Hearing officer overturns ticket, ban from city property
The city of Portland, Oregon — described by a legal team as having “a well-earned reputation for displaying hostility toward the Christian faith” — has become a two-time loser in cases against street preachers on city property.
The Pacific Justice Institute lawyers defended Mark Mayberry of Riddle, Oregon, who was ticketed and banned from a city park for street preaching.
He travels around Oregon to share the gospel and call for an end to abortion.
The confrontation developed June 1.
PJI said Mayberry was at Portland’s Waterfront Park “holding a sign defending the unborn, passing out related tracts, and engaging people in conversations about abortion and the gospel when a park officer ordered Mayberry to leave.”
“Asserting his constitutionally protected right of free speech, Mayberry refused. The park officer then issued Mayberry a citation excluding him from coming to Waterfront Park for 30 days,” PJI said.
The city charged Mayberry with violating an ordinance by refusing to obey a park officer’s orders and a state harassment statute.
But PJI argued Mayberry’s actions don’t fit the Oregon law’s definition of harassment. The law describes it as using insulting or abusive language and acting in a way that is likely to provoke a violent response.
Further, PJI attorney Ray Hacke explained: “The ordinance that Mayberry was cited under declares a park officer’s order to be unreasonable if it is aimed at constitutionally protected, speech-related conduct. Park officers are tasked with enforcing the law, which means they should know what the law is. They should certainly know better than to take actions aimed at chilling free speech.”
PJI, on behalf of Mayberry, appealed to the Portland city auditor’s office, the next step in the process, and a hearing was held.
“After hearing testimony from Mayberry and witness Mason Goodknight, who had been preaching at Waterfront Park while Mayberry passed out tracts on June 1, as well as opening and closing statements from Hacke, the hearing officer held that the park officer’s issuance of the citation had indeed violated Mayberry’s free speech rights under both the Oregon and federal constitutions. The hearing officer invalidated Mayberry’s exclusion accordingly,” PJI said.
The organization recounted the city’s history of violating the constitutional rights of open-air evangelists.
It was in the previous Gathright v. City of Portland case that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a permanent injunction preventing the city from removing without probable cause street preachers from city parks, which are traditional free-speech public forums.
Brad Dacus, the president of PJI, explained: “Federal and state law both protect Christians’ rights to express their views public. The city of Portland doesn’t get to shut them down just because some people find their views distasteful or offensive. The city auditor made the right call in exonerating Mark Mayberry, but the city should be forewarned: there will be consequences for the city’s unlawful actions toward him.”