[Hpn] ACLU Newsfeed on Solicitors Lawsuit - Court Bars Enforcement of "Get a License to Talk" Law "Get a License to Talk" Law

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Wed, 08 Nov 2000 17:18:41 -0800 (PST)

Before people can solicit funds for nonprofits, do you support:
"requiring people to apply for a license from town officials
and submit to a police background check"?  Why or why not?

SEE ALSO related AP article on ACLU's Free Speech lawsuit in Medina, WA, USA:
Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Nov 04, 2000

FWD  11-06-2000 [see LINKS to other civil rights news at end of article]
     ACLU Newsfeed -- ACLU News Direct to YOU!
     Latest ACLU News Can Always Be Found At:

* WA Court Bars Enforcement of Medina's "Get a License to Talk" Law

Friday, November 3, 2000

SEATTLE--A federal court today barred enforcement of a Medina law
requiring people to apply for a license from town officials and submit to
a police background check in order to exercise their free speech rights.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union
on behalf of Peace Action of Washington, a grassroots nonprofit
organization which works for peace causes, and United States Mission, a
nonprofit organization which provides housing for homeless people.

U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour issued a preliminary injunction
against enforcement of the law. The law restricted people who wanted to
distribute printed information, discuss religious or political beliefs, or
seek charitable contributions virtually anywhere in Medina, a suburb to
the east of Seattle.

"Medina's law interfered with the right to freedom of speech, And it was
so poorly written that it would have forced Girl Scouts selling cookies
door to door to register with police and undergo a criminal background
check," said Jerry Sheehan, Legislative Director for the ACLU of

The measure under challenge was adopted in February, 2000 by the Medina
City Council to regulate solicitors. However, the ordinance was written so
broadly that any person who wished to "approach individuals" to "expound
beliefs" in the City of Medina had to first obtain a City-issued license
to do so. Would-be solicitors had to go through a burdensome application
process and undergo a criminal background check.

While town leaders were particularly interested in restricting activists
from going door to door, the law defined solicitor to include any person
speaking, leafleting, or gathering signatures in public places.

"People seeking signatures for an initiative campaign shouldn't have to
register with the police," said the ACLU's Jerry Sheehan. "Residents are
certainly free to post 'No Soliciting' signs on their property, and local
governments may reasonably regulate solicitors, but this law went way too

The ACLU had attempted negotiations with the town council over a period of
two years, repeatedly asking the City to amend the ordinance to meet
constitutional standards.

Under the Washington and United States Constitutions, government may not
put unnecessary burdens on people exercising free speech. Peace Action had
planned to distribute information in Medina on the positions of candidates
for federal office prior to the November election. U.S. Mission sought
immediate action from the court because the holiday season is a critical
time for its charitable fundraising.

ACLU clients in the case receive no government monies and rely on raising
funds by talking to people on a face-to-face basis. U.S. Mission is a
religiously based nonprofit organization that operates transitional
housing for homeless persons who participate in a self-help work program.
Participants in the program conduct door-to-door solicitation as part of
the organization's practice of the "Social Gospel."

Peace Action of Washington is a membership organization that focuses on
issues of peace, justice, and violence reduction. The group prepares
information on the voting records and positions of candidates and
distributes voter guides to citizens door to door.

Medina's law applies to "every person who shall seek charitable
contributions, seek signatures on a petition, seek to disseminate
information, seek to expound beliefs, seek new members on behalf of any
political, religious or charitable organization(s) or distribute written
or printed materials by going from house to house, or from place to place,
or by standing in a doorway, or in any other place not used by such person
as permanent place of business, or by approaching individuals."

ACLU attorney Kevin Hamilton of the law firm Perkins Coie is handling the

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10-23-00 -- ACLU Challenges "Get a License to Talk" Law

10-23-00 -- Massachusetts Tattooing Ban Declared Unconstitutional

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