The California Supreme Court ruled in San Francisco today that airports are entitled to impose limited bans on solicitations for money on their premises.
The court unanimously upheld a Los Angeles ordinance that was challenged by a Hare Krishna group that sought to ask airport travelers for money.
The law, enacted in 1997, bars groups at Los Angeles International Airport from asking for immediate financial contributions “in a continuous and repetitive manner.”
The measure doesn’t prohibit passing out literature or asking for contributions to be sent in later via mail or the Internet, however.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness of California argued that the measure violated its free speech rights.
But the state high court said the measure was a limited and reasonable restriction to prevent congestion, possible delays and possible defrauding of busy travelers.
Justice Carlos Moreno wrote, “Travelers often are in a hurry, and the airport is often crowded.”
Moreno also noted, “The skillful, and unprincipled, solicitor can target the most vulnerable, including those accompanying children or those suffering physical impairment who cannot easily avoid the solicitation.”
Moreno, writing for the court, said the law is valid “as a reasonable, content-neutral regulation of the manner of protected speech.”
Danny Chou, the chief of complex litigation for the San Francisco city attorney’s office, argued in the case in support of Los Angeles on behalf of the San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego airports, the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties.
Chou said San Francisco’s regulation is not the same as the Los Angeles measure because San Francisco limits solicitation to designated free speech booths.
But Chou said the ruling “gives San Francisco more options to reduce harassment of travelers and ensure airport security.”
The Krishna lawsuit started out in federal court in Los Angeles in 1997, but a federal appeals court in San Francisco eventually referred the case to the California Supreme Court.