Anti-picketing ordinance aimed at Scientology protestors suspended
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday January 14, 2009
County supervisors freeze picketing ordinance
RIVERSIDE — The Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday suspended a new ordinance that restricts residential picketing to 50 feet or more away from a subject’s property in light of evidence that the measure was already proving difficult to interpret.
The board voted unanimously to refer the anti-picketing ordinance to the county counsel’s office and Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to determine what amendments might be necessary to make it easier to enforce.
Last week, the board approved the measure as an urgency ordinance, making it effective immediately.
However, during a public hearing Tuesday to formally adopt the new law, several supervisors expressed concern that the ordinance may create more complications than solutions.
“When we’re dealing with constitutional rights, don’t we want to make things as simple as possible?” asked Supervisor Bob Buster, who has been lukewarm to the initiative, at best, from the beginning.
Worries about enforcement arose after a group of anti-Church of Scientology protesters told the board that, under the new law, they could not readily identify an acceptable place to effectively demonstrate outside the church’s compound near Hemet.
The 500-acre facility is a mixed-use development that incorporates both residential and commercial structures, including the church’s Golden Era production studios.
Supervisor Jeff Stone has acknowledged the impetus behind his proposing the ordinance last November was the number of complaints his office received from the church regarding protests at the compound last year, at least one of which resulted in a protester’s arrest.
Riverside County Assistant Sheriff Pete Labahn said Tuesday that enforcing the ordinance might be challenging at the church compound because of how the facility is configured.
Supervisor John Tavaglione favored giving the sheriff’s department and county counsel’s office a month to iron out how — or whether — the ordinance can be applied to the situation at Golden Era, and the board agreed.
The next hearing is set for Feb. 10.
Riverside County ordinance curtailing Scientology protests suspended
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors today temporarily suspended an ordinance it passed last week to limit protests outside a large Church of Scientology compound near Hemet..
Protesters show up about once a month outside Golden Era Productions, home to 500 Scientologists, on Gilman Springs Road. In an incident last week, protesters were swarmed by sheriff’s deputies trying to enforce the ordinance. After a vigorous debate among supervisors, the ordinance was suspended today.
The measure, which was requested by the church to keep demonstrators away from private homes and was rushed through last week as “urgent,” is supposed to keep protesters 50 feet from the property line of any residence. Supervisors believed it still would allow protests outside the compound’s front gate.
But a group protesting at the front gate last week was met by carloads of deputies demanding identification. Officers also asked two of the men whether they were HIV positive, protesters said.
In today’s debate, Supervisor Bob Buster questioned whether the ordinance was needed.
“This seems to be much more complicated than it need be,” Buster said. “Why is it even needed?”
Sam Alhadeff, a lawyer representing the church, said the measure was needed to “protect people who move around the campus from having people scream at them.”
Puzzled at the reference to HIV?
See this story for details.
Next find out more about Scientology’s unethical practices, including:
• Dead Agenting
• Fair Game
• Hate- and harassment activities
• Wondering how someone gets sucked into this cult? Read The Complex: An Insider Exposes the Covert World of the Church of Scientology
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