Lawsuit: Let Me Preach on Bourbon Street at Night

New Orleans currently forbids it

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Sep 20, 2012 4:29 PM CDT

(Newser) – A street preacher is challenging an ordinance in New Orleans that restricts religious or political speech on the city's famous, raucous Bourbon Street after dark. In his federal lawsuit, New Orleans pastor Paul Gros claimed the city's "aggressive solicitation" ordinance sets unconstitutional limits on free speech. Gros said he was preaching on Bourbon Street with his wife, another pastor, and a friend on the night of May 15 when police ordered him to stop.

"They told him if he didn't stop he would be arrested," said one of his attorneys. Gros left without being arrested. Less than a month ago, however, police arrested several preachers on Bourbon Street during the Southern Decadence gay pride festival. The city council adopted the ordinance in October 2011, citing public safety and crowd control. A violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. The measure makes it a crime for anyone to "loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise."

People walk past a strip club on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter section of New Orleans.
People walk past a strip club on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter section of New Orleans.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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