New Jersey City to Change Ordinance Requiring Permit to Engage in Free Speech

Atlantic City authorities will no longer enforce a city ordinance used by police to stop a New Jersey man from engaging in religious speech on the resort town's boardwalk earlier this summer.

The Atlantic City Solicitor's Office agreed that an ordinance prohibiting religious services or other secular meetings of any kind without a written permit is "unenforceable in its present form" and that city officials intend to update the ordinance, according to an Oct. 24 letter to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which represents the man.

ADF officials contacted city officials in September after a police officer ordered Pat Donlevy to stop talking to people on the boardwalk about his religious beliefs. The officer told Donlevy that mere eye contact with anyone constituted harassment and that he would “have to write him up” if he continued his expression. Donlevy left out of fear of arrest, ADF officials said.

In response to the ADF's letter, an Atlantic City assistant solicitor said the city will not enforce the ordinance in its current form and that it will be revised in accordance with applicable case law.

Donlevy, of Linwood, N.J., was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.