ACLU and Animal Rights Group Challenge NJ Shore Town's Ban on Boardwalk Leafleting

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
May 30, 2001 12:00 am

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TRENTON, NJ–Acting on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“”PETA””), the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today filed a lawsuit challenging a town’s ban on the distribution of leaflets and other printed matter.

“”PETA’s activists have a message about an important social issue and the Constitution gives them the right to present that message to the public,”” said Frank L. Corrado, an attorney representing PETA on behalf of the ACLU. “”Ordinances like this are dangerous because they limit society’s access to valuable information and opinions.””

The lawsuit stems from charges filed last August against RaeLeann Smith, a PETA employee, for handing out leaflets on the boardwalk during an anti-fur demonstration in Belmar, a popular resort on the Jersey shore.

Prosecutors dropped the criminal charges when Smith and the ACLU told them that she would challenge the constitutionality of the ordinance. The ordinance will now face a court review, which PETA hopes will clear the way for their group to leaflet again this summer.

“The animals who are trapped, drowned, and beaten to death in the wild or gassed, strangled, or electrocuted on fur farms simply for their fur cannot speak for themselves — we must do it for them,”” said Smith. “”Free speech rights are protected, and Belmar’s decision to defy the Constitution must not go unchallenged.””

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey in Trenton, alleges that the ordinance violates both the First Amendment and the New Jersey Constitution by prohibiting free speech. The ACLU is asking the court to declare the ordinance unconstitutional and to order Belmar to stop enforcing it.

The leaflets PETA had been distributing describe the crowded, filthy cages in which animals raised for their fur are confined. Suffering on fur farms is compounded during the summer months when temperatures soar and foxes, minks, and other animals die of heat exhaustion, according to PETA.

PETA and Ms. Smith are represented by Corrado of the Wildwood firm Rossi, Barry, Corrado & Grassi, P.C., and J.C. Salyer of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey Foundation.

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