Home Oregon Street preacher’s right to share gospel in Portland park affirmed

Street preacher’s right to share gospel in Portland park affirmed

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PORTLAND —  As a result of an appeal filed by a California-based legal rights organization, the city auditor’s office has determined a street evangelist was wrongly ticketed and banned from a downtown park for preaching there.

As reported by WND.com (formerly known as WorldNetDaily), lawyers for the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) defended Mark Mayberry,a resident of the southwest Oregon town of Riddle.  Mayberry travels throughout the state to share the gospel and call for an end to abortion.

According to his lawyers, on Saturday, June 1, Mayberry was at Tom McCall 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 that he had a constitutionally protected right of free speech, Mayberry refused.  The park officer then issued him a citation barring him from coming to the park for 30 days. The city also charged Mayberry with violating an ordinance by refusing to obey the officer’s orders, and also with violating a state harassment statute.

But Mayberry’s lawyers argued that his actions didn’t fit the Oregon law’s definition of harassment.  That statute specifies harassment as using insulting or abusive language and acting in a way that is likely to provoke a violent response — a far cry from Mayberry’s peaceful actions, they contended.

On behalf of Mayberry, Pacific Justice Institute appealed to the city auditor’s office  — the next step in the process — and a hearing was held.

In addition to opening and closing statements from PJI lawyer Ray Hacke, testimony was heard from Mayberry as well as from Mason Goodknight of Roseburg, a fellow street evangelist who also had been preaching at Waterfront Park when Mayberry was there.

The hearings officer ruled that the park officer’s issuance of the citation had indeed violated Mayberry’s free speech rights under both the state and federal constitutions, and Mayberry’s exclusion from the park was then declared invalid.

According to WND, the decision means the Portland city government has now become a “two-time loser” in cases made against street preachers on city property.

WND is referring to a 2003 case involving another street preacher, Edward Gathright, who had been ejected by the city from events at both Tom McCall Waterfront Park and Pioneer Courthouse Square.

As a result of that case, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals eventually affirmed a permanent injunction preventing the city from removing street preachers from city parks without probable cause.