Apparently, a mall in California tried to put in place rules that barred people in the mall from approaching those they did not know and talking to them about anything other than shopping in the mall. It specifically disallowed:
"approaching patrons with whom he or she was not previously acquainted for the purpose of communicating with them on a topic unrelated to the business interests."
The goal was to prevent pitches and sermons and such -- and it was even used to make a "citizen's arrest" of a minister who was preaching at the mall. However, a court has rejected this rule, as a violation of free speech rights
. Now, my first reaction to this was to wonder why a private corporation could be found violating free speech rights -- as the US Constitution only says that the government may not limit free speech -- private corporations can, indeed, limit speech. However, this was an issue having to do with California law, where the state constitution
is a bit broader:
Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or
her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of
It may seem ridiculous to try to limit speech within a mall, as noted by the following exchange during a deposition in the case:
"If you're going to talk about any other subject (other than the mall) ... then you're prohibited from going up to strangers and speaking to them, is that correct?" he was asked by a Snatchko attorney.
"That's not correct," Farnam testified. "It doesn't prohibit you. It just means you have to come in and fill out the application for third-party access for noncommercial" speech.
What if, the attorney postulated, he is excited about the Super Bowl and says to a stranger, "Hey, hope you're supporting the Patriots," or "Hope you're supporting the Giants this week." Would that violate the rules? he asked.
"You can go in and again fill out a third-party access, if that's what a person chooses to do," said Farnam
As the Sacramento Bee noted in discussing this case
Weather is a no-no, unless one is intuitive enough to observe how it may be affecting the size of the crowd at the mall. Teenagers who use the common areas for social gatherings, not necessarily limited to contemporaries they already know, are out of luck. Should someone stop you and ask directions to Sutter-Roseville Medical Center, you would be well advised to blow them off, lest your humanitarian instincts lead you astray.
However, in the end, I still find this troubling. If the mall wants to have such a ridiculous policy, with such ridiculous results, why should the government stop them from doing so? I would imagine the mall has other rules for determining who is and who is not allowed to patronize the mall. What's wrong with letting the mall create such a silly policy?