Pastor and Maui Settle 1st Amendment Lawsuit, County Responds
A settlement was reached between the County of Maui and a pastor in a 1st Amendment lawsuit stemming from a complaint that Pastor Strat Goodhue and his wife Doreen were handing out literature on the sidewalk just outside of the main entrance of the Maui Fair.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the settlement “a victory for free speech.”
ACLU attorneys say that as part of the agreement, the County of Maui has dropped its appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and, for three years, will conduct additional specialized training for current and new Maui Police Department officers on upholding the 1st Amendment in public spaces.
According to the ACLU, after the case was filed, the County of Maui had in turn sued the Maui Fair, whose insurance carrier will pay damages and court costs.
According to county officials, the complaint stems from a 2013 incident that alleged the couple was blocking people on the sidewalk and forcing pedestrians to step into the street.
The ACLU claims that Pastor Strat Goodhue and his wife, Doreen, were “peacefully and lawfully handing out religious literature on the public sidewalk outside the Fair,” a private event that had hired MPD officers to assist with security.
“At the direction of Fair organizers, an MPD officer ordered the Goodhues to leave not just the Fair area, but other nearby public sidewalks as well,” according to a press release issued by the ACLU.
County officials, meantime, say an officer approached the Goodhues after receiving the complaints and asked if they would be willing to move to another area to pass out their literature. According to the County’s account of the incident, the Goodhues agreed and moved to a different location.
The ACLU and the law firm of Davis Levin Livingston later filed a federal lawsuit on the couple’s behalf and the Fair’s insurance company decided to settle the case out of court.
“The ACLU’s inference that the county settled this case because Maui Police officers are not trained in these matters is a misrepresentation of the facts. All Maui Police Department officers have received training in constitutional rights, including those of the First Amendment,” said Maui County Corporation Counsel Pat Wong in a statement.
“The people of Maui County are well within their rights to express themselves through protest or the handing out of literature, but the county will enforce any and all other laws as well, particularly those involving public access and safety,” said Wong.
“Even if an organization has a permit to use a park, street, or sidewalk, if that area remains open to the general public, the First Amendment still applies,” the ACLU stated in a press release. “For example, individuals who want to exercise their First Amendment rights at Maui ‘First Friday’ events and the like, where anyone can come and go as they please, are free to do so,” the ACLU said.
Pastor Goodhue provided the following statement:
“We are very pleased that as a result of this case, Maui residents and visitors can exercise their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For Doreen and me, our message is simple: we want to share the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, and we believe it is vital that people hear this message. But no matter what your beliefs are, everyone should be allowed to express those beliefs in public places.”
Attorney Matthew Winter, with the law firm Davis Levin Livingston, added the following comment:
“What happened to the Goodhues was wrong. The County of Maui and its police have a sworn duty to uphold and protect the free speech rights of everyone on the Valley Isle, and we are hopeful in this victory that renewed focus on these rights and the additional First Amendment training for all MPD officers required as part of the settlement means fundamental rights will now be respected.”