Visalia Mall Sued After Threatening Arrest for Religious Speech


Visalia, CA—Attorneys with the Pacific Justice Institute have filed suit against the Visalia Mall for violations of free speech and public accommodations laws.

The Complaint filed late last week in Tulare County Superior Court alleges that Mall management and security officers threatened to arrest John Vadnais, an elder at a local church, for sharing his faith with other mall visitors.


Until last January, Vadnais went to the Mall often to shop and eat. He also struck up conversations with other shoppers and discussed his Christian faith. Mall staff harassed and eventually summoned local police to intimidate Vadnais. Vadnais sought clarity from Mall management over several months in 2012 and was eventually told that talking to strangers at the Mall was off-limits if the subject was religion.

PJI won a groundbreaking ruling in 2010 against the Galleria Mall near Sacramento for its arrest of a youth pastor, Matthew Snatchko, who was sharing his faith with willing listeners. It’s not clear why the Visalia Mall seems to believe that decision, authored by the current Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, does not apply to them.

 “We’re seeing a disturbing trend,” noted PJI Senior Counsel Michael Peffer, the lead attorney in the new suit. “In spite of more than 30 years of strong precedent, some malls still refuse to accept their legal obligations not to censor visitors’ speech based on its content.”

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, “No one should be threatened with arrest for peacefully communicating their beliefs to willing listeners. In California, large shopping malls are deemed the equivalent of public forums. It is both intolerant and illegal for the Visalia Mall to suppress speech just because it’s religious.”


  1. dude, the mall is privatly owned property, they can make whatever rules they want, just like you can make rules in your house

    • Actually, malls have been ruled as public forums for freedom of speech matters…doesn’t change the fact that the guy is a douchebag religous nutball, but they can’t stop him from preaching there….they can tell him to simply stay away from their property or they will have him arrested for trespassing and that would render the free speech argument moot

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