Politic365

 
 


Grito

11:44pm March 21, 2013

Puerto Rican Gated Communities Must Open Gates to Jehova’s Witnesses

jehovah's witness

On Thursday, March 21st, an already shell-shocked population (in Puerto Rico) was hit with another blow against the self-imposed prisonesque security measures many urbanizations and neighborhoods have: A District Court judge, Gustavo Gelpí, ordered neighborhoods who maintain un-manned gates to provide beepers, keys or any other mode of access to the Jehova’s Witnesses. The decision is the latest chapter of a legal battle that has spanned several years by the Watchtower Bible Society (as plaintiffs) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, several municipalities and neighborhoods (as defendants).

The case begins with the Jehova’s Witnesses (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc.) belief that it is their religious duty to share the Bible’s message publicly and to proselytize from house to house. As such, ever since Puerto Rico enacted the Controlled Access Laws (CAL), and subsequently, neighborhoods began gating their communities, Jehova’s have been unable to do their “house to house” visits. More often than not, residents would (and still don’t) not let them in, neighborhood guards  ignore their request and/or flat out deny access to them. In the case of un-manned gates, residents simply refuse to “buzz them in.”

Following many attempts by Watchtower to reach an agreement with municipalities and neighborhoods for access, they filed a declaratory action & injunction at the Puerto Rico Federal District Court. Following several procedural steps and filings, Judge Pieras dismissed Watchtower’s facial challenge to the CAL, as well as the “as applied” challenge to the CAL. In sum, he dismissed the entire suit. Watchtower, not known for their legal timidness, filed an appeal before the First Circuit. On February 7th, 2011, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit handed down its decision, remanding the case back to the District Court. The Court of Appeals held three main points:

1) That the Puerto Rico CAL are constitutional (on its face), but remanded the case and revoked the Court’s dismissal of the “as applied” constitutional challenge.

2) Reiterated that gated communities may inquire name and purpose, but following that must allow the visitor entry, regardless of the resident’s authorization.

3) Remanded the case, and held that unmanned gated communities (ie. the ones that only have an intercom) have to provide a way to man the gates, even if temporarily during the week, or otherwise allow access to the Jehova’s.

The recent decision has not sat well with many residents who lived in gated communities (which I may add, is not limited to high income families, but rather to many middle class families given the crime rate the Island has endured for decades). Typically, a visitor can only enter a gated community if a resident allows said visitor to come in. With the Court’s decision, not only to manned communities have to allow Jehova’s Witnesses to enter the neighborhood (following a brief process in which their names are registered), but un-manned communities have to give them a means to enter the urbanization whenever they choose to.

On the one hand, the Court of Appeals recognized that blocking access to the Jehova’s Witnesses impairs their First Amendment rights under the Federal Constitution. While Puerto Rico has a legitimate interest in providing security for its citizens, it could not cut the Jehova’s Witnesses from a significantly large segment of the population (i.e. those who lived in gated communities). On the other hand, Puerto Ricans depend on their gated communities to provide some type of security that is clearly not being provided by the local police force, and even then, a gated community is far from a guarantee. Although the decision is limited to Jehova’s Witnesses, other advocacy groups could soon file similar legal challenges, further eroding the self-imposed barriers many Puerto Ricans enjoy and cherish. As Puerto Rico moves towards a third year with 1,000+ murders, one has to wonder if this was the right call by Judge Gelpí.



About the Author

jeanvidal





 
 

 
7432022562_3733c11c35_k

Supreme Court is allowing Texas to use strict voter ID law in Nov. election

On Saturday, the Supreme Court gave Texas the approval to move forward with implementing a strict voter identification law in the upcoming midterm election. Adam Liptak for The New York Times wrote: “The law, enacted in 2...
by Adriana Maestas
0

 
 
mayor1nyc

Noerdlinger Obsession Verifies NY Reporters Make Way Under $170,000

“It’s none of your f—ing business.” — New York City Mayor Ed Koch.  If you want to learn every detail of every parking ticket or unpaid debt of the Chief of Staff of the wife of the Mayor of New York and her boy...
by Lauren Victoria Burke
1

 
 
young-black-woman-texting

Rising Wireless Taxes Could Jeopardize Mobile Use

Economist Scott Mackey, in conjunction with the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy research organization, recently released Wireless Taxation in the United States 2014. On average, each month when people pay their wirele...
by Kristal High
1

 

Advertisement
 
leeTerry

Republicans Release Willie Horton Type Ad to Help Rep. Lee Terry Get Elected

Breaking News: Republicans release race-baiting Willie Horton style ad less than three weeks before election day.  Bet you could have never guessed that would happen.  Even though the headline at The Hill reads “NRCC re...
by Lauren Victoria Burke
0

 
 
kasich6

Black Paper in Ohio Endorses Republican for Governor

  OHIO. The Call & Post, a historic Black newspaper established in Cleveland in 1928, endorsed Republican John Kasich for Governor over the Democrat in the race.  Instead of just rubber stamping their endorsement, l...
by Lauren Victoria Burke
1

 




2 Comments


  1. [...] and eventually found it it the form of District Court judge, Gustavo Gelpí, who – according to this report– astonishingly ordered neighborhoods who maintain un-manned gates to provide beepers, keys or any [...]



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>