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Subject: Access for proselytization rss

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Jon Badolato
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Jehovah's Witnesses In Puerto Rico Win Access To Additional Gated Communities To Proselytize

In 2013, a Puerto Rico federal district court, in a case on remand from the 1st Circuit, ordered neighborhood homeowners' associations (urbanizations) that operate gated communities to provide Jehovah's Witnesses who wish to proselytize in the neighborhood access equal to that of residents. (See prior posting.) There has been a good deal of resistance by urbanizations to complying with the orders, particularly because of concern about crime.

Earlier this month another lawsuit was filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against gated communities in 38 municipalities, a majority of the remaining municipalities not named as defendants in the earlier suit. In Watchtower Bible Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Municipality of Aguada, (D PR, Feb. 10, 2016), a Puerto Rico federal district court issued an elaborate temporary restraining order designed to facilitate maximal compliance with the right of Jehovah's Witnesses to obtain access to gated communities, particularly in light of the March 23 Memorial of the Death of Jesus Holiday. The court ordered that urbanizations in all 38 municipalities must be open for Jehovah's Witnesses to proselytize on Saturday, February 27, 2016 from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Then by March 15, all the municipalities must either notify plaintiffs that they agree to the same kind of open arrangements that were ordered in the earlier case, or else notify the court that they are defending against the lawsuit. Municipalities that agree to go along with the earlier arrangements will be given time to confer with plaintiffs on implementing an action plan, and will avoid assessment of attorneys' fees. Others will move to litigation.



I have mixed opinions about this. I believe JW's have the same rights to practice their religion as everyone else. Clearly their religion requires that they proselytize. Whether or not the state has to back up that right by allowing them access to other people's private property is my concern. I'm ok with the state allowing JW's ( or any other group for that matter ) to proselytize on their own property, or even on public land or locations, but I think allowing them access to private property for the express purpose of proselytizing is not necessary. It's not denying them the right to do so, just limiting where they can rightfully do it.
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Your right to practice a religion does not include bothering other people with it. This is a bad decision.
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Jon Badolato
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I agree with you. Primarily because I don't believe anyone should have access to private property to fulfill their religious beliefs unless the private property owner expressly allows it.
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Mike Stiles
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whac3 wrote:
Your rightto practice a religion does not include bothering other people with it. This is a bad decision.


To me the question lies on 2 bits:

1) Is it actually private property? If it's public they have the right.
2) Are they excluding JW's in a discriminatory manner? If they're being singled out for exclusion due to their faith that's pretty shaky ground.
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Richard Hefferan
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So long as their second amendment rights allow for returning fire when assaulted with the proselytization. That seems fair.
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Lee Fisher
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windsagio wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Your rightto practice a religion does not include bothering other people with it. This is a bad decision.


To me the question lies on 2 bits:

1) Is it actually private property? If it's public they have the right.
2) Are they excluding JW's in a discriminatory manner? If they're being singled out for exclusion due to their faith that's pretty shaky ground.


Isn't a gated community private property by definition.
Generally they ban all soliciting.
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Mike Stiles
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lfisher wrote:
windsagio wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Your rightto practice a religion does not include bothering other people with it. This is a bad decision.


To me the question lies on 2 bits:

1) Is it actually private property? If it's public they have the right.
2) Are they excluding JW's in a discriminatory manner? If they're being singled out for exclusion due to their faith that's pretty shaky ground.


Isn't a gated community private property by definition.
Generally they ban all soliciting.


I have this idea they might not be, no idea where its coming from - I'll have to read up on it.

on the second, fi that's the case they don't really have a leg to stand on Solicitation is solicitation.
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J.D. Hall
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It's far less simple than it appears on the surface.

Certainly, the houses and possible lawns belong to the individual homeowner. However, streets, sewage and water lines, possible right-of-way access points, electric power lines, natural gas lines -- all of these are public property or belong to utility companies heavily regulated by the state. That could, in the hands of a sympathetic judge, trump the right of individual property holders against those using pubic access.

Then the 1st Amendment comes into play. "Free exercise" is a key and contentious phrase in the 1st Amendment. The courts have struggled with this, and so far all they can come up with is requiring the religious to obey the secular law, i.e. no virgin sacrifice or mutilation of animals. But if a particular belief system requires its adherents to go out and "spread the Good News!", then restricting access to public access (see paragraph above) may be unconstitutional.

On the other hand, voluntary association -- such as clubs or certain civic groups (The Freemason Conspiracy!!!) are allowed to restrict access by non-members. It might be argued that a gated community is, in essence, a voluntary association, with the HOA fees similar to club dues. If that is the instance grasped by the judge, then the gated community has legal right to shut its gates to the Jehovah Witnesses.

Interesting case. Nice find.
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whac3 wrote:
Your rightto practice a religion does not include bothering other people with it. This is a bad decision.


Eh, free speech covers proselytizing.

I don't think it should give you access to places you would otherwise be denied if you were soliciting for something else, though.
 
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Lee Fisher
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They MUST have access
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James Webb Space Telescope in 2018!
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Nothing pre-disposes people to listen to your spiritual message like a good court battle against your community.
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Jon Badolato
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windsagio wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Your rightto practice a religion does not include bothering other people with it. This is a bad decision.


To me the question lies on 2 bits:

1) Is it actually private property? If it's public they have the right.
2) Are they excluding JW's in a discriminatory manner? If they're being singled out for exclusion due to their faith that's pretty shaky ground.


