Courthouse 'no speech zone' ban lifted

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Two evangelists banned from sharing their faith after Los Angeles Country court officials instituted a "no speech zone" in front of its courthouse, will be able to resume their activities after a settlement was reached.

Of all the places free speech should be allowed, it's on a public sidewalk," ADF Senior Legal Counsel Mike Johnson said in a news release. "Court officials have now agreed to change their policies in order to once again allow free speech without fear of arrest."

TV co-host Ray Comfort and Pastor Emeal Zwayne, who had peacefully shared their faith for more than two years outside of the Los Angeles County courthouse in Bellflower, were represented by ADF attorneys. 

After court officials initiated the ban on all public areas in its jurisdiction, ADF filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The pair, after spending about 20 minutes a day talking to court house visitors, were removed by officers on Sept. 30 and told not to return.

"For more than two years, virtually no complaints or other problems occurred regarding the activities of these two men, yet the presiding judge suddenly chose to institute a ban on their constitutional rights," the attorney said. "We are pleased that those who choose to exercise their First Amendment rights on sidewalks outside courthouse buildings will no longer have to fear legal consequences."

According to a revised order, the defendants' must stay 100 feet away of any courthouse doorway, even if on a public sidewalk.  

"That provision of the policy is still problematic and may be subject to challenge here or at other courthouses that use such overbroad restrictions in the future," Johnson said.