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Bourbon Street ’No Preaching’ Law Challenged

by Michael Kunzelman
Friday Sep 21, 2012

NEW ORLEANS - A street preacher sued on Thursday to block a city ordinance that restricts religious or political speech on Bourbon Street after dark.

In his federal lawsuit, New Orleans pastor Paul Gros claimed the city's "aggressive solicitation" ordinance sets unconstitutional limits on free speech.

Gros said he was preaching on Bourbon Street with his wife, another pastor and a friend on the night of May 15 when police ordered him to stop.

"They told him if he didn't stop he would be arrested," said one of his attorneys, Nate Kellum.

Gros left without being arrested. Less than a month ago, however, police arrested several preachers on Bourbon Street during the Southern Decadence gay pride festival.

The city council adopted the ordinance in October 2011. A violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

The measure makes it a crime for anyone to "loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas and the city council's members are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

Landrieu's office and City Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who sponsored the ordinance, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Palmer has said it was crafted as a public safety measure to help with crowd control.

Kellum said he wasn't aware of any similar ordinances in other cities.

"I've never seen anything like it, really," Kellum said.

The lawsuit said Gros was a "professing Christian" and pastor of Vieux Carre Assembly of God Church in the French Quarter, a block from Bourbon Street. Gros has been preaching on the French Quarter's streets for 30 years and doesn't intend to harass anyone or solicit any funds, his suit said.

"Because Pastor Gros firmly believes a large number of people found on Bourbon Street at night desperately need to have saving faith in Jesus Christ, he wants to go there at that time and share the gospel message with them," the suit said.

Attorneys for the Center for Religious Expression in Memphis, Tenn., and the Alliance Defending Freedom in Scottsdale, Ariz., filed the suit on behalf of Gros.

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  • , 2012-09-21 19:07:08

    I just do not understand these preachers. These servants of "god". How did lgbt become the bases for all sin? Why do they just point out gay sex as sinful? In the bible, any sex before marriage is a sin. Lustful thoughts are a sin. I’ll tell you why. It’s because in this age, if they go around preaching the real bible, then they will have no followers. They are the ultimate of hypocrites. Only preaching parts that will keep getting the ignorant to fill up their donation plates.

  • Oh Jed said:, 2012-09-22 17:50:03

    The preachers just want an excuse in case they’re caught in the "nasty" areas. That way they can yell "show us your tits and I’ll prey for your redemption". Lol.

  • , 2012-09-24 11:23:03

    I say we organization same sex kiss-ins in front of their churches when they are holding services and claim our first amendment rights and see how they like it!

  • Wayne M., 2012-09-24 20:13:32

    Preaching faith is one thing. Using faith as crutch to justify preaching discrimination and hate is quite another. Let’s return to the free speech as I was taught when I was in school (the 1950s and 1960s): The freedom to speak your beliefs openly, provided they do no cause or advocate harm to others and provided they are truthful.

  • Nik Peterson, 2012-09-24 21:32:18

    I lived in New Orleans for 8 years and Bourbon Street is packed full of people after it gets dark. The last thing that is needed is some self-righteous person preaching something in an already overcrowded street. Although I don’t agree with the pastor; he does have a right to free speech. There are plenty of places in the French Quarter and right off Bourbon Street for people to preach there message to people. Agree with the ban on Bourbon street.

  • , 2012-09-24 21:49:36

    Best news yet!!

  • , 2013-01-23 11:57:35

    I don’t believe people should be banned from having an opinion and free speech is a constitutional right.However, if there is a gay pride parade or even gay people around don’t be rude, don’t scream at them, don’t bother them, and don’t be a hypocrite.If a gay person wants to learn about the christian faith, teach how Jesus would: kind, loving, unconditional, and humble.

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