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Shh! Police Telling A Preacher To Keep It Down Is Not A First Amendment Violation

February 18, 2011

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In Costello v. City of Burlington, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit examined whether a police officer violated a preacher’s First Amendment Rights when the officer told the preacher to lower his voice when preaching on at a pedestrian mall. The Preacher was shouting and yelling, and disrupting other pedestrians. When the preacher refused, the officer issued a written warning for violation of Burlington’s noise control ordinance. According to the officer, the preacher could be heard over 350 away.
The Second Circuit upheld Burlington’s right to limit the preacher’s volume. The Court noted that Costello’s voice dominated the area, and impinged on the use of the neighborhood by others. Significantly, the office did not tell the preacher to stop speaking, but only to lower his voice.
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