ACLU Helps Free New Mexico Street Preacher From Prison

Affiliate: ACLU of New Mexico
August 4, 2005 12:00 am

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PORTALES, NM — The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico today announced that it has succeeded in freeing street preacher Shawn Miller from the Roosevelt County jail. Miller was arrested last April after Portales police claimed he was yelling at passing cars, although Miller maintains he was merely “preaching the word of God.”

“Mr. Miller has a guaranteed right to stand on a street corner and proclaim his faith in God to all who pass by,” said ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson. “He wasn’t harassing or intimidating anyone. He certainly should not have spent time under lock and key for such a minor incident.”

The ACLU became involved after Miller’s wife, Theresa, sent a letter requesting assistance. She and her two children had been with Miller on April 17 when he was arrested by Portales police for “disorderly conduct.” Miller had been preaching in the lot of an abandoned gas station that is commonly used by street vendors.

“I was preaching the word of God and not hurting anybody,” said Miller.

The ACLU’s defense of Miller produced an unlikely collaboration with the American Family Association, a group that is at times at odds with ACLU positions. Attorneys from both groups consulted with each other and Miller, working together to defend him on First Amendment grounds.

“Both organizations are highly principled in their philosophies and policy positions,” said ACLU Staff Attorney George Bach. “Where those principles overlap, we are eager to collaborate.”

Miller was released on bond and still faces charges of disorderly conduct, in addition to resisting arrest.

For a list of other recent cases where the ACLU has defend religious freedom, go to: /node/.

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