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This Land Is Your Land? - An NPS Case Update

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your incredible outpouring of encouragement and support during our interaction with the National Park Service and the Federal Courts. Our spirits are lifted knowing you care about this issue and stand with us to preserve free speech and free assembly on public lands.

We wanted to give you an update on the status of our case and a report on our court appearance in New Orleans earlier this week.

In God’s kind providence, our case was the only one on the docket Tuesday morning, much to the surprise of the judge and prosecutor, who said it is normally very busy. We briefly discussed the case with the U.S. Attorney prior to the judge convening court but were unable to reach an agreement, and consequently entered a plea of not guilty. A trial date was set for January 17.

After our plea, the judge dismissed court and we had the opportunity to dialogue with the prosecutor and a National Park Service ranger, gaining a great amount of understanding into the way they understand and administer their custodial duties in our parks. Had there been even one other case on the docket that day, this would have been highly unlikely. The fact that the U.S. Attorney and the ranger were willing to kindly interact for twenty minutes after our not guilty plea was entered was another great blessing as well.

While we cannot discuss all the details of the case at this juncture, below are some major factors that bear influence on the situation.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” —Luke 14:28
  • The National Park Service maintains that each individual park supervisor has the authority to require any group to obtain a permit, and also determines what type of permit they are required to get, along with any related fees for those permits.
    • Permits are not portable, so we may be required to apply and pay for a Commercial Use permit at one park, while needing a 1st Amendment permit at another, and have no permits at still another park. The same park could require a different permit with different fees for the same group activity at a different time, depending on the supervisor. We assumed that the permit and fee policy was consistent across all parks, but were told on Tuesday that is not the case. The fact that we have only once in the past fifteen years been required to get a permit (that was for 7 buses and 350 people in Gettysburg) apparently has no bearing on our current case.
  • If we are found innocent in court in January, the result would benefit only Landmark Events by rescinding the fine and clearing our record. We, you or any other group could be cited at any time in the future and have to go through the same motions as we are now. No policy would be changed.
  • The maximum penalty for this offense is six months in prison and a $5,000 fine. Although unlikely, it would put us out of business and be a huge burden on my family.
  • We have been advised that to challenge the constitutionality of the National Park Service policies based on this case could be a long and expensive process with an uncertain outcome.
  • That being said, simply paying the fine requires an admission of guilt, which we do not believe to be accurate, and then requires us to disclose our conviction on future permit applications, potentially impeding our ability to get permits approved.

Our greatest need is for a constitutional attorney licensed in Louisiana to take our case. We believe we have a right to fair access to the Parks and to proclaim the Lord’s glorious work throughout history on the very ground it happened. Currently, we are counting the cost, consulting attorneys and seeking the wisest course of action at this juncture, desiring to be good stewards of our resources while defending your constitutional rights and ultimately pleasing God.

Again, we are grateful for your prayers and encouragement for our ministry. We are more determined than ever to continue our work of bringing hope to God’s people by testifying to His everlasting mercy, particularly on public lands. We will keep you posted on our progress and ask that you continue to appeal to heaven for wisdom and provision.

Kevin Turley,

President, Landmark Events

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