Every now and then, an incident or case comes up that you know is going to be controversial. We’ve just had one of those in Minnesota. To summarize, a man was in the Mall of America wearing a shirt with the writing on the back “Jesus is the only way” and on the front of the shirt the words “Jesus Saves”. It also had a graphic of the popular “coexist” sign with a line drawn through it.
On the day in question, the man was simply present in the mall, not doing anything other than “being present.” However, the man was asked to leave the mall a week prior for violating the mall’s policy against “soliciting.”
So, did the mall security violate this man’s First Amendment rights? Was this a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination from among other things, your religion? Or was this an issue of private property owners enforcing their rights as owners on their private property? Let’s rule out the First Amendment violation as that only applies to government, this is a private security guard.
Moving on, we need to establish some definitions to work from. The Mall of America is privately owned but is known as “Quasi-Public” space. What are quasi-public spaces? Glad you asked. Without getting too deep, or giving an overly legalistic answer, quasi-public spaces are open spaces that look and feel like public places, open to all; however, they are in fact private spaces that are only conditionally made available to the public. So how is this different from truly public property, like a city park? In a truly public space, the only conditions on your presence there is codified law. While in quasi-public space the owner of the property can make “policy” that must be adhered to, so long as the policy isn’t in conflict with law.
Next thing to get a baseline on is what is “solicitation.” After all, the guard says the man is soliciting, right? Solicitation can be defined as, the act of asking for or trying to obtain something from someone. If you really want to go further down the rabbit hole of what constitutes solicitation, most definitions and court cases illustrate much more colorful examples of solicitation, dealing with accosting people and prostitution. Pretty sure we can agree that accosting people and prostitution are not at issue here.
This is where we delve into the debate. I believe this man did have his civil rights infringed upon, as he was asked to leave the mall or remove his religious shirt. If he can prove this, the national average payout for a religious discrimination claim is around $40,000 to $50,000. In video of the incident the man wearing the shirt can be heard asking what’s wrong with his shirt. The guard repeatedly asks the man to leave or remove the shirt. And then the security guard finally gives his reason for wanting the man to leave. The guard can be heard saying “Again sir, it is religious soliciting. There is no soliciting allowed on all property…” So, from the get-go, the reason stated by the guard in the video is wrong, as the man was not soliciting. The mall or at least the guard really just didn’t want the Jesus shirt displayed. One of the weaknesses however of the man’s case is that he was “eventually” allowed to continue shopping while still wearing the shirt. So, arises, how long do you need to be harassed before it is considered an infringement? I don’t have an answer, but I can say this is the stuff settlements are made out of.
Moving beyond the legalistic aspects of this incident, there are some other things that stand out. There’s a person that can be heard on a video of the incident telling the man wearing the shirt to “just take off the shirt.” I can’t help but think that it’s like the Devil saying, just give up your faith a little bit. I applaud this man for not giving in. You can expect to see more cases like this in the future. Christians always have and always will face persecution. I hope this man’s perseverance gives you strength not to give in to the woke mobs and metaphorically (maybe literally), not take off the shirt.