June 4, 2008

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NEW ORLEANS - At the invitation of the Alliance Defense Fund, the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana has submitted an amicus "friend of the court" brief at the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In the case, Netherland v. City of Zachary et al, the ACLU stresses that the First Amendment protects the right of an individual to quote Bible verses on the public streets. John Todd Netherland was arrested in Zachary on charges of disturbing the peace - for quoting the Bible.  In its brief, the ACLU emphasizes that the government has no authority to censor speech and that "when a citizen attempts to quote the Bible in public, the Constitution protects his right to do so without fear of criminal prosecution."

"The right to free speech extends to everyone in this country, and religious speech is entitled to the same protection as any other," said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU Foundation of Louisiana. "We are pleased that the Alliance Defense Fund invited us to participate in this case, supporting the right of an individual to express his religious views in public."

The Alliance Defense Fund has represented defendants, including the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, in religious freedom suits brought by the ACLU, but the two organizations are on the same side in the present case. "This case shows that the ACLU is fully committed to protecting the rights of all," said Esman. In fact, the ACLU filed a nearly identical case in Natchitoches last year, called Crayton v. City of Natchitoches.

The Netherland brief was written by ACLU cooperating attorney Craig Freeman and ACLU Legal Director Katie Schwartzmann.

To read the brief, go to http://www.laaclu.org/PDF_documents/Netherland_Amicus.pdf

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