A few years ago, Joshua Herridge was waiting outside of a ZZ Top concert in Montgomery County, Texas, but unlike most people gathering near the event hall, he was not there to see the band. He was spreading his religious message by preaching, holding signs, and leafletting near a right-of-way outside of the large pavilion. Herridge was eventually approached by officers and asked to relocate his activities to a corner across the street.
Herridge brought suit against Montgomery County and the County’s Fire Marshal in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, claiming that the County’s attempt to relocate him from his street pulpit violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district court found for the County, holding that Montgomery had a significant interest in removing people engaging in activities which entice people to stop and listen during crowded events, since these holdups can cause bottlenecks in foot traffic which redirect pedestrians into active roadways and increase their likelihood of being struck by cars. Because the County limited its policy to a single block, provided an alternative space for preaching across the street, and only enforced the policy during large events, the district court found that the County’s policy was narrowly tailored. Herridge appealed to the Fifth Circuit.