by Steven Ertelt
May 21, 2007
Granite City, IL(LifeNews.com) — A federal district court in East Saint Louis, Illinois, has just entered ‘summary judgment’ that Granite City, Illinois’ ordinance on the size of signs during parades violates the First Amendment rights of pro-life protesters Angela and Daniel Michael and their daughter, Mia.
The Michaels conduct “Small Victories,” a pro-life ministry in “Metro East,” across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
They engage in sidewalk counseling outside “Hope Clinic for Women,” a large late-term abortion business based in Granite City that attracts abortion-bound women and girls from all over the Midwest. They also conduct pro-life protests and demonstrations, including at Granite City’s four annual parades.
Trying to suppress the Michaels’ protests, Granite City passed an ordinance that banned all “signs larger than 8 ½ inches by 11 inches total, within twenty-five feet of any portion of the parade route in Granite City.”
The Michaels filed suit and last August, the court barred the city’s enforcement of the ordinance at its Labor Day parade, and the Michaels conducted their protest as planned, displaying large pro-life signs.
Reaffirming his prior ruling, U.S. District Judge William Stiehl held that although it “appear[ed] content-neutral on its face,” Granite City’s parade ordinance “was not narrowly tailored and amounted to a ‘heckler’s veto.’”
The court said “there is no valid argument that an 8 ½ by 11 inch sign is the least restrictive alternative available to meet the goals of free pedestrian traffic, unobstructed views by parade-goers and public safety.”
The ruling does not end the case, however, as the Michaels’ lawsuit also complained that the city’s actions during the November 2005 Christmas parade “amounted to a restriction of [their] First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion because [city officials] withheld police protection … and threatened to charge [the Michaels] with assault.”
Today the court rescheduled a “final pretrial conference” that had been set for next Monday afternoon, finding that the “parties have requested a settlement conference,” and that the conference will proceed before Magistrate Judge Philip Frazier.
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of Chicago’s Thomas More Society, counsel for the Michaels together with Jason Craddock, an Illinois lawyer affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund, said that, “We are very pleased that the Michaels have finally prevailed against this transparent effort to frustrate their very effective and eloquent pro-life advocacy.
"And if we can’t reach a just settlement of all the remaining issues in this case, we’ll pursue the matter aggressively through trial where we expect to prevail as well.”