Judge reverses conviction for distributing religious tracts

Earlier we saw that a man had been arrested for passing out gospel tracts in Cumming. The case has begun to make national Christian news. Read here to get more information.

By NANCY BADERTSCHER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 08/09/07

A Cumming man had to turn to a higher authority for justice after he was arrested and jailed for two days for trying to spread the Gospel on a public sidewalk.

And last week, 68-year-old Frederic Baumann got it.

Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bagley threw out Baumann’s conviction for violating a Cumming city ordinance by demonstrating without a parade permit.

“He was shocked and surprised that this could happen in America,” David Cortman, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund who represented Baumann, said Thursday morning.

Baumann was arrested by Cumming police in April as he stood on a public sidewalk outside the city fairgrounds and handed out religious tracts, court records show.

He spent two days in the Cumming city jail before being brought before a City Court judge, convicted of the ordinance violation and sentenced to time served.

Baumann had a brief exchange with the police officer before the arrest, Cortman said.

“He asked the officer if he didn’t have a right to be there under the Constitution,” the attorney said. “The officer’s response was: ‘I guess you want to get arrested.’ ”

At the jail, Baumann repeatedly asked to see a copy of the ordinance and was refused, Cortman said.

Before Judge Bagley, Cortman argued that the ordinance was unconstitutional and incorrectly applied in Baumann’s case. “My argument all along was: One man does not a parade make,” Cortman said.

In his order, Bagley said that in court filings the City Court judge appears to “expressly admit that the ordinance does not apply” to Baumann.

“Therefore,” the judge wrote, “the court … reverses the conviction.”

Baumann and the city’s attorney were not immediately available for comment.

Cortman said he’s working with city officials to make sure that the arrest is expunged from Baumann’s record.

He said his group, which takes on cases involving issues of religious liberty, is weighing still whether to challenge the legality of the city ordinance.

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