Preacher suing town after noise ticket

March 18, 2013 at 2:36 PM
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PRINCETON, N.J., March 18 (UPI) -- A boisterous preacher is suing Princeton, N.J., alleging a noise ordinance ticket he was issued and was later dismissed violated his First Amendment rights.

In October 2011, Michael Stockwell stood on a street corner in a section of town where Princeton University students frequently congregate, using a small amplifier to preach a message of chastity and sobriety, police reports indicate. After angry encounters with several young people, police arrived and told Stockwell to turn off the amplifier.

He complied, but began shouting his message instead, lawyer Michael Daily Jr. said.

"That is a message that is not going to be well-received," Daily acknowledged. "You have got your date there and the last thing you need is a preacher telling you you shouldn't be drinking and hooking up later."

Finally, police issued Stockwell a ticket for violating the town's noise ordinance for using the amplifier. Later, the police changed the charge to "intentionally engaging in tumultuous behavior for the purpose of causing annoyance."

After seven court appearances, the charge was dismissed in April 2012.

Daily said Stockwell maintains a blog about his and other preachers' experiences traveling the country, including fighting in the courts when they're met with resistance.

"These guys have a lot of encounters, but they seem to me like they are genuinely religious and genuinely believe in what they are doing," Daily said. "Their First Amendment rights are important and they are going to enforce them."

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, seeks to nullify the town's noise ordinance, have Stockwell's legal fees reimbursed and unspecified monetary damages, The Times of Trenton reported Monday. The town has responded to the lawsuit, saying it is without merit and officers were acting in good faith trying to uphold the law.

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