A judge in Washington state has dismissed a criminal charge against an evangelist who regularly preaches outside of a local Planned Parenthood clinic.
The Pacific Justice Institute noted in a press release that its client, Eric Schonbachler, was accused of violating the city of Kennewick's noise ordinance because he raised his voice to share his message.
In November 2018, a police officer confronted him outside the abortion clinic in an attempt to get him to stop. The officer gave Schonbachler a citation for "loud and raucous, and frequent, repetitive, or continuous sounds made by the amplified human voice."
Schonbachler defended himself, saying his speech is protected under the First Amendment.
Schonbachler is known for his commitment to ministering the Gospel in various communities. He usually has a sign with a picture of a baby and hands out religious tracts while he delivers his message.
The judge, representing Benton County District Court, dismissed the charge, stating the city's noise ordinance violates the US Constitution with its restrictions on free speech. He emphasized that the city cannot restrain speech just because the message "annoys" the public.
Furthermore, the court found the city's noise ordinance policies do not describe a human voice, nor Schonbachler's preaching.
"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," said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute. "PJI is strategically positioned along the Pacific Coast to preserve the fundamental rights of US citizens to freely share religious speech in public fora."