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Preachers Were Arrested in Front of Bellagio

LAS VEGAS – Two street preachers have sued Clark County to fight an ordinance that restricts the size of signs carried on public sidewalks, saying it violates their free speech rights.

Jim Webber and Tom Griner filed the suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court, seeking to strike down the ordinance and recover damages.

Webber and Griner were arrested May 21 while carrying signs on 12-foot metal poles that said, “Don’t gamble with your soul,” and “Turn from sin, Turn to Jesus,” in front of the Bellagio casino resort.

They spent the night in jail, though charges were dropped before their arraignment.

The signs have not been returned, Webber said.

Webber said police were “singling us out as Christians.”

“Let’s be honest. This is Sin City. It’s not the image they want in front of the Bellagio,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Clark County wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit.

The suit marks the latest dispute between local governments and the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit on behalf of the two men, over the use of sidewalks on the Strip and free speech rights.

Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel of the ACLU of Nevada, said he thinks elected officials try to regulate what’s on the sidewalk to help tourism.

“It’s a laudable goal, but clearly it cannot trump the rights of the First Amendment.”

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