthew Meinecke, a public evangelist who frequently travels across the country to preach on public sidewalks, received an anti-harassment order forbidding him from returning to the public forums where he regularly preaches around downtown Seattle. The manager of a t-shirt shop in downtown Seattle secured this anti-harassment order against Meinecke, stating that Meinecke’s speech made the manager “exhausted” and “residually angry.” The potentially year-long restraining order barred Meinecke from preaching anywhere within 1,000 feet of this manager whose identity was unknown to him.
PJI’s Washington State pro bono attorney, Tracy Tribbett, represented Meinecke in court, arguing that the restraining order violated precedent and that the court must examine free speech rights under not only the U.S. Constitution but also the Washington Constitution which affords even stronger free speech protections.
The King County District Court judge found no evidence to support the allegations made against Meinecke in the anti-harassment order and absolved Meinecke from all restrictions on his speech.
“The freedoms afforded citizens under the First Amendment and the Washington Constitution have been upheld, and justice prevailed,” Tribbett stated. “In the fight against censorship, these victories at the civil level between private individuals are an important safeguard against the cancel culture that has infiltrated traditional public forums. PJI is committed to ensuring that voices are heard and freedoms are ensured.”
Brad Dacus, president of PJI, commented, “This censorship is one of the most shocking examples of how First Amendment rights are robbed from individuals peacefully spreading the Gospel. PJI is honored to defend and achieve victories in court for evangelists who preach freely even on the darkest of corners.”
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