Timothy J. Brown filed the suit last month in U.S. District Court against the city of Cookeville, TN and one of its police officers for allegedly violating his rights to freedom of speech. During last year’s Pride festival when police asked him to move 50 feet away from the festival because he was holding up a sign with anti-gay Bible verses and saying offensive things to festival attendees.
Brown, calls himself an “equal opportunity preacher,”
In the suit, Brown says he was “exercising his constitutional rights and free exercise of religion by peacefully sharing his Christian message in a public park in the city,” and that he was threatened with arrest under the city’s code.
“Plaintiff sought, and continues to seek, to discuss issues from a religious perspective, to distribute religious literature, to display signs and to engage in religious speech through sharing his faith,” part of what the 25-page suit states. “Plaintiff was deprived of his right under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to engage in free exercise of religion activities prohibited by the code, as interpreted and enforced by defendants.”
Brown also alleges that the city’s code “unconstitutionally compels plaintiff to move out of a traditional public forum.” despite the fact that the Pride festival organizers paid a fee to rent a portion of the park.
The suit says Brown has suffered injuries and damages as a result of being deprived of his rights, requests a trial by jury and asks that the city be prevented from enforcing the city’s code against Brown, who also asks for “nominal and/or compensatory and/or special and/or punitive damages” against the city and attorney’s fees.
Cookeville City Attorney Dan Rader said there will be a case management hearing conference July 12, regarding the suit.