6:04 p.m. EST, October 24, 2012|By Anika Myers Palm, Orlando Sentinel
Three women have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that a new Winter Park ordinance that restricts picketing in residential areas violates their right to express their Christian faith.
In the lawsuit, the women ask the court to prevent the city from enforcing parts of the ordinance they say would make it illegal for them to demonstrate in residential areas. The ordinance requires that picketing or protesting be at least 50 feet from the property line of any dwelling.
Commissioners adopted the ordinance Sept. 24 after an August anti-abortion-rights protest outside the home of Jenna Tosh, CEO of the Orlando chapter of Planned Parenthood.
The suit names Winnifred Bell, Allura Lightfoot and Deanna Waller as plaintiffs, though it’s not clear whether they were directly involved in the protest at Tosh’s home. The women are represented by Frederick Wilson of the American Liberties Institute, which has assisted conservative Christian petitioners in the past. Wilson did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The suit claims the three women plan to go to public spaces within the city to share their faith but that the new ordinance places them in jeopardy of arrest.
Winter Park maintains that the ordinance is constitutional because similar ordinances have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Orlando also restricts protests in residential areas.
The city will argue its case at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 4, said Winter Park spokeswoman Clarissa Howard.
Several Winter Park residents who said they shouldn’t be subjected to protests in their neighborhoods urged the council to adopt the ordinance. The plaintiffs, however, disputed that their gatherings would cause problems.
“Plaintiffs have no intent to harass, encourage violence, or to express themselves in any way other than in a peaceful manner,” the suit states.
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