Seventh Circuit Rejects City Ban on Handbills

     CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit held that an ordinance in Granite City, Ill., unconstitutionally barred a retired teacher from distributing anti-abortion and religious pamphlets in public, but the judges reversed his $2,772 damage award on the basis that his alleged injuries were not specific enough.

     Granite City arrested Donald Horina, a self-professed born-again Christian, for violating its ban on the “indiscriminate” distribution of “cards, circulars, handbills, samples of merchandise or any advertising matter whatsoever on any public street or sidewalk” by handing out gospel tracts and anti-abortion pamphlets. He claimed the ban violated his First Amendment right to distribute religious literature, including.
     Judge Kanne said the city offered “absolutely no evidence” that the restriction serves its stated purpose of reducing litter and preventing trespass or harassment.
     However, the lower court improperly based its calculation of actual damages on “vague estimates,” Kanne wrote.
     “On remand, Horina may be able to proffer something more than vague testimony to clarify the injuries he allegedly sustained. If not, the district court may be unable to award him anything but nominal damages.”

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