by Steven Ertelt
June 10, 2007
Monroe, LA (LifeNews.com) — On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit remanded back to the lower court a case involving the police punishing the use of pro-life signs in the town of Columbia. The case involves a group of four pro-life people who were arrested after they held pro-life signs on public property.
In February 2005, the town of Columbia assistant chief of police arrested Allen Russell and threatened to arrest four other pro-life advocates standing on public property and holding signs depicting babies who were victims of abortion.
Local police had previously expressed their displeasure with their actions, but did not arrest them. Russell was cited and subsequently jailed for two days.
“Pro-life speech is not second-class speech,” said pro-life attorney Randall Wenger, representing the people involved with the pro-life protesters and is working in the case alongside the Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life law firm.
“We are pleased that the court recognized that the First Amendment rights of pro-life citizens are threatened by the actions of Columbia officials," he added.
In March 2005, Wenger filed suit on behalf of the pro-life advocates in federal court, citing a violation of members’ First Amendment right to free expression.
He later won a temporary restraining order against town officials, prohibiting them “from interfering with Plaintiff’s First Amendment activities of displaying anti-abortion signs” until a hearing could be held. In May of the same year, he won a partial preliminary injunction.
“Engaging in content-based discrimination in a public forum is unconstitutional,” Wenger said. “Government officials cannot be permitted to continue chilling the speech of [pro-life people] simply because they do not agree with the pro-life message expressed.”