Rockford, Illinois Officials Accused of Violating Pro-Life Free Speech Rights

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 3, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Rockford, Illinois Officials Accused of Violating Pro-Life Free Speech Rights Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 3
, 2008

Rockford, IL ( — A leading pro-life law firm has filed a complaint with Rockford, Illinois city officials on behalf of a group of local citizens. The Thomas More Society says authorities violated the free speech rights of local residents when it told pro-life advocates to remove a pro-life sign on a bus bench.

City officials removed a pro-life city bus bench sign pro-life advocates paid to have in several places around town to educate their community about abortion.

Pro-life advocates placed the sign in November 2005 and had no issues until March 2006 when it was vandalized on a regular basis and covered with spray-painted obscenities. A local Rockford bus driver was also photographed getting out of her bus and defacing the sign.

City officials eventually refused to allow pro-life advocates to continue the sign, saying it was too controversial and a city employee removed parts of the sign without notice.

“How far will public officials go to prevent the truth from being seen and heard?” said Tom Brejcha, TMS’s chief counsel told

“It is wrong for public officials to discriminate against pro-life citizens who are exercising their freedom of speech," he added. "The United States Constitution protects us all against these kinds of irresponsible and undemocratic actions. Our rights are worth fighting for."

The lawsuit asks the Court to declare the actions of Rockford officials unconstitutional as well as to issue an injunction stopping the city from preventing the display of the pro-life message.

When the vandalism initially occurred, Kevin Rilott of Rockford, a spokesman for the pro-life group, told the Rockford Register Star newspaper he’s disappointed that abortion advocates don’t respect free speech.

“It’s just affecting someone and made them very angry,” he said. “We know it’s a controversial issue, but if we can’t peacefully express our opinion, it’s not what our county is about.”

The vandalism followed several news stories across the nation where abortion advocates have vandalized pro-life property.

Pro-abortion students at Harvard University tore down posters the pro-life student group posted, subway signs in San Francisco were seen repeatedly defaced, and pro-life students at Baylor University saw their share of vandalism as well.

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