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Pastor's curse makes council wary of public comment

By The Associated Press
06.12.06

ONTARIO, Calif. — The City Council is looking for ways to limit public comment during meetings after a pastor said he was placing a curse on the city manager and his family.

"It touched a nerve for me," Councilman John Anderson said in an interview. "Not that criticism directed at (the city manager) is anything to get worked up over, but this went beyond criticism."

The incident occurred when Pastor John Sabbath of Liv-In Christ Christian Center in Chino got up to speak during this week's council meeting. Sabbath was upset that the city did not give funding to his organization after a request he made several years ago.

He said he was placing a curse on City Manager Greg Devereaux, Devereaux's wife and his family.

Anderson asked City Attorney John Brown to examine how city officials could stop speakers whose comments stray too far from city business. Brown said he believed it possible to do that without violating the First Amendment.

Free-speech advocates, however, said they doubted the council could limit speech unless comments veered into slander or hate speech.

"It has to be extreme," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition.

Nevertheless, Mayor Paul Leon vowed to crack down on speakers who attack council members or city officials.

"I'm going to stop people in their tracks when I believe they've crossed the line," he said.


Related

City council critic settles lawsuit over barred comments

Grand Prairie, Texas, man sued town after mayor prevented him from speaking during two 1999 meetings. 12.15.01

Speaking at public meetings

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