FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2015
Lincoln, Neb. – Today, the ACLU of Nebraska has asked a court for a temporary restraining order claiming that the City of Lincoln violated the First Amendment rights of Larry Ball. Mr. Ball, a 77-year-old Navy Veteran and father of four, was cited on Thursday and Saturday of last week for distributing religious pamphlets outside of the Pinnacle Bank Arena. The pamphlets, designed by Mr. Ball, share what he describes as his life and marriage being saved when he became a Christian four decades ago.
“Our client Larry Ball is a veteran, a father, and a taxpayer with deeply held religious beliefs,” said ACLU of Nebraska Executive Director Danielle Conrad. “He has the right to free speech and religious freedom in the public square free from government prosecution. This is about free speech. This is about religious freedom, This is a public space. The City of Lincoln cannot dodge nor delegate their constitutional responsibilities to the management of the Pinnacle Bank Arena. We call upon Mayor Beutler to drop the charges against Mr. Ball immediately and negotiate a common sense policy to end this matter once and for all. Taxpayer funds should not be wasted prosecuting Mr. Ball or defending unconstitutional polices that put a black eye on the beautiful new public arena that has otherwise brought so much excitement to the city of Lincoln.”
In March 2014, Mr. Ball was first arrested for expressing his religious views outside of the Arena. The ACLU of Nebraska successfully defended Mr. Ball and charges were dropped by the City of Lincoln in May 2014. Since then, Pinnacle Bank Arena management announced a policy that the ACLU argues violates free speech rights. According to the ACLU, multiple court cases demonstrate that even when a public space is being managed by a private entity, free speech rights must be respected.
"I served to protect the freedoms we have in this country," said Mr. Ball. "Now I want to exercise those freedoms by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. This news changed my life and it can help others change also."
In recent years, the ACLU has also defended religious speech rights of students wanting to wear rosaries at a public school in Fremont, supported churches facing challenges at their place of worship due to zoning ordinances, and protected the religious rights of a student wishing to discuss her faith in her valedictorian speech.
Thomas White from the Omaha-based law firm of White & Jorgensen is serving as co-counsel on Mr. Ball’s case.
ABOUT: The ACLU of Nebraska and its diverse membership works in courts, the legislature and our communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States and Nebraska guarantee everyone in this state.