Today, Liberty Counsel filed its opening brief at the federal court of appeals in Atlanta seeking to block enforcement of a law aimed at silencing pro-life, sidewalk counselors.
For years, Susan Pine and Marilyn Blackburn have faithfully offered help to women facing crisis pregnancies outside the Presidential Women’s Center (“PWC”), an abortion facility in West Palm Beach, Florida despite facing opposition from the West Palm Beach Police Department and even the United States Attorney General.
West Palm Beach has enacted an ordinance that bans all “shouting” and amplified sound within 100 feet of the PWC property line, regardless of the volume or whether the sound causes any disturbance. The City and its Police Department, however, are only enforcing this draconian ordinance against the pro-life counselors. Susan Pine has already been fined once for using a megaphone outside PWC, and the City and Police have threatened further enforcement and punishment.
In the meantime, PWC is free to use its own loudspeakers, passers-by are free to use their radios and iPods, and the nearby Wendy’s and Pollo Tropical restaurants are free to use their drive-thru speaker systems, even though all of them violate this ordinance. “The Constitution applies throughout the entire City of West Palm Beach, and the city may not create ‘Constitution-free zones’ outside abortion clinics,” wrote Senior Litigation Counsel Horatio Mihet. It is therefore unconstitutional for the city to impose a communicative straitjacket on only those speakers with whom the City disagrees.
In 2010, PWC persuaded U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to file a federal lawsuit against Susan Pine under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, alleging that Susan “obstructed” the entrance to PWC. Liberty Counsel defended Susan, the lawsuit was dismissed, and the DOJ was required to pay $120,000 for its abuse of power. Federal Judge Kenneth Ryskamp suspected that there was “a concerted effort between the Government and PWC . . . to quell Ms. Pine’s activities.”
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“The conspiracy to silence pro-life Americans continues unabated in West Palm Beach,” said Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “This ordinance is not only overly broad but also viewpoint discriminatory and is, therefore, flatly unconstitutional,” he added. “Liberty Counsel will not stand idly by while government officials—whether they be the Attorney General or leaders in the City of West Palm Beach—harass these law-abiding Americans for their pro-life beliefs.”
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.