A federal appeals court in Boston ruled Monday that a Puerto Rican law intended to keep neighborhoods safe from crime has been used to interfere in the rights of free speech of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Jehovah's Witnesses in Puerto Rico had claimed that laws enacted in 1987 effectively shut down the door to door ministry which the Christian group is well known for.
The laws effectively authorized neighborhoods to deny citizens access to public residential streets by erecting walls and gates around them reported Digital Journal last year.
According to Courthouse New Service, the federal court ruled that the law should allow the 318 congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Puerto Rico to freely express their faith.
Jehovah's Witnesses consider the door to door preaching a commandment of Jesus Christ and cite Matthew 24:14, " And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations", to show their actions are scriptural.
Director of the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Daniel Mach of the ACLU who has hailed the decision, reportedly said: "The Constitution certainly protects the rights of Jehovah's Witnesses to proclaim their faith in public streets, and the government can not impose absolute restrictions on the fundamental right to free religious practice or expression. "
The ruling also stated that the government cannot use a claim of safety as a "talisman" to justify restricting the right of freedom of expression and religion said William Ramirez, director of the Puerto Rico chapter of the ACLU.