110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
DeLand street preachers: First Amendment rights return to the spotlight
By Jen Horton
posted Jan 24, 2014 - 12:29:07pm
"Someone's right to swing his arm only extends as far as his neighbor's nose," John Ingles told the DeLand City Commission.
Ingles, who owns a music store at the intersection of Woodland Boulevard and New York Avenue in Downtown DeLand, came to the City Commission meeting Jan. 21 to complain about the Friday afternoon street-preaching that goes on at the corner.
Christians have been meeting for decades at the intersection to hold signs, pass out tracts and shout warnings and Scripture quotations to passing cars.
More recently, irritated by the weekly barrage, a group of counter protesters has loosely formed. These sign-holders stand next to the street preachers, and take full advantage of their own First Amendment rights by advocating marijuana, gay rights, atheism, and even devil worship.
The street preachers have been a thorn in the paw of some Downtown merchants for years.
The City Commission was split when the topic came up again Tuesday, with two of the five commissioners wanting to review the charter to see how activity at the intersection could be limited, and two commissioners convinced there isn’t any constitutional way to do that.
With City Commissioner Vonzelle Johnson absent because he is attending a workshop in Washington, D.C., the divided City Commission was unable to agree on whether to schedule a workshop to discuss the matter further.
City Commissioner Charles Paiva, probably the commission’s most vocal defender of First Amendment rights, recalled the time in 2003 when the city called all the interested parties together for a meeting about the street preaching.
City Commission chambers, he recalled, were packed with people who disagreed with any attempt to regulate free speech.
Paiva also reminded Mayor Bob Apgar that, in 2002, the two of them had used the streetcorner to wave campaign signs. During that era, also, he said, war protesters regularly used the corner.
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