The New Orleans City Council recently passed an ordinance aimed at reducing panhandling in the French Quarter, but they included a provision that is clearly unconstitutional and almost certain to end with them losing a lawsuit when it is inevitably challenged in court:
When the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance in October prohibiting “aggressive solicitation” by people who allegedly harass or intimidate French Quarter residents and tourists while asking for money, it included a seemingly unrelated provision that attracted no attention at the time.
That sentence, almost at the end of the eight-page ordinance, said: “It shall be prohibited for any person or group of persons to loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise.”
When someone complained about the law this week, however, it was not to challenge it as an infringement on First Amendment freedoms. Instead, former mayoral candidate Leo Watermeier complained to Palmer and Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson in public emails that religious demonstrators, sometimes with large signs and bullhorns, have been showing up on Bourbon Street on Friday and Saturday nights, yet police have taken no action against them.
The bullhorns might be a problem, but only if the same rules are applied to everyone making the same level of noise. But you don’t solve that by passing a clearly unconstitutional law that prohibits all gatherings to send any political or religious message.