Christian group sues Oklahoma City over right to preach in Bricktown

A group of four Christian residents of Oklahoma City has sued the city council and others, alleging that enforcement of the city's noise ordinance in Bricktown infringes on their constitutional rights.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Published: September 28, 2012
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“Jesus has commanded that they share their faith with other people. That is a central religious belief that they have,” Olsson said.

Another point of contention between the plaintiffs and the city is whether the ordinance applies specifically to amplified sound.

Assistant city attorney Jennifer Warren wrote to another one of the plaintiffs' attorneys in January explaining that the plaintiffs are free to preach in public as they like, so long as they aren't using an amplifier, or have a valid permit if they are.

The group typically preaches through words and song, and sometimes uses amplification, Olsson said. But the plaintiffs allege the city's noise ordinance is too broad and can be interpreted to restrict noise even when an amplifier isn't used.

“It could be enforced that way if somebody complains, ‘You guys are making a loud noise,'” Olsson said. “It can be interpreted (that way) because it's ambiguous.”

Olsson stressed that the plaintiffs plan to share their faith in a peaceful and respectful way.

He noted that even the word “preach” often has negative connotations because of some high-profile religious groups that protest funerals of soldiers and other events, but his clients aren't seeking to do anything disruptive.

The plaintiffs are also represented by Frederick Nelson, an attorney with the Florida-based American Liberties Institute.

Contributing: Staff Writer Nolan Clay