An Oregon judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Larry Lacey, owner of a nude bar, against Christian protesters. Earlier this year Club 71, an “adult entertainment” establishment, opened in Sunny Valley, Oregon, despite widespread community disapproval. A group of demonstrators picketed the bar from the time of its opening, engaging in a peaceful protest on a public right-of-way nearby.
Lacey sued the protestors, seeking $800,000 in damages. However, Josephine County (Oregon) Circuit Court Judge Allen Coon has granted a special motion to strike and dismiss the strip club owner's lawsuit in the case known as Lacey v. Steel. Moreover, the judge ordered him to pay the defendants' attorneys fees and expenses, a sum which the defendants' attorney describes as “substantial.”
Michael DePrimo, senior litigation counselor for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy (AFA Law Center), says the lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt to force the demonstrators into surrendering their constitutional rights. “Our clients were always on the public ways,” he notes. “The particular nude bar doesn't have any sidewalks there, but it is a public right-of-way, and our people were on the side of the road.”
DePrimo points out that there are constitutional guidelines for picketing to protest an objectionable establishment or practice, and the Christian activists involved in the Sunny Valley lawsuit did have the law on their side. “They have a First Amendment right to be there to peacefully demonstrate,” he says.
“You cannot picket or demonstrate on private property without the permission of the owner,” DePrimo continues, “but you do have a right to picket on what are called the public ways, which are sidewalks and streets and parks.”
The AFA Law Center attorney adds that, along with picketing and displaying signs, the Christian demonstrators took some other rather creative measures to protest the goings on at Club 71. “In some instances they took photographs of some of the patrons, and they wrote down license plate numbers, and they posted them on a website,” he explains. “This is all speech activity that's protected by the First Amendment.”
The demonstrators, who are mostly retirees, have been picketing Club 71 and discouraging its patronage since the business opened. The protesters' website, called SeeWhosThere.com, states that it exists to fight strip clubs coming into the local community.
DePrimo sees the judge's ruling in favor of the Christian demonstrators as a major victory for free speech. He says Lacey's lawsuit was without merit from its inception and was only calculated to coerce the peaceful demonstrators to give up their rights under the Constitution.
(This article courtesy of Agape Press.)