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ICC Note: City officials in Sweetwater, TN are considering adjusting a city ordinance following a local Christian’s, Paul Johnson, claims that he was banned from street evangelism. Johnson, whose legal team is associated with the First Liberty Institute, claimed that he was threatened with arrest if he did not cease preaching during a local event in late August. An ordinance in place demands that “public demonstrations” must obtain a permit first in order to operate legally, but this may change in order to further protect citizens’ rights to free speech.

By Samuel Smith

11/21/2017 United States (The Christian Post) – Administrators in a Tennessee town are thinking about altering a city ordinance that critics say infringes upon individuals’ First Amendment rights after a Christian street preacher claims he was prevented from evangelizing on a public sidewalk.

The city attorney of Sweetwater, Tennessee, sent a letter last Thursday to the lawyers of Christian preacher Paul Johnson to assure that Johnson and others will be allowed to publicly share their religious beliefs in the town’s public spaces.

The demand letter claimed that Johnson was threatened with arrest if he didn’t refrain from preaching on a public sidewalk while thousands of visitors were in town for Sweetwater’s Solar Eclipse Festival on Aug. 21.

The letter asserts that Johnson was expressing his religious views on a public sidewalk on Main Street and wasn’t blocking traffic when he was confronted by city recorder Jessica Morgan, Mayor Doyle Lowe, Police Chief Robert Byrum and other Sweetwater police officers.

According to the letter, Morgan and Byrum told Johnson that he couldn’t demonstrate publicly in Sweetwater without a permit because the city has an ordinance in place that requires all public demonstrations to acquire a permit beforehand. Johnson eventually left in order to avoid arrest.

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