Honolulu, Hawai‘i: In a victory for free speech, a federal 1st Amendment lawsuit brought by a Maui pastor and his wife has been settled. As part of the settlement agreement, the County of Maui has dropped its appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and, for three years, will conduct additional specialized training for current and new Maui Police Department (“MPD”) officers on upholding the 1st Amendment in public spaces. After the case was filed, the County of Maui had in turn sued the Maui Fair (“Fair”), whose insurance carrier will pay damages and court costs.
The lawsuit arose when, in October 2013, Pastor Strat Goodhue and his wife, Doreen, were peacefully and lawfully handing out religious literature on the public sidewalk outside the Fair, a private event that had hired MPD officers to assist with security. At the direction of Fair organizers, an MPD officer ordered the Goodhues to leave not just the Fair area, but other nearby public sidewalks as well. The ACLU and the law firm of Davis Levin Livingston filed a federal court lawsuit shortly thereafter.
Even if an organization has a permit to use a park, street, or sidewalk, if that area remains open to the general public, the First Amendment still applies. For example, individuals who want to exercise their First Amendment rights at Maui “First Friday” events and the like, where anyone can come and go as they please, are free to do so.
Pastor Goodhue said: “We are very pleased that as a result of this case, Maui residents and visitors can exercise their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For Doreen and me, our message is simple: we want to share the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, and we believe it is vital that people hear this message. But no matter what your beliefs are, everyone should be allowed to express those beliefs in public places.”
Attorney Matthew Winter, with the law firm Davis Levin Livingston, added: “What happened to the Goodhues was wrong. The County of Maui and its police have a sworn duty to uphold and protect the free speech rights of everyone on the Valley Isle, and we are hopeful in this victory that renewed focus on these rights and the additional First Amendment training for all MPD officers required as part of the settlement means fundamental rights will now be respected.”