Asked in Constitutional Law for California

Q: Is religious preaching on a community college campus legal

I was detained by three city police officers when someone said I solicitated them when trying to share information from the Bible. The cops then took my id ran a background check and said if I came back they would arrest me. Is it legal to preach on a community college campus and can I legally be arrested?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Timothy V. Kassouni
Timothy V. Kassouni

A: As a general matter, the First Amendment Protects the right to proselytize in public places (i.e. public parks, sidewalks etc.). However, courts have upheld "reasonable time place and manner" restrictions on the right to speak, so long as the restriction is not based on the content of the speech. For example, the government can prohibit random individuals from walking into a court-house and disrupting the trials there by yelling about unrelated matters. However, the government could not pass a law which only prohibited yelling in courthouses about something specific (e.g. taxes, wal-mart, or Jesus.). In other words, a blanket ban on yelling in courthouses is ok, a ban only on yelling about Jesus in courthouses is not.

Likewise, a community college may prohibit non-students from using its facilities for any purpose (including preaching) and that prohibition will not violate the First Amendment. It could not, however, allow non-students on campus to discuss politics or morality, but prohibit non-students on campus from discussing religion.

Accordingly, whether or not the community college can prevent you from preaching on campus will depend largely on what the school's policy toward non-students on campus is generally.

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