CHICAGO - The First Amendment's freedom to speak in public has been the most foundational freedom for Americans since the founding of the nation. Many have benefited from this freedom such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., D.L. Moody, and more recently, a local Chicago Pastor, Curt Teesdale. These men all impacted the culture by quoting scripture and preaching open-air sermons. In 2008, police officers arrested Pastor Teesdale for exercising his First Amendment freedom. He and eight members of his church, Garfield Ridge Baptist, were talking to the public about the gospel and handing out scripture. Now, after a three year battle, the Federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals finally reaffirmed Pastor Teesdale's free speech on public streets which will give a continued protection to others to do the same.
After police arrested and jailed Teesdale, he was charged with criminal trespassing despite being engaged in expression on a public street. The 2008 case was quickly dismissed by the Criminal Court, but Mauck & Baker attorneys representing Teesdale filed suit in federal court in 2010 in an effort to protect the freedom to proclaim the gospel in the future.
"Police officers should protect free speech, not shut it down," said Andy Norman, attorney from Mauck & Baker, LLC, who represented Teesdale. "The Appeals Court recognized that Americans on public streets shouldn't fear arrest or harassment for exercising fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment."
"If an American can be arrested for merely sharing his beliefs in public, what protections are left?" said Pastor Teesdale. "I am so happy the court gave us a victory. Perhaps this stand for public free speech will inspire believers and encourage them to boldly declare Jesus."
The City of Chicago appealed to the Seventh Circuit Appeals Court after losing at the District Court in 2011. And the Appeals Court ended the three-year free speech battle on Aug. 14 with an affirmation of Teesdale's First Amendment protections. However, the Court held that the City's actions, shutting down the Pastor's free speech, could not be construed as its policy, releasing Chicago from responsibility.
"We are delighted that our client's freedom of speech was affirmed, but disappointed that the City was not made to answer for forcing its citizens to endure three years of unnecessary litigation," said Noel Sterett, an attorney from Mauck & Baker.
"Free speech is something no American should take for granted," said Pastor Teesdale. "Countries around the world censor Christians for their religious expression. I do feel blessed to have been a part of this journey, as long as it was."