Minister wins lawsuit over signature gathering

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – The state of Montana has acknowledged that a century-old law limiting the speech of clergy about candidates and ballot issues is unconstitutional. The Billings Gazette reports that U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull approved a settlement in the case of a Billings minister.

Assemblies of God minister Calvin Zastrow sued the state after being arrested on trespassing charges while gathering signatures for a ballot measure seeking to amend the state’s constitution to define unborn children as persons. The charges were later dropped.

Officials did not allege that Zastrow violated the 1913 law limiting the speech of clergy about candidates and ballot issues, but the minister’s lawsuit sought to prevent the state from threatening to enforce it.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Black said the state “chose to allow the court to enter the judgment that it was unconstitutional.”

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