The Christian Action League of Minnesota plans to file a lawsuit challenging a state law that governs harassment restraining orders after an attorney took it to court for sending her multiple postcards discouraging her from advertising in City Pages, an alternative-weekly newspaper.
The league and Minneapolis attorney R. Leigh Frost appeared in court Thursday, and both agreed to dismiss a temporary harassment restraining order Frost obtained against the group in April.
The settlement requires the league to refrain from contacting Frost, her downtown Minneapolis firm or any potential future employers for two years. The league had sought a dismissal.
“It’s great,” Frost said of the outcome. “I got what I wanted — no contact from the Christian Action League — and that was the point of it.”
The league’s primary mission is to dissuade businesses from advertising in City Pages or dispensing it at their locations because it includes advertisements for adult-oriented businesses such as strip clubs. City Pages is owned by the Star Tribune.
Frost acquired a restraining order against the league after receiving three postcards and an e-mail from the group’s co-founder and supporters in March. Frost said she took action because she received the last postcard a week after she had asked them multiple times to stop contacting her.
“I’m happy with the fact that it is dismissed, but this is just the first step, and there’s work to be done so this type of situation doesn’t happen again,” said Ann Redding, league president and co-founder.
Redding said the group has indefinitely suspended its seven-year-long campaign against City Pages because of Frost’s restraining order.
“It’s too dangerous,” Redding said, adding that she doesn’t want to be taken to court again.
Frost, a family law attorney who said she attends a Christian church, was pleased with the news.
“I think the discourse needs to change,” Frost said of the league’s tactics. Frost has advertised in City Pages since 2013 and received a postcard in March from Redding with a handwritten note that said in part, “City Pages promotes strip clubs and porn. As a woman, are you ok with that?”
League attorney Erick Kaardal said he plans to file a federal lawsuit against local government in the next few weeks challenging the statute that defines harassment, in part, as “unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security, or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target.”
“The problem with that statute is it basically allows the government to issue a restraining order on unwanted words,” Kaardal said. “And this is a severe restriction on First Amendment activity.”
Kaardal said another scenario where “unwanted” words could apply is political candidates criticizing each other. The league had argued that Frost’s restraining order infringed on the league’s political speech. As is common in such cases, Frost’s ex parte order was granted without a hearing in front of a judge, and the league wasn’t able to counter it in court until Thursday.
Frost disagreed with Kaardal’s concerns.
“I think that we have the right to say, ‘This is an unwanted act with the intent, perhaps, to make a person feel unsafe,’ ” she said. “I feel like hiding behind so-called political speech or your right to free speech, that doesn’t give you the license to harass people.”