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ST. LOUIS, MO. — Scouts, Little League baseball teams, firefighters, politicians and others will be able to solicit and pass out handbills in the City of Desloge without fear of arrest, thanks to a ruling yesterday by United States District Judge Audrey G. Fleissig. In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, Judge Fleissig found that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in their argument that the law is unconstitutional. Her decision grants a preliminary injunction.
The lawsuit was brought in November on behalf of Frank Ancona and members of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a group that regularly hands out leaflets on public streets and sidewalks and tucks them under windshields to spread their message. They were planning to do the same in Desloge in October until they learned it would violate a Desloge city ordinance. The KKK rescheduled for Nov. 3 to give their attorneys time to inform the city that this ordinance violated the First Amendment. City officials wrote back that their ordinance restricts all solicitation, which they considered to include the distribution of handbills; the city contended the ordinance prevents scouts, youth baseball players and firefighters from soliciting, as well. As a result, Ancona canceled his leafleting plans.
“Too often city administrators pass laws that suppress more speech than is necessary and then wield those laws in a manner to silence speech they don’t agree with,” says Brenda L. Jones, executive director of the ACLU-EM.
“This is an important ruling,” adds Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU-EM. “Laws that broadly and unnecessarily restrict First Amendment freedoms never harm only one group—they pave the way for restrictions on everyone’s right to communicate messages.” The decision can be found on the ACLU-EM website.
See the preliminary injunction here.
The ACLU-EM is a non-partisan, not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of civil liberties in eastern Missouri. Located in St. Louis, the ACLU-EM is an affiliate of the national ACLU.