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CHICAGO — The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations are challenging panhandling ordinances in 15 municipalities across Illinois, including Decatur.

Letters demanding repeal of the ordinances are being delivered Tuesday by the ACLU, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.

Officials in Aurora, Carbondale, Champaign, Chicago, Cicero, Danville, Decatur, East St. Louis, Elgin, Joliet, Moline, Oak Park, Peoria, Rockford and Urbana are the recipients.

Diane O'Connor of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless says panhandling laws unfairly criminalize people experiencing homelessness for exercising their rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled panhandling is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

The letter challenging Chicago's ordinance says shielding listeners from messages disfavored by the state isn't permissible.

Last week, a federal judge ruled a plan by Springfield to regulate panhandling violated the First Amendment. Judge Richard Mills found the ordinance unconstitutional because it was content-based. It regulated what a person said, instead of how the person said it.

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