WESTERLY, R.I. — A blind woman is no longer prohibited from sharing her faith in a Rhode Island public park after a religious liberties organization intervened on her behalf and worked out an amicable settlement.
According to reports, Gail Blair, 66, shared her faith regularly in Wilcox Park, which is across the street from her home and owned by the Memorial and Library Association. During the conversations, she would offer others a free copy of the Book of John.
However, in June 2019, members of the Association reportedly called the Westerly Police Department on Blair after she participated in her church’s Vacation Bible School event at the park. She received a phone call issuing her a “trespass warning” and telling her that she could not continue to evangelize on the premises. She was prohibited from entering the park or library for the next two years.
Blair was baffled as she believed she had not violated any rules and only spoke to those who were willing. The Association stated that Blair had “accosted” people in Wilcox Park, an allegation she denied. It also complained that some were littering her Book of John booklets on the grounds.
The Texas-based First Liberty Institute was soon contacted to assist with the matter, and a complaint was filed with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.
The complaint contended that officials violated state laws surrounding equal access to places of public accommodation and discriminated against Blair on the basis of her religion and disability.
“On a few prior occasions I had been approached by the Association’s staff and told that I was not allowed to hand out literature. This is not true,” the document stated. “Neither park nor library guidelines bar handing out written materials, and others routinely do so with the Association’s blessing (or at least, without the Association calling the police).”
“Further, I only handed out my copies of the gospel to those who indicated some interest in taking it, unlike like some of those who hand out commercial solicitations on street corners,” it outlined. The library and park certainly have no guidelines barring the consensual exchange of written information on their grounds.”
In a video released in August by First Liberty, Blair also shared that “people have been saved in the park” because of her loving outreach. She said that her “heart is broken that [she] can’t do what the Lord has told [her] to do” and that she “think[s] daily about the lost souls.”
Following the filing of the complaint, the Association denied any wrongdoing, telling Fox News in June that it “does not engage in nor tolerate any forms of discrimination.”
On Oct. 29, First Liberty Institute announced that it had reached a settlement with the Association, which permits Blair to return to the park and share her faith once again.
“We commend the Rhode Island’s Memorial and Library Association for resolving the case and recognizing our client’s religious liberty,” Special Counsel Jeremy Dys said in a statement. “Our client is thrilled that she can once again enter the park across the street from her home and talk with other visitors.”
2 Corinthians 4:3-5 states, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
The late British preacher Charles Spurgeon also once stated, “I have no confidence at all in polished speech or brilliant literary effort to bring about a revival, but I have all the confidence in the world in the poor saint who would weep her eyes out because people are living in sin. I would choose, if I might, under God, to be a soul winner.”