On January 19 2016, the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and two of its members filed a lawsuit against the city of White Hall, Arkansas for an ordinance that forbids door-to-door outreach.
Students and staff of the Literature Evangelism Program at the Adventist-affiliated Ouachita Hills College were told by White Hall officials that they would need a permit for a planned outreach to residents last month.
The city of White Hall, about 40 miles south of Little Rock, passed an ordinance in 2014 requiring most solicitors to obtain a permit before knocking on the doors of private residents. The city created exceptions for political canvassers, but the lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Pine Bluff says White Hall did not create an exception for religious groups.
"The requirement that a person pass a discretionary and standardless review process as a pre-condition for exercising the protected right to engage in religious speech violates the First Amendment," the lawsuit said.
According to THV11, the city’s regulations restrict all forms of door-to-door solicitation and the expression of ideas unless those wishing to share their religious or charitable beliefs obtain a permit from the city, pay permit fees, share significant personal information and pass a “satisfactory” investigation and review.
According to the news release, the lawsuit is asking the court to defend the freedom of religion as protected by the U.S. Constitution by declaring an ordinance enacted by the city of White Hall to be unconstitutional.
Mayor Noel Foster responded to the lawsuit saying, "The ordinance doesn't prohibit anybody from soliciting as long as they go through the process to obtain a permit. We would not prohibit anybody's First Amendment rights. The City Attorney will review the lawsuit and they will go from there.”
No financial damages are being sought in the case. The church is asking the court to make a decision before April 6, 2016.
ChurchMouse predicts that the church will win this case. Stay tuned.