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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Injunctive Relief Denied in Religious Services Case

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A federal judge denied a preliminary injunction request to block the enforcement of a Missouri law making it a crime to disturb religious worship services.

The law makes it a misdemeanor to interrupt a house of worship with profane language, rude or indecent behavior. Offenders face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the complaint in August on behalf of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and Voice of the Faithful - Kansas City. The groups claim the law is vague and infringes upon their free speech.

U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber ruled that the plaintiffs did not meet the requirements for a preliminary injunction.

"Although the statute's restrictions may make it less convenient or more difficult for plaintiffs to communicate their message to their intended audience, plaintiffs have not shown that remaining avenues of communication are inadequate, and may do so at a full hearing on the merits," Webber wrote. "Plaintiffs are free to distribute their literature door-to-door, or by mail. They may picket on the sidewalks and areas near the houses of worship when services are being conducted, and when services are not being held. Moreover, the statute addresses acts or conduct that are intentional and unreasonable. Plaintiffs and other demonstrators with leaflets might easily stand on the sidewalks (without blocking ingress or egress from the worship facilities) prior to, during, and at conclusion of services, and peacefully hand congregants leaflets as they pass by. As written, the statute has no 'floating buffer zone' provisions; furthermore, it places fewer obstacles to protesters than other statutes found not to offend the exercise of free speech."

The plaintiffs filed paperwork to continue the case on Tuesday.

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