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Dec 19, 2012 10:32 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Full Gospel Church Files Federal Civil Rights Suit Against Southampton Town And Village

Dec 19, 2012 11:45 AM

A group that protested against gay marriage outside of Southampton Town Hall in July 2011, after the state’s legalization of same-sex weddings took effect, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Southampton Town and Southampton Village, and their police departments, for making them move away from Southampton Town Hall with their protest.

The Reverend Donald Havrilla of the Southampton Full Gospel Church, Marie Antoinette Favilla, James Boyd IV, Joseph Collins, Richard Morabito and Patrick Impelli, who were protesting that day, claim that the village and town violated their rights to freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, equal access, equal protection and the right to due process of law, all guaranteed by the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The suit stems from the way the group says it was treated that day in front of Town Hall by town and village police, and later by town officials.

The group is not seeking any monetary damages in the suit, except that the town and village pay their attorney fees. What they are asking for in the suit is that the town clarify its code regarding who can protest in front of Town Hall, and when.

Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato did not return calls seeking comment on the suit.

The pastor and the five others protested the morning of July 26, 2011, before the town’s first same-sex wedding, maintaining that the Bible refers to homosexuality as sodomy and an abomination, and rallied for traditional marriage between a man and a woman. The suit said the group was discriminated against because of their religious message and was forced to move to a less visible area, the “free speech zone”—an area across from the driveway and the building’s front steps that officials have designated for protests and demonstrations—and faced the “threat of arrest” if they did not adhere to police officers’ requests.

“The town left open no ample, reasonable alternatives for plaintiffs to communicate their message to the intended audience,” the suit said.

The group first gathered on a section of sidewalk directly in front of the Town Hall building, and within three minutes a Southampton Town police officer “demanded” that the group move off the sidewalk and move to the free speech zone, the suit said.

The group argues in the suit that in recent years, the Town Policemen’s Benevolent Association and the Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force have held rallies on the front steps of Town Hall and asks that the group be treated “fairly and equally.”

A few protesters went inside the building to ask questions, but were told by police officers that they were prohibited from staying inside and must return to the free speech zone. Mr. Impelli did go back to the front door to ask for a non-emergency number for the police department, but was told by a Southampton Village police officer he was not allowed to enter the building “under threat of arrest,” according to the suit.

“The ability of citizens to stand on their own taxpayer property and express their opinions, whether for homosexual marriage or against it, each one has equal rights to express opinions, not with the threat of arrest or bullying,” Mr. Boyd said on Tuesday. “It’s our God-given right of freedom to assemble peacefully.”

In the days that followed, Rev. Havrilla contacted town officials as to why they had been relegated to the free speech zone. According to the suit, Assistant Town Attorney Elizabeth Vail wrote that in the future the group “may not congregate on or near any steps at Town Hall,” citing a town ordinance which prohibits any individual from peddling or soliciting in any congested place or area where the activity may impede, endanger or inconvenience the public or add to the congestion to the area.

Rev. Havrilla said this week that the ordinance was vague and unconstitutional.

“It’s not just their action that day,” he said. “The ordinance is vague and it looks like to us a situation where it could be interpreted differently on different days and in different ways, which just adds to the confusion. The ordinance should be abandoned or changed. It’s unconstitutional and a potential threat to anybody.”

On July 25, 2012, the group returned to the Town Hall’s front steps to protest once again for the one-year anniversary of the first gay marriage, but returned with three video cameras. The suit said no one in the group was “arrested or threatened with arrest” during their appearance.

“It didn’t have to get to this point, any sensible person can see how vague this is,” Rev. Havrilla said about the ordinance that stopped them from standing on the steps. “It could be the start of encroachment upon our freedoms, plus a lot is being said about religious freedom.”

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on Dec 22, 12 10:26 AM
Leviticus, 18:22.

The Bible also states that you should be put to death for working on the Sabbath, Exodus 35:2. If you'd like to sell you daughter into slavery, that's sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. Also, touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean, Leviticus 11:7 (Guess you'll have to pass on the pork rinds). How about not weaving two different types of cloth together, Leviticus 19:19. Or shall we stone the local farmers for planting two different crops side by side, also in Leviticus ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 24, 12 3:50 AM
And a good one, at that
By teamgirl43 (1), Southampton on Dec 24, 12 11:29 AM
It's kind of ironic that "homosexuals" have been discriminated against by society for a couple thousand years, but these people were asked to stop disturbing the peace and it's OK that they file a discrimination lawsuit. It's the "prudent" thing to do by their warped logic.

Homosexuality exists in almonst every single species in nature. Penguins, dogs, you name it. And, truth be told it exists in the animal species known as Homo Sapiens too. How arrogant a moniker, considering it is ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 26, 12 6:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
Don't these kooks have enough with their free tax shelter.
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Dec 24, 12 11:39 AM
Romans 1:27-28 [27] And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
[28] And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
By Jr (7), Sag Harbor on Dec 25, 12 12:38 AM
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Dec 26, 12 8:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
Exactly. If the PBA etc. were allowed to speak in front of Town Hall, then so too should this group be permitted the same right. The content of the speech is irrelevant (except for very specific Constitutional exceptions, not applicable here IMO).
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Dec 26, 12 8:28 PM
Would you agree that from the standpoint of the separation of church and state, that the object of their protest, and cherry picking up Scripture violates the Fourteenth Amendment?

