Schenectady County

Controversial preacher suing over UAlbany permit

An evangelical Christian preacher known for his controversial proselytizing is suing the State Unive
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An evangelical Christian preacher known for his controversial proselytizing is suing the State University of New York, claiming his right to free speech was stifled on the University at Albany campus by a permit process.

In an 18-page lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, James Deferio claims UAlbany officials forced him to obtain a revocable permit, provide a certificate of insurance, pay $300 in fees and wait 30 days before delivering an open sermon at the uptown campus in 2009. He claims he was allowed to preach in the university’s Campus Center in October 2008 without having to pay for permits or provide proof of insurance and was only notified about the “advance notice requirements” after concluding his speech.

Deferio claims the policy will give the university the ability to discriminate against him. He indicated that he hasn’t returned to the campus out of fear he’ll be arrested for not complying with the policy.

“The fear of arrest limits Deferio’s constitutionally-protected expression on the open accessible grounds on the SUNY-Albany uptown campus,” the lawsuit states. “The impact of chilling and deterring Deferio from exercising his constitutional rights on the SUNY-Albany uptown campus constitutes irreparable harm to Deferio.”

A SUNY spokesman declined to comment, saying it is policy not to discuss ongoing litigation.

Deferio’s controversial message is often considered anti-gay and anti-abortion. In the past, he’s drawn rebuke from students on some college campuses.

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