CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SEC. 2. (a) Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or
her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of
this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or
press.

When does it become acceptable for an establishment to limit a private conversation?  According to FOX NEWS, “That’s what happened to California resident Matthew Snatchko in 2006 when the youth pastor initiated a conversation about God with three shoppers at the Roseville Galleria mall.”  The article goes on to explain that he was arrested by the mall security station, but that charges were not pressed.

According to the article, Snatchko and the Justice Institute challenged the constitutionality of the mall’s restriction on speech and are now seeking the state’s 3rd Appellate District in Sacramento to hear the case, after a 2008 Superior Court found the Westfield Mall’s Courtesy Guidelines not an infringement on one’s freedom of speech.

The mall requires a permit four days in advance and in a designated area for speaking about ‘one’s political, religious or other noncommercial purpose’.  Snatchko, however, would approach people and ask if he could share with them about his faith in a private conversation, giving them the opportunity to say no.

It is detrimental to every citizen if private conversations, in public places, must meet neutral speech standards. Imagine not being allowed to talk over lunch about a political news story, or one’s religious views with a friend, because it violates a  private or public establishments regulations.  Though I don’t find the right of privacy at all a Constitutional right, I will throw the right of privacy into this argument, as private conversations about religion, politics and other hot topics must be protected speech everywhere in the United States.

Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus commented, “Singling out religious speech for punishment violates our most basic principles of free expression. If anyone can be arrested for wearing a Christian t-shirt or mentioning God in a shopping mall, we have lost not only our freedom, but our sanity as a society.”

Speech, even speech that may ruffle our feathers, must be protected.  There are very specific areas in which speech has been limited and rightfully so. Walls that have been erected, especially in the arena of obscene speech, have been breached in the name of the First Amendment and this must not be accepted as the standard norm.  Ironoically, speech such as religion and politics, that the Founders intended to protect, is under attack; while speech that would have been found obscene and criminal is now protected.

“The federal Comstock Law of 1873 criminalized the transmission and receipt of “obscene”, “lewd”, or “lascivious” publications through the U.S. mail. U.S. courts looked to the English case of Regina v. Hicklin, 3 L.R.-Q.B. 360 (1868), for a legal definition of obscenity. The Hicklin test was “whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.” (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/obscenity)

Diligence, my friends, is not a matter of choice these days.  We must stand up for our Constitutional rights whenever and however they are breached.  We must raise the standard to excellence and not apathetically accept that we have to put up with the base rulings set forth by the secular courts across America.  Set the bar high, demand society to reach for a higher standard of behavior. Expect a fight  from those who cry out in the name of tolerance, but never back away when the political correct card is played. Let’s be bold and take back America for our children.

3 comments
  1. Hi Mary,
    I live my faith in Jesus Christ every day and I take Gods word literally. The LORDS commandments to me are important to my life because if they are hindered so is my relationship to my God. To “preach the word”, among other things, is a general call on my life. To inhibit me in this is to not infringe on my right to free speech so much as it is crushing my freedom of religion. I should have full and free expression of this right as it is worship, intellectually, creatively, etc.

  2. Cathrine, I am right there with you sister! I can not imagine not living who I am as God’s child. Live out loud!

  3. I prefer the SLAPS test for oscenity:”…work, judged by the average American using community standards, appeals to the prurient interest, b) depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and c) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value (aka the “SLAPS test”), it is obscene, and, therefore, not protected by the First Amendment..”

    But that’s an aside, I think the key distinction here is public free speech and private free speech, and I mean that in terms of property. A mall (a Westfield one in this case I believe) has the right to disallow some free speech inside its walls if it so chooses, and especially if it believes that it was making people nervous. It may make it a bad/unpopular mall, but it isn’t and shouldn’t be illegal. A business has no responsibility to indulge anyone’s religion on their property if it involves making going out of your way to interrupt and discourage other customers.

    I could of course be interpretting it very wrong, but I don’t believe you gave the mall a fair hearing. Noone is stopping you believing or practicing your beliefs, only insofar as it’s public (e.g. unsolicited conversations) and on their property. Maybe the right to proselytize should be made and enforced on private property, and you can make that argument, but noone’s rights have been trampled here, just a politician trolling for public outrage so he can get some free publicity at the mall’s expense.

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