FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 16, 2014
LINCOLN – The policy governing speech at the Pinnacle Bank Arena fails to meet basic constitutional requirements, according to the ACLU, and the City of Lincoln should be prepared to face a lawsuit. This announcement from the ACLU comes after a policy was posted on the Pinnacle Bank Arena website Wednesday. The ACLU is representing Larry Ball, a 77 year old Navy veteran who was ticketed in March for distributing religious pamphlets. The case was dismissed but the City has threatened to file new criminal charges should he return to the Arena. Until now, there was no written policy.
"The newly announced policy fails in several significant ways," said Joel Donahue, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Nebraska. "The City wants to prohibit the most classic, honored forms of free speech, including leafleting. A complicated map tries to push free speech to the very edge of public land, yet there are no clear boundaries to give the average person any advance notice of their rights. Apparently some people will be given permission to express themselves--but there are no criteria outlining who gets those rights."
“Our client and all individuals of any faith or political persuasion have the right to express their views on any subject in public,” said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. “The City of Lincoln has failed to acknowledge the right of all residents to communicate ideas on a public sidewalk. Not only are we preparing a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Ball, we are ready to take additional complaints from those who want to exercise their First Amendment rights outside of the Arena.”
Donahue said the policy flies in the face of existing court precedent. “The government cannot dodge their constitutional responsibilities by delegating the management and decision making to someone else. The city should welcome pamphleteers, demonstrators and others engaging in peaceful free speech activity at the Arena.”
Larry Ball is a father of four who says becoming a Christian four decades ago saved his life and marriage. He shares the story that saved his life by producing pamphlets that he distributes in public areas.
"The Good News of Jesus Christ changed me," said Ball. "Jesus said that He would make His followers fishers of men. As you know, fishermen have to go where the fish are and the public sidewalk by the Arena is a great "fishing hole!”
The ACLU does not have a timeline for filing suit.
To review the policy from Pinnacle Bank: http://pinnaclebankarena.s3.amazonaws.com/doc/Exterior-Access-and-Use-Policy.pdf