Legal Feature


District Court Ruling: Payden-Travers v. Talkin



June 22, 2017

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by The Rutherford Institute on behalf of two peace activists whose ability to engage in expressive activity in the Supreme Court plaza has been restricted by a federal law and U.S. Supreme Court regulation that forbid virtually all speech on the plaza in front of the Supreme Court’s building. In challenging the restrictions as a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law protecting the exercise of religious beliefs, Institute attorneys argued that the Supreme Court’s ban on expressive activities on its front porch muzzled those whose religious beliefs compel them to engage in peaceful protests and speak out against war and the death penalty. However, in dismissing the lawsuit, the federal district court ruled that the law and regulation do not substantially burden the protesters’ religious beliefs and practices because the activists could demonstrate elsewhere. The ruling follows a 2015 decision that gave the Supreme Court the green light to restrict expressive First Amendment activities on its plaza.