|Thompson & Knight Attorney David Furlow quoted in The Gazette |
A plea for caution on panhandling ban
|July 17, 2012 11:59 pm|
Last week, when I wrote about Cedar Rapids' proposed panhandling ordinance, I tossed in some stuff near the end about begging being free speech. I was sort of flip about it.
"It's a form of speech," Furlow said. "When I put out my hand when you pass by, you're not just seeing an outthrust hand. You're understanding the message conveyed, which is, 'brother can you spare a dime?' That's a form of expressive speech."
Furlow knows most folks don't see it that way. He suggests switching out the panhandler for a pastor seeking donations from the pulpit. "Would anybody doubt that's protected speech? It's all in context," he said.
I sent Furlow a copy of Cedar Rapids' draft panhandling ordinance provided by the police department. I know it's being revised, but I wanted to see what he thought about its basic provisions.
A main focus of the ordinance is banning "aggressive panhandling." And Furlow contends that if the City Council sticks strictly to specific, aggressive behavior, it can create an ordinance that restricts conduct but not speech or expression. That way, if it was challenged in court, the city would have a lower legal threshold to clear in proving the ordinance’s necessity.
Basically, the council needs to be very careful. Don't overshoot aggressive beggars and hit the Constitution.
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