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Court: City council violated rights of Kansas woman muzzled at public hearing

ADF attorneys successfully defend First Amendment rights of citizen forcibly removed from Mulvane city council meeting

WICHITA, Kan. — A federal court ruled Wednesday that the Mulvane City Council violated the First Amendment rights of a citizen thrown out of a public hearing when she attempted to respectfully express her moral concerns about a proposed gambling casino. Alliance Defense Fund attorneys represented Jacque Farnsworth, the Christian woman who was ushered out of the meeting even though people in favor of the casino project had been allowed to speak.

“Christians shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “Respectfully exercising your First Amendment rights should not result in expulsion from a public meeting, yet that’s exactly what happened when Jacque tried to express her concerns. The court rightly determined that preventing her from speaking and forcibly removing her from the room was an unconstitutional violation of her free speech rights.”

On Jan. 16 and March 13, 2008, the Mulvane City Council heard presentations by Harrah’s and MGM/Foxwoods Development Company regarding the construction of a casino in the city. When Farnsworth attempted to address the council during the time for public questions, she was told by the mayor that she was out of order, even though statements in favor of the proposed casino had been previously allowed. The mayor ordered Farnsworth to be escorted out of the building by two armed police officers.

In its decision in Farnsworth v. City of Mulvane, the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas wrote, “Clearly, questions and/or comments from Farnsworth regarding the construction of a casino in her community are protected speech under the Constitution.”

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.