Judge lifts ban on LAX Krishna restrictions

Los Angeles International Airport will resume restricting Hare Krishna solicitors this morning following a federal judge’s refusal to continue blocking the airport from enforcing its new anti-solicitation law.

The law, which went into effect Dec. 16, requires charity representatives to remain in small, cordoned off booths in all nine passenger terminals while seeking donations from travelers. The Krishnas sued to prevent the airport from enforcing it, claiming the law was unconstitutional because the booths are in out-of-the-way places.

U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall issued a temporary restraining order against the airport in January. It applied just to the Krishnas because they were the only group that challenged the ordinance. But Marshall on Friday rejected the Krishnas’ request to extend the restraining order until an April 7 court hearing. LAX will resume enforcing the law at least until that date, said airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles.

They’re required to go back in the boxes, she said of the Krishna solicitors.

David Liberman, the Krishnas’ attorney, said he was angry that the City Attorney’s Office opposed his extension request because he has repeatedly accommodated its requests during this lawsuit and one that challenged an earlier version of the solicitation ordinance.

They’ve just taken a nasty, mean-spirited approach to this litigation, Liberman said. If that’s the way they want to litigate, we can litigate that way. LAX officials say the law is needed because solicitors are annoying, distracting and increase congestion. Violations are misdemeanors with maximum $500 fines.

The Krishnas argue that the law violates the First Amendment and California’s Liberty of Speech clause both of which protect the right to seek donations, Liberman said. Krishna representatives tried to abide by the new rules but found it impossible to discuss their religion with and solicit donations from airport patrons, he said.