Referencing your #1, most public sidewalks end anywhere from 20 to hundreds of feet from the front door. To get to the front door a proselytizer is definitely and without a doubt on private property. Unless they plan to shout from the sidewalk then they have to traverse private property to reach the front door to proselytize. The avenues of approach are public. The front porch where they will likely proselytize is not. I realize this is not typically how the law parses it, but that's the way it should as it's completely accurate in most instances.

I do agree with you on #2. If a gated community is going to let others proselytize then they can not and should not be allowed to exclude JW's.
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Jon Badolato
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lfisher wrote:


Ah ! It's a continuation of that case. I hadn't remembered my previous post on it. Thanks.

I still find such a ruling suspect and at odds with the concept of private property.
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Damian
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lfisher wrote:

Haha, my first reply made me re-read the court opinion and I stand by what I said (including the part about providing links).
 
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jonb wrote:
lfisher wrote:


Ah ! It's a continuation of that case. I hadn't remembered my previous post on it. Thanks.

I still find such a ruling suspect and at odds with the concept of private property.

As I pointed out in the previous thread, this is not about private property. The very first sentence of the court order makes that clear:
"For well over a decade, Jehovah’s Witnesses have fought for access to Puerto Rico’s urbanizations — neighborhoods on public streets, surrounded by controlled-access gates—so that they might be able to perform one of the central tenets of their religion: the door-to-door preaching of “the contents of the Bible and its importance to people today."

The document goes in to great detail about how these urbanizations work and why.
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Mike Stiles
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damiangerous wrote:
jonb wrote:
lfisher wrote:


Ah ! It's a continuation of that case. I hadn't remembered my previous post on it. Thanks.

I still find such a ruling suspect and at odds with the concept of private property.

As I pointed out in the previous thread, this is not about private property. The very first sentence of the court order makes that clear:
"For well over a decade, Jehovah’s Witnesses have fought for access to Puerto Rico’s urbanizations — neighborhoods on public streets, surrounded by controlled-access gates—so that they might be able to perform one of the central tenets of their religion: the door-to-door preaching of “the contents of the Bible and its importance to people today."

The document goes in to great detail about how these urbanizations work and why.


So yeah, public roads, public access.
 
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Jon Badolato
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It should be about private property if it isn't. In most neighborhoods you eventually have to enter onto private property to proselytize, especially if you intend on reaching the front door. I understand the state has ruled that groups like JW's should have limited access to private property for the purpose of proselytization. That doesn't mean I think they're right in doing so. As I stated up thread, I think they're wrong in doing so. It allows someone access to my property for the express purpose of fulfilling their religious belief. Its not necessary as there are plenty of public locations they could use to proselytize and fulfill their religious belief.
 
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Junior McSpiffy
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If we came to a gated community, we passed on it. On rare occasions a member who lived in the community would let us in, but only for the purpose of meeting with someone specific they had in mind. No door-knocking.

Although in Denver, some of them had signs outside the neighborhood declaring themselves to be "A Covenant Controlled Community." So we would take pictures of ourselves next to those signs and claim that our work there was done. Kind of a "Mission Accomplished" moment.
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Damian
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jonb wrote:
It should be about private property if it isn't. In most neighborhoods you eventually have to enter onto private property to proselytize, especially if you intend on reaching the front door. I understand the state has ruled that groups like JW's should have limited access to private property for the purpose of proselytization. That doesn't mean I think they're right in doing so. As I stated up thread, I think they're wrong in doing so. It allows someone access to my property for the express purpose of fulfilling their religious belief. Its not necessary as there are plenty of public locations they could use to proselytize and fulfill their religious belief.

We covered all this in the previous thread. Your private property is not involved in this decision. Their ability to access that is controlled by the same factors unrelated to being in a gated community. They have the same "implied consent" as any person to knock/ring. YOu can revoke that by putting up a sign of your own.
 
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Christopher Yaure
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Many communities in the US used to require restrictive covenants not to sell your home to a non-White or a person of Jewish descent. The covenants were eventually found unenforceable. Although the agreement was private and thus not subject to constitutional limitations, the attempt to enforce the covenant in court was found to require government action that would violate Equal Protection.

In a similar vein, those seeking to proselytize could climb the fences into gated communities, then argue First Amendment when the community sought to have them prosecuted for trespass.

Not legal advice - just a thought experiment.
 
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Steve
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I suggest that the HOA or whatever they call themselves should require each house in the gated community have an identical "No Trespassing" sign at the end of the sidewalk. Make them an art work or something.

Their problem solved.

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Ron Preisach
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I never thought I would say this, but I think I have found a real case where a second amendment solution is the best for a first amendment problem.

RSP conservatives, I have been won over in this limited fashion.
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Boaty McBoatface
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whac3 wrote:
Your right to practice a religion does not include bothering other people with it. This is a bad decision.
I agree, and would also ask does this apply to hoover salesman and trick or treaters or just the JAy doves?
 
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Boaty McBoatface
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CapNClassic wrote:
If you don't want someone to access your private property, put up a fence and post a no trespassing sign.
They did and have be told they can't.
 
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Steve
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slatersteven wrote:
CapNClassic wrote:
If you don't want someone to access your private property, put up a fence and post a no trespassing sign.
They did and have be told they can't.

My reading of the judge's decision is that each house needs its own "No Trespassing" sign, and that then the JW would have to stay on the street or the sidewalk next to the street and wouldn't be able to ring the doorbells.

 
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