An Orange County Superior Court judge has ordered Anaheim officials to stop enforcing an ordinance that denies citizens the right to distribute handbills where property owners have posted signs prohibiting such activity.
Judge Judith M. Ryan on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction ordering the city to suspend its ordinance temporarily, until a court case that challenges the ordinance comes to trial.
The case, Talbot vs. Anaheim, was filed last July on behalf of a group of church members from Maryland who were protesting the teachings of evangelist Billy Graham during Graham’s crusade at Anaheim Stadium, which is owned by the city.
Last July, Anaheim police arrested Bernard Haygood Jr. and Mark Talbot, members of the Church at White Hall in Maryland, on suspicion of violating the ordinance after the men proselytized and handed out leaflets outside the stadium during the Graham crusade. The church members contended in their leaflets that Graham preaches a “perverted gospel,” primarily because he preaches salvation based upon “faith only” without baptism.
American Civil Liberties Union attorneys representing the churchmen called Ryan’s ruling a “victory.”
“This law is unconstitutional on its face,” said attorney John R. Zitny. “It doesn’t have any safeguards set so as to prevent the government from content-based discrimination. People can put up a sign at whim when they want to keep a certain idea from being communicated.
“We asked for a preliminary injunction so that people who want to distribute handbills have the right to do that.”
The ordinance in question was passed in 1941 and has remained unchanged since then, said Deputy City Atty. Charles Redd. It is one of several laws restricting solicitation and the distribution of handbills.
“The city cannot enforce this particular ordinance throughout the city from now until the trial,” Redd said. “It won’t constitute a problem, but the whole area needs airing and resolution.”
According to the attorneys, Ryan based her decision on a recent change in law. On Aug. 14, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of Hare Krishna members to solicit donations around Anaheim Stadium, ruling that Anaheim’s law requiring a permit for soliciting donations is unconstitutional.