The island of Maui is located approximately 5,000 miles from the original copy of the United States Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., but given the actions of the Maui Police Department, we might as well be five light years away.
Don’t believe me? Go stand on a sidewalk–any public sidewalk around the county will do. Chances are that you’ll be in trouble if one of Maui’s Finest happens upon you.
In the County of Maui, cops will bust you if you’re standing on a public sidewalk while carrying a sign that expresses some sort of political message. They’ll bust you if you try to take photographs of them doing their jobs–even if you’re just standing on a public right-of-way–as our publisher Tommy Russo found out in 2012. And they’ll bust you if you’re trying to hand out some sort of religious information to other people on the public sidewalk.
Didn’t know about that last one? Well, neither did the ACLU’s Hawaii office, and now they’re suing the County of Maui over it, according to their Feb. 6 press release:
“Maui County (“County”) is again in federal court, accused of violating the free speech rights of a Maui pastor and his wife. In October, Pastor Strat Goodhue and his wife, Doreen, were peacefully handing out religious materials on the public sidewalk outside the Maui Fair when a Maui Police Department (“MPD”) Officer ordered them to leave. When Pastor Goodhue asked a second Officer whether this was legal, the Officer replied that it was–and, worse, that Pastor and Mrs. Goodhue could also be ejected from other public sidewalks nearby (including in front of the police station) if they attempted to distribute religious literature.”
The case is in litigation, so county officials won’t comment on the suit. Attorney Matthew Winter with the law firm Davis Levin Livingston had no such qualms. “The fact is that the sidewalk is public space, and under the First Amendment, all are free to express their opinions there,” he said in the Feb. 6 press release. “While government may set some restrictions on the time, place and manner of speech in order to protect public safety, they are not allowed to unilaterally squash the voice of peaceful, law abiding demonstrators. Pastor and Mrs. Goodhue did the right thing in obeying the commands of MPD officers, but those commands were unconstitutional–and so today we are in court to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
Photo: Wikimedia Commons