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First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, once a week, Jeremy recalls the stories that have shaped America’s religious liberty, from the founding era to current legal battles and more. It’s an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people, and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.
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Jun 29, 2020

Rhode Island Police banned an elderly blind woman from visiting her local park because she was handing out copies of the Gospel of John. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Gail Blair was a nurse at Johns Hopkins.  But, she walked away from nursing in 1989 and toward an unexpected encounter with the police.

A degenerative condition that causes gradual vision loss drove Gail away from nursing.  At just 37 years of age, she could no longer see.  She and her husband moved to a place just about a block away from Wilcox Park and Westerly Public Library.  She learned how to independently navigate the sidewalks that lead to and from her home and sit in the park.

As passersby strolled past in this 10-acre park, Gail would engage them in conversation, telling them about Jesus and sharing with them a copy of the Gospel of John.  In 2019, park authorities accused this 63-year old blind woman of “accosting” park goers and blamed her for littering when they found copies of the Gospel of John on the ground.  They asked the police to ban her from the park under threat of arrest if she were to trespass in the future. 

Sighted persons are free to cross into the park and have conversations with anyone, but park officials called the police on a blind woman who shared her faith with others.

First Liberty and its network attorneys filed a charge of discrimination with the Rhode Island Commission on Human Rights because banning a blind woman from entering a public park simply because she offers people she meets religious material is outrageous and discriminatory. 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

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