Though marriage is a religious institution it is also a civil institution in the eyes of the law.

As I stated above "separate but equal" has been done away with for sometime
Dec 27, 12 8:31 AM appended by Mr. Z
@BF: These people protested on the day people were to be married at Town Hall. Imagine someone protesting outside the church on your wedding day. Downright disrespectful, and just plain ****** up.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 27, 12 8:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
"On July 25, 2012, the group returned to the Town Hall’s front steps to protest once again for the one-year anniversary of the first gay marriage, but returned with three video cameras. The suit said no one in the group was “arrested or threatened with arrest” during their appearance."

No **** Sherlock. You weren't disturbing the peace, or encroaching upon someone's nuptials that day. How much more disrespectful does religious zealotry get?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 27, 12 5:14 PM
Well Mr Z if religion is a hoax then separation is a "mirage" and where they protest is invalid.
Start spinning spinsters.
Just a thought.
By double-D (96), southampton on Dec 29, 12 7:53 AM
If religion is a "hoax", it's one incredibly societally permeating grand delusion. It's a nice thought, but their religion is what they as well as millions of others believe. While such a belief is so ingrained, the policy of separation will exist in this country. Working along such logic, they would have to deny what they believe, to protest their feelings/beliefs regarding a religious sacrament in a civil environment. I doubt they could.

No "gay marriage" in your church, fine. But ...more
Dec 29, 12 8:39 AM appended by Mr. Z
Also remember that your right to religious freedom under the 1st Amendment does not grant you the right to impose your beliefs on others. Forcing your beliefs on others in society is called proselytism.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 29, 12 8:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
Reverend Havrilla and his group will or will not win this suit, depending on whether the court finds there was unlawful interference with their constitutional rights. Either way, win or lose, they will not gain an inch of traction on the underlying issue of gay marriage. This is a state law, and a substantial majority of New York State voters appear to support it. End of story.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Dec 31, 12 11:47 AM
Nicely put George. You can do this without editorializing or distorting the facts. Bravo!!!!!
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Jan 6, 13 12:25 AM
Listen, don't put the man down for his psych experiment.

It's interesting how a, shall we say, "nom de plume" is eviscerated once a "secret identity" has been outed.

Remember, "the greatest villain, thinks he's a hero."

By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 6, 13 2:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
There is no doubt the town has interferred with the churchs rights. Actually the Supreme court has ruled free speech applies to all govt areas including town hall. Is the sidewalk less of a municipal area then Town Hall? Did you notice Pat Heaney having his press conferance at town hall? The town let that happen. What about when the anti bias members have protests on Town property? The town can not pick and choose who protests on the grounds of Town Hall. I don't know if I personally agree with ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 6, 13 10:40 AM
You don't have the right to scream "FIRE" in a crowded theater, and the church did not have the right to encroach upon the nuptials of these couples.

What do you think would happen if a group protested a Christian wedding day, right in front of a church?

The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of Religion, or the free excerise thereof...", which in the converse respectfully dictates that the church has no right to commit an act of ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 8, 13 8:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
The group is not screaming fire in a theater nor is anyone protesting in front of a private church. With your reasoning a church can't have an opinion or protest. You are confusing church and state and the rights a church has. Gay marriage is not a political situation it is a social ethics issue. They have every right that any other group has to protest at town hall. The town will now defend a lawsuit with your money and lose something that was decided 250 years ago. Instead of your usual cut and ...more
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 10, 13 9:17 PM
Wow, you really are that obtuse.

Being gay has nothing to do with social ethics. You are either born that way, or you aren't. Does the church have rights under the First Amendment? Sure.

Do they have the right to disturb the peace, and the nuptials of a civil cermony? Absolutely not.

Step back from the books of Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, so thusly you shall stop living in the past.
Jan 10, 13 9:28 PM appended by Mr. Z
And, as I recall, wasn't it the Church who set humanity back about 5,000 years with the Dark Ages? Yeah, I thought so...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 10, 13 9:28 PM
i don't even have an opinion on gay marriage so you can save the political correctness horse crap. I have no idea if someone is born gay or not neither do I care. But the fact remains that this church is allowed to protest just like any other group can as long as they are not violent. You like taking away rights of anyone you don't agree with like most liberals. Liberals love everyone as long as they agree with their liberal beliefs.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jan 10, 13 10:56 PM
Sorry, they don't have the right to disturb the peace.

Encroaching on the nuptials of people engaged in probably the most peaceful of ceremonies in the Universe is not proper, nor should it be legal. And, it assuredly is just ******g rude.

Oh, and one more thing: I ain't a liberal.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jan 14, 13 9:26 PM