Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How loud can free speech be?

Judge denies Christian group's request to display cross

A local Christian group has a right to free speech but they “don’t have to shout,” a federal judge in Norfolk said Tuesday when he denied the group’s request to display a 12-foot-tall cross at a Fourth of July celebration in a Chesapeake city park.

In April, Ministries’ founder Steve Taylor filed a federal civil rights suit against Chesapeake and asked for an injunction to force the city to allow the cross at this year’s celebration.

Taylor did not apply for a booth at this year’s celebration, saying new regulations banning objects taller than 8 feet convinced him the effort was futile.

Two city employees testified that they recommended height limitations to event organizers because of safety concerns. They were concerned that tall objects, like the cross, could fall and hurt someone.

Following several hours of testimony, U.S. District Judge Robert G. Doumar said Chesapeake’s new height restriction is justified, and he denied the injunction request.

Taylor said the religious group cannot communicate its message effectively without the cross.

“This is not suppression of speech — it’s clearly a case of how loud that speech can be,” Doumar said. “I don’t see anything wrong with the 8-foot regulation.”

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