Monday, June 14, 2010

Godless Leafleting - Opinions Requested

Occasionally, after leaving a grocery store, shopping mall, restaurant, etc., I sometimes see a leaflet underneath the windshield wiper of my car advertising a store, restaurant, local business, or whatever. I recall sometimes seeing advertisement for churches and, on one occasion, after leaving a gym I noticed a leaflet advertising a competitor’s gym.

What are the implications if I placed a leaflet similar to my sign, with my email and phone number on it under the windshield wiper of cars in church parking lots during Sunday service?

Some issues to think about are: -

  • What if I wrote to the church prior to doing this and informed them of my intentions and/or asked permission?
  • What if I placed these leaflets on cars in business parking lots next to churches during Sunday worship? (I notice that due to the limited parking space in the church lots, people spill over into neighboring business parking lots.)
  • What if I placed these leaflets on cars in both church parking lots and neighboring non church parking lots such as shopping malls, etc.?
  • What if I placed these leaflets on cars in the parking lots of religious meetings such as conference centers, festivals, stadiums, etc.,
  • What if I placed these leaflets on cars in the parking lots of religious meetings/rallies such as an anti-gay marriage demonstration or an anti abortion protests?

Also, what are the legal implications of: -

  • If (or should I say “when”) the people throw the leaflet on the ground, am I liable for littering? (What if I contact the church or organization and offer to clean up the litter myself?)
  • Is being on a church parking lot without permission trespassing?
  • Is touching someone’s car without permission against the law in any way?
  • From a purely business perspective, could my atheism or simply the presence of an atheist discourage people to attend that particular church, so therefore I’d be liable in a court of law for adversely affecting the church’s cash flow?
  • Would it make a difference if I gave a bunch of kids $10 each to put the leaflets on the cars for me? (Other than child labor laws, tax evasion, and the inevitable headline, “atheist exploitation and ‘abuse’ of children”.)

These questions lie on the fringe of First Amendment rights, social acceptability, and the local city laws so I can understand their subjectivity.


P.S. There’s a youtube video of an ex-priest that did something similar at


  1. On one hand, Doug, I absolutely hate it when I find trash--and to me, a leaflet seems only a way of saying "Here, you throw this out"--stuck under my windshield wiper. I've gotten a few of them; some from businesses, some from psychics, but almost never from religious folk. I really don't think this is kind of a "me too" deal, but then again I live in a fairly liberal area.

    On the other hand, a leaflet is a great evangelizing tool. I don't think it's a good idea to leave them on cars that are unattended; if you're going to hand out leaflets, do it in person, so you can engage the few people who will want to take you up on your offer.

    This kind of reminds me of the whole Chick Tract thing; why try to speak out on something so important with a flimsy piece of paper left on someone's car? I know you're not the kind of person who's a hit-n-run evangelist.

    All in all, it should make for an excellent social experiment.

    Oh, by the way? I'd love it if you could be a guest on my weekly radio show to discuss this topic; after all, isn't the radio a good platform for your message? Just shoot me an email if you're interested.

  2. I don’t know about Louisiana specifically, but in general you are not liable for littering unless you yourself throw the leaflets on the ground. You are not responsible for the actions of the people on whose cars you place them.

    You can legally paper cars anywhere that does not specifically prohibit it. There are some residential areas that have zoning regulations prohibiting leafleting cars. You should be able to find out if it’s ok in the area you want with a quick call to the city planning office.

    Being in the church parking lot without permission isn’t trespassing unless they have prominently posted signs indicating that the lot is for church members only.

    As far as the church suing you for loss of income, don’t worry about it. They may threaten, but causing loss of income through legal means is legal. You are not liable for loss of income unless you unlawfully and maliciously cause the loss.