Man fights for freedom to preach on Fort Myers Beach

Published: June 22, 2021 5:43 PM EDT
Updated: June 25, 2021 10:06 AM EDT

A street-side preacher is fighting for his freedom of speech in Southwest Florida after losing his lawsuit against a beach town.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach says Adam Lacroix violated an ordinance meant to prevent disruption on the beach.

“There’s been many times where we’ve just hurried and ate and left because it’s very annoying,” said Jamie Mauer.

“When he comes, he definitely clears out the restaurants,” said Morrie Yedor, a server on Fort Myers Beach.

There’s no law against preaching, but the town does have an ordinance against portable signs such as the ones Lacroix often holds when he is spreading his word in public.

After receiving a ticket in October and another one in December, Lacroix decided to sue the town. A federal judge sided with Fort Myers Beach, but Lacroix plans to appeal.

“The signs are meant to get people’s attention, to get them to think about the dangers of these things that we do preach against, sins like abortion or sexual [im]morality or drug use,” Lacroix said.

Lacroix won a similar fight with Lee County in 2017. He was awarded $40,000 by a judge, but he said it went to his attorney’s fees. He said if he loses his appeal, he will preach with his megaphone and leave the signs at home.

“I do understand that there’s kind of a shock that they weren’t expecting that, but the bottom line is this: Number one, we have freedom to express our biblical views,” Lacroix said. “I’m not out here to incite violence or anger.”

Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce statement

“The Ft. Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce believes strongly in freedom of speech and the right to peacefully protest. Recently we have been contacted by both businesses and individuals complaining about a preacher who is shouting and using loud, vulgar language in our Times Square area. This individual is utilizing a bullhorn, disturbing signage and other methods to make his voice heard… and in doing so has negatively impacted businesses, residents and guests throughout the square. While we support our freedoms, we do not believe that any one individual has the right to disturb or disrupt businesses or other individuals as they go about their daily routine. We hope for a resolution to this situation that will allow individuals to respectfully express their beliefs while also allowing the Times Square businesses and their patrons to operate and dine in peace. As always, the FMB Chamber supports this community (businesses, residents and guests) and if needed, is willing to assist to work towards a solution to this issue.”