Pierce Agrees to Ease Rules on Religious Group’s Flyers
A 3-week crackdown on Jews for Jesus that resulted in 17 arrests at Pierce College was called off Friday as the Los Angeles Community College District agreed to ease restrictions on distribution of literature on its campuses.
District officials said Jews for Jesus will be allowed to hand out leaflets at the Woodland Hills campus pending a permanent change in campus access rules.
The agreement was reached during a private conference with a federal judge in Los Angeles. Jews for Jesus had asked the judge to issue a restraining order to halt the almost daily trespassing arrests that have occurred at Pierce since Nov. 15.
U.S. District Judge James M. Ideman postponed ruling on the request until March 27 to give the college’s trustees time to consider adopting a new access policy.
Eased Regulations Urged
Warren S. Kinsler, general counsel for the district, said he will ask trustees to loosen regulations that govern how and when materials are distributed on campuses. The proposed policy would allow visitors to mingle with students.
Rules at Pierce call for groups to submit material for review and to obtain a permit to distribute it on campus. Visitors are required to stand behind a table when distributing the material.
The arrests occurred when Jews for Jesus refused to obtain a permit and directly handed out religious tracts explaining the group’s belief that Jesus Christ is the messiah, giving them to students on a campus sidewalk. Group members said they could distribute up to 1,200 leaflets a day by approaching students.
“I would anticipate that would be changed, modified or deleted,” Kinsler said of the access restriction. He said misdemeanor charges against Jews for Jesus members arrested by campus police will not be pursued by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.
Lawyers for Jews for Jesus said group members will identify themselves to school officials when they visit Pierce in the future.
But attorney Jay A. Sekulow, a member of an Atlanta-based Christian legal defense group representing the arrested members, said Jews for Jesus members have never interfered and will never interfere with students walking to class.
The group’s Los Angeles lawyer, Ronald E. Gue, of Granada Hills, termed Friday’s agreement “an absolute victory” for Jews for Jesus.
Gue said Friday’s agreement ends the college district’s “casual, informal enforcement” of a loosely interpreted access policy.
The state’s government code authorizes local college governing bodies to establish guidelines determining the “time, place and manner” that the public can enter a campus and what materials can be distributed. School officials said Friday that those rules differ from campus to campus.
In the University of California system, each campus sets its own guidelines, said Afton Crooks, coordinator of information practices for the nine-campus university system.
“When I came here in 1954, Adlai Stevenson was running for President, and he wasn’t allowed to come on the campus to speak,” Crooks said in a telephone interview from Berkeley.
UC Berkeley now has a large free-speech area that accommodates most visitors--although she said that the school is rewriting its “time, place and manner” policy to control certain types of demonstrations elsewhere on campus.
At UCLA, “anyone is welcome to distribute materials on campus” as long as they stay out of classrooms and private work spaces, said Harlan Lebo, a UCLA spokesman.
Cal State Northridge officials allow materials to be distributed if visitors sign in and agree in writing not to disturb classes, interfere with pedestrians or traffic or “affix” their materials on such things as walls, poles or automobile windshields, spokeswoman Gloria Wells said.
Wells said three members of Jews for Jesus were arrested in May when they failed to inform student activities officials of their presence and failed to sign the agreement. The misdemeanor trespassing charges were later dropped.
At Valley College in Van Nuys, officials require that materials to be distributed be reviewed in advance, said Doris Greenwood, who is on the staff of the dean of student affairs. Visitors must also sign an agreement promising to abide by rules that, among other things, specify areas where leaflets can be given out. Since Valley College is operated by the Los Angeles Community College District, its policy faces possible revision because of Friday’s agreement.
Avi Snyder, a San Fernando Valley leader of Jews for Jesus, arrested three times in the Pierce crackdown, said he was pleased by the agreement.