A federal appeals panel on Wednesday upheld a city ordinance that bans begging for funds inside the terminals, parking areas or sidewalks at Los Angeles International Airport.
The city and the Hare Krishnas have been battling over the issue in court since the Los Angeles City Council adopted the ordinance in 1997.
In its opinion, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena determined that because the law is limited in nature and leaves open alternative channels for the Krishnas to raise money, the ordinance acts as “a reasonable restriction on protected speech” under the First Amendment.
The decision follows the appeal of a 2012 ruling by a Los Angeles federal judge which found the law to be constitutional because, among other things, LAX is not a public forum as defined under the First Amendment; the ordinance was “viewpoint neutral”; and any restrictions placed on freedom of expression at LAX were reasonable under the circumstances.
Major airports, such as LAX, “have a legitimate interest in controlling pedestrian congestion and reducing the risk of fraud and duress attendant to repetitive, in-person solicitation for the immediate receipt of funds” Judge John T. Noonan wrote for the circuit court.
The International Society of Krishna Consciousness filed suit more than 17 years ago challenging the law banning the solicitation of contributions at LAX and other airports.
The ordinance has been enforceable since a ruling by the state Supreme Court in July 2010.