LINCOLN (AP) — A federal judge has barred Lincoln from enforcing an ordinance that would ban donation boxes and huts that primarily benefit for-profit companies rather than the charities whose names are on the structures.
U.S. District Judge John Gerrard said in a ruling issued earlier this week that Linc-Drop Inc.'s lawsuit was highly likely to succeed on First Amendment grounds, the Lincoln Journal Star said.
Linc-Drop, which is based in La Vista, had sued the city and various officials in July. The company contracts with the local March of Dimes to collect clothing and gives the chapter 10 percent of the huts' gross revenue, March of Dimes officials said in defending the company's operation when the council was considering the ordinance last year.
Unless the court acts, the lawsuit said, "Linc-Drop will be prevented from engaging in constitutionally protected speech and other activities, which will have a chilling effect on the speech of Linc-Drop and others."
Also, the lawsuit says, without Linc-Drop's help, "March of Dimes Foundation would not be able to maintain this charitable solicitation program in Lincoln."
The new ordinance requires that at least 80 percent of gross proceeds from donation huts go to a charity. Other charities backed the ban, saying people were being misled about how much of their donations were going to the charity and that none of the donated clothing remained in Lincoln.
The city had agreed to delay enforcement after Linc-Drop filed the lawsuit.
City Councilman Carl Eskridge, who sponsored the measure, told the Journal Star that he will talk about options with the city attorney next week. One of the alternatives, he said, is to simply require notification on the boxes that they are not charitable drop boxes.
Judge Gerrard said the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that soliciting charitable donations is constitutionally protected speech.
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