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Stop Privatizing Our Public Spaces

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND — The Center for Religious Expression attorneys filed suit against various officials of Montgomery County, Maryland on behalf of Michael Corral, who was blocked by local police from exercising his first amendment right to freely express his beliefs. 

 Corral had come to the downtown Silver Springs area March 23, 2012 in order to share his faith by reading the Bible and engaging people in conversation. He carefully chose a place on the sidewalk that gave him access to many people walking by without blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic. But a local police officer told him that the sidewalk was private property, and he could not engage in religious speech there, or he would be issued a ticket for trespassing. After trying to determine exactly where the public sidewalk ended and the private property began, Corral was cited for violating criminal trespass laws.

“A sidewalk is a quintessentially American public space,” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum. “Montgomery County’s policy of letting a private company control the sidewalks and banning religious speech is unconstitutional.”

CRE wrote a letter to the county on Corral’s behalf in April, seeking assurances that he would be able to return to Montgomery County’s public spaces in downtown Silver Spring and engage in peaceful religious expression. Instead of granting him that assurance, attorneys for the county informed Corral that he was limited to expressing his beliefs in the Veteran’s Plaza area, not the sidewalk as he had desired.

“Our hope is that the court will end Montgomery County’s policy and practice that created and sustains the ability of a private entity to control the existence, content and viewpoint of expression on public sidewalks and ways in downtown Silver Spring, as this practice is unconstitutional on its face and deeply troubling.” said CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum.

Center for Religious Expression is a servant-oriented, non-profit 501(c)(3) Christian legal organization dedicated to the glory of God and the religious freedom of His people.