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Banning the Word of God: Blind Woman Booted from Public Park for Two Years

06-18-2020
blindwoman

In one of the most unusual stories you will read about today or any day for that matter, a blind woman in Rhode Island was banned for two years from a public park and a library in Westerly for sharing her faith in Jesus Christ.

Fox News reports officials at the Memorial and Library Association, in charge of Westerly Library and Wilcox Park, demanded Gail Blair, 63 at the time and blind, stop having conversations with others in the park about Jesus.

During her talks, Blair would offer passers-by a copy of the Gospel of John.  Members of the association called the local police on June 24, 2019, complaining that she "accost(ed)" patrons by "stopping" and "giving them religious pamphlets" which they were discarding in the park.

A short time later, after volunteering to assist her church's Vacation Bible School event in the park, the Westerly Police Department informed Blair that she had trespassed, warning her that any future violations would result in her being placed under arrest.

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On Tuesday, First Liberty Institute and William Wray Jr., an attorney at Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C., filed a charge of discrimination on behalf of Blair with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights against Westerly, Rhode Island's Memorial and Library Association for banning Blair from a public park. 

You can read the charge of discrimination here

Blair, who suffered from a disorder that caused gradual vision loss, says in the complaint she was banned "because of the Association's unlawful discrimination against me on the basis of my disability and my religious beliefs."

A representative of the association told Fox News it "does not engage in nor tolerate any forms of discrimination," adding that it has not received a copy of the complaint and "cannot specifically comment on the allegations made by Gail Blair."

"The Association vehemently denies any claims of discrimination or wrongdoing and it looks forward to receiving a copy of the complaint in order to rebut and disprove any claims made by Ms. Blair."

"Banning a blind woman from entering a public park simply because she offers people she meets religious material is outrageous and discriminatory," said Jeremy Dys, special counsel for Litigation and Communications at First Liberty Institute. "No government entity should ban anyone—let alone a gentle, blind woman—for simply carrying on conversations about her faith and giving them a copy of the Gospel of John in a public park."

He added that "Talking about your faith to people in a public park should never be a crime. Gail Blair simply wants the same rights as everyone else, to be free to talk to people about issues she cares about in a public park."

Blair said her conduct did not violate the "Rules of Conduct" posted by the Westerly Library and Wilcox Park or any of the park's guidelines. She lives next to the park in question. 

Blair said she "cannot independently access another public park or another free public library."

She also denied confronting park visitors.  

"I do what the Pocket Testament League urges," Blair explained. "Simply offer them a Gospel of John, the Word of God. No arguing."

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