Evangelist sues city of Portland after being told to leave park

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Portland's Tom McCall Waterfront Park. (Rich Iwasaki Getty Images)

A West-coast city with a reputation for “cracking down on street preachers” now faces legal action from one of those speakers, who appears to have the upper hand.

Anti-abortion activist Mark Mayberry is suing the city of Portland, Ore., for violations of religious and freedom of speech rights.

Ray Burke, an Oregon-based attorney for the Pacific Justice Institute and Mayberry’s legal counsel, said that Mayberry often goes to public parks, fairs and events in Portland to start conversations with people and share the gospel. In June, he was in Tom McCall Waterfront Park with a sign defending the unborn, passing out tracts, and talking to people about abortion in relation to Christianity.

A park ranger approached Mayberry and requested that he leave the park. Mayberry refused, and the ranger accused Mayberry of harassment and for not obeying “reasonable” orders, which resulted in a citation and ban from entering the park for 30 days.

Burke told The Epoch Times that “the Portland city code says that we only have to obey reasonable orders, and if somebody is at a park engaging in free speech and an officer tells them to stop, by the code’s own language, that is not a reasonable order. And so Mr. Mayberry was not obligated to obey it, and he didn’t.”

Burke said the encounter was peaceful, with no physical confrontation.

During a city hearing on the incident, the city auditor determined that the ban and citation were unconstitutional and overturned both.

The Oregonian reported that Hearings Officer William Guzman wrote in his ruling: “The Park Officer’s direction to stop engaging passersby with information regarding his Christian beliefs against abortion was not reasonable. Appellant was not required to comply with this park officer’s unconstitutional attempts to silence Appellant’s message.”

Guzman determined that Mayberry’s activities were protected under the First Amendment.

Burke said that while Mayberry is grateful for his vindication, his client is not content and wishes to send a message to the city about its history of violating free speech and religious rights.

“Portland has a reputation for, basically, cracking down on street preachers,” said Burke. “Mr. Mayberry is not the first street preacher I’ve represented, you know, who has had problems with Portland police or other law enforcement officers relating to sharing the gospel.”

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