“Unnecessary Noise” Charge Against Evangelist Dismissed
Kennewick, WA–A Benton County District Judge dismissed the criminal charge against a public evangelist who regularly preaches outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic. The judge held that the City of Kennewick’s noise ordinance unconstitutionally restrains speech that “annoys” the comfort, repose, health or safety of the public.
Eric Schonbachler travels to various communities to preach to the public. He regularly preaches in Kennewick, Washington, on the public street outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic. He posts a sign with a picture of a baby, offers religious tracts, and delivers religious speeches without any amplification.
In November 2018, a Kennewick police officer confronted Schonbachler outside the clinic and informed him of the noise ordinance regarding elevated voices. Schonbachler respectfully told the officer that he retains his First Amendment rights to deliver his speeches. The officer cited Schonbachler for “loud and raucous, and frequent, repetitive, or continuous sounds made by the amplified human voice.”
The Benton County District Court found that the noise ordinance’s terms do not describe the human voice, nor Schonbachler’s protests and preaching. Jorge Ramos, Pacific Justice Institute’s attorney in Seattle, Washington, represented Schonbachler in court and filed the motion to dismiss that was granted.
Brad Dacus, President of PJI, commented, “We are pleased with the favorable court ruling for this public evangelist who simply desires to share hope and truth with the women who end up at Planned Parenthood’s door. PJI is strategically positioned along the Pacific Coast to preserve the fundamental rights of U.S. citizens to freely share religious speech in public fora.”