Officials at the Memorial and Library Association, in charge of Westerly Library and Wilcox Park, demanded Gail Blair, 63 at the time and blind, stop having conversations with others in the park about Jesus.
During the chats, Blair typically would offer a copy of the Gospel of John. Association members called the police on June 24, 2019, claiming she "acost[ed]" patrons by "stopping" and "giving them religious pamphlets."
On Tuesday, Blair, represented by First Liberty Institute and William Wray Jr., an attorney at Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C., filed a discrimination complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights against the library association.
In the complaint, Blair, who worked as a nurse until 1991 and suffered from a disorder that caused gradual vision loss, says she was banned "because of [the Associations's] unlawful discrimination against me on the basis of my disability and my religious beliefs."
A representative for the association told Fox News it "does not engage in nor tolerate any forms of discrimination," adding that it has not received a copy of the complaint and "cannot specifically comment on the allegations made by Gail Blair."
"The Association vehemently denies any claims of discrimination or wrongdoing and it looks forward to receiving a copy of the complaint in order to rebut and disprove any claims made by Ms. Blair."
In July 2019, Blair was volunteering with her church's Bible school event in the park when the Westerly Police Department informed her she had trespassed. They warned her a future violation would result in her being arrested.
“The Police Department searched for all incidents that involved complaints or trespass notices issued to anyone for distributing information, pamphlets, soliciting, selling, hawking, etc., and found none apart from when the Association called the police to eject me from the park," Blair said. "My conduct did not violate the ‘Rules of Conduct’ posted by Westerly Library and Wilcox Park. Nor did it violate any of the Park’s Guidelines.”
Blair, who lives next to the park said she "cannot independently access another public park or another free public library."
She denied accosting park patrons. "I do what the Pocket Testament League urges," Blair said. "Simply offer them a Gospel of John, the Word of God. No arguing."
Jeremy Dys, special counsel for litigation and communications for First Liberty, the largest religious freedom legal group in the U.S., called the incident "outrageous and discriminatory" in a statement to Fox News.
"No government entity should ban anyone—let alone a gentle, blind woman— for simply carrying on conversations about her faith and giving them a copy of the Gospel of John in a public park," Dys said.