Ohio Town Violated Pro-Life Advocates’ Free Speech Rights, Federal Court Rules
by Steven Ertelt
January 6, 2009
Toledo, OH (LifeNews.com) — A federal court has ruled than an Ohio city violated the First Amendment rights of pro-life advocates when police officers threatened them with arrest for engaging in pro-life speech. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund had filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Findlay for the pro-life advocates.
Last July, the group of pro-life advocates from Wisconsin were in town to share the pro-life perspective on the streets of Findlay with local residents.
The chief of police and two officers demanded that the group leave or face arrest and claimed they needed a permit to present their pro-life message on the signs they displayed.
After leaving the area, pro-lifer Michael Marcavage contacted the mayors office and soon discovered that no ordinance required the permit and that the mayor and police officers were wrong to use a "scheme" to say a policy existed.
In the opinion declaring the citys policy unconstitutional, the court wrote, This permit scheme grants the City virtually unchecked discretion to deny permits for content based reasons."
"There are no objective standards by which the City is bound when considering whether to issue a permit," it added. "Defendants arguments to the contrary are not only baseless, but, even worse, border on bad faith.
Matt Bowman, an ADF attorney, told LifeNews.com that pro-life advocates "shouldnt be penalized for expressing their beliefs."
Exercising your First Amendment rights is not a crime. The government has no right to harass and threaten citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights in public," he said.
Bowman said city officials were wrong to ask the pro-life advocates to "request permission before they exercise their First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk" and he said he hoped those involved "will now be free to express their views without fear of government intimidation and censorship.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio issued the decision and the case is Trewhella v. Findlay.
Related web sites:
Alliance Defense Fund – https://www.telladf.org
Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From LifeNews.com
Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report Receive a free daily email report from LifeNews.com with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.