A Christian group wants a restriction of flying above the amusement park lifted.

ORLANDO, Fla. – A First-Amendment challenge collides with Walt Disney World’s no-fly zone Thursday afternoon, two days before the theme parks expect more than 100,000 gay visitors.

At stake is a conservative Christian group’s claim that the current ban on advertising flights restricts its free-speech right to proselytize.

The Family Policy Network of Virginia received a 2 p.m. EDT hearing Thursday in federal court in Orlando, Fla., to request a temporary restraining order against the Federal Aviation Administration ban.

Gay Days organizers aren’t party to the Virginia-based group’s lawsuit, but they’d like to tow their own banners this weekend over the Magic Kingdom.

“I don’t believe the no-fly zone should be there,” said Chris Alexander-Manley, director of marketing for Gay Days Inc. “There was one group that was planning to fly a banner welcoming everybody.”

The FAA ended such flights on March 18 after Disney lobbyists persuaded Congressional leaders to grant them special terrorism protection despite a lack of known threats.

Aircraft are not allowed to loiter below 3,000 feet within three miles of a point in the center of Disney property. But the FAA permits aircraft to fly through the same area if taking off from or landing at local airports.

If U.S. District Judge Anne C. Conway grants the religious group’s request Thursday, it will tow its message “Jesus Christ: Hopeforhomosexuals.com” for one hour on Saturday, according to court papers.

Banners that participants at Gay Days would send aloft include “gaydays.com” and “The Girls at Gay Days,” organizers said.

Disney opposes lifting the ban.

“We pursued the FAA restriction for the safety and enjoyment of our guests and believe this extra layer of protection is in the best issue of those who visit and work at Walt Disney World Resort,” said spokeswoman Rena Callahan.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday shows the group’s lawyers intend to argue that Disney unfairly gained control over public airspace for commercial reasons, not national security.

“In this post 9-11 world, it is tempting to simply nod in quiescent affirmation whenever our government purports to legislate and regulate in the name of domestic security and national defense,” wrote Stephen M. Crampton of the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy in Tupelo, Miss. “Nevertheless, when this frightening but naked assertion is measured against the facts and the law, it vanishes as quickly as Count Dracula at sunrise.”

(Orlando Sentinel correspondents Todd Pack and Melissa Harris contributed to this report.)

(c) 2003, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).

Visit the Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/. On America Online, use keyword: OSO.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


ARCHIVE PHOTO on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): DISNEY-NOFLYZONE

AP-NY-06-04-03 2018EDT

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