ACLU Wins Settlement Against Roswell for Violating Christian Preachers’ Right to Free Speech

ROSWELL, NM—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico settled its lawsuit against the City of Roswell, NM alleging that police officers repeatedly violated the First Amendment free speech rights of two local street preachers, Joshua and Jeremy De Los Santos. Joshua and Jeremy are brothers and members of the Old Paths Baptist Church in Roswell, where Joshua is the pastor. Both believe they have a duty to preach the Gospel in public, and both regularly do so. However, the Roswell Police Department (RPD) arrested both brothers multiple times for expressing their sincerely held religious beliefs in public, as is their right under the First Amendment.

 

Under the terms of the settlement, the City of Roswell will pay $97,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

 

JEREMYJOSHUA 114 300x294 ACLU Wins Settlement Against Roswell for Violating Christian Preachers’ Right to Free Speech

Jeremy and Joshua De Los Santos

“This settlement is a significant victory for free speech in New Mexico,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “Police officers may disagree with the content of your speech, but that does not give them the right to arrest you. Today we affirm the right of every person to express their opinions—even unpopular opinions—without fear of arrest or harassment by the government.”

 

In the two years preceding the ACLU’s lawsuit, Roswell police officers arrested Jeremy De Los Santos five times for preaching in public and arrested Joshua twice for the same activity. In every case, the charges against the plaintiffs were either dropped, dismissed by a court of law, or overturned as unconstitutional.

 

The De Los Santos brothers alleged that the Roswell police falsely arrested them without probable cause for exercising their First Amendment right to Free Speech on public property. The brothers also claim that RPD confiscated phones, cameras, camcorders and a bullhorn, some of which were never returned. Jeremy De Los Santos also claimed that RPD officers used excessive force on two occasions.

 

“This settlement sends a strong message to police departments everywhere that you cannot target people for arrest or harassment simply for lawfully expressing their religious beliefs in public,” said Jeremy De Los Santos. “The right to free speech is one of our most precious freedoms, and today that freedom has been upheld.”

Read the original legal complaint here: De Los Santos v Roswell.

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One comment on “ACLU Wins Settlement Against Roswell for Violating Christian Preachers’ Right to Free Speech
  1. Eric Peter Ramberg says:

    The men that you helped make it dangerous to walk in the streets. They are likely to harm my wife and children. We were the people that the police were protecting, and you deleted our protection.

    There is a small group of nonbelievers that are forced to hide in fear of retribution every single day. I am a public school teacher and I have been forced to fake praying 3 times now, all of them led by administrators. One of those times was at a meeting for all of the certified staff for RISD. I could easily lose my job just by letting the wrong person know that I do not believe, but it is like navigating a minefield.

    My wife was actually asked, “which church do you go to?”, in a job interview, so she never received the chance to hide. She is constantly asked uncomfortable questions at work and her boss kept trying to get us to go to his church.

    You have many cases to choose from, and I cannot believe that you selected unstable street preachers that, if they find out who we are, are likely to expose, plague, and publicly humiliate my family. Shouting at and frightening children is not beyond these lunatics. We did not need more leeway for the religious to pry into our personal lives and force religion upon us. You have just made it easier for the religious right in Roswell to violate my family’s civil rights.

    I originally wanted to ask questions about a large-scale issue, but this foolish mistake is far more immediately important.

    Sincerely,
    Eric Peter Ramberg

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