(CN) – A Roseville shopping mall can’t stop patrons from having peaceful conversations about religion, a California appeals court ruled.
Youth pastor Matthew Snatchko often shared his Christian faith with the patrons of the Galleria at Roseville.
One day, he was stopped by a security guard who thought a group of young women he was talking to were acting nervous.
The security guard asked Snatchko to leave. When he refused, a group of security officers detained him and turned him over to the police.
All of the charges were dismissed, and Snatchko sued the mall, the security company and the guard who handcuffed him for false arrest, assault, battery, negligence and civil rights violations.
The trial court ruled for the mall, stating that its rules against non-commercial speech were reasonable and content-neutral.
But the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento reversed, saying the rules were, in fact, content-based.
“[T]he rules allow conversation between strangers on matters relating to the Galleria, its tenants, and/or the non-commercial activities sponsored by the mall or its tenants while prohibiting peaceful, consensual, spontaneous conversations between strangers in common areas of the mall on topics unrelated to the activities of the mall,” Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote.
“This distinction makes the rules content-based.”
The appeals court also overturned the lower court’s denial of attorney fees for Snatchko.