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ADF attorneys file suit against city of Westminster for demanding permits to exercise free speech
Friday, October 24, 2008, 8:12 AM (MST)
ADF Media Relations 480-444-0020
Permit requirement for pro-life signs suspended in Harford County, Md.
BALTIMORE — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys and allied attorneys filed a lawsuit Thursday against the city of Westminster on behalf of pro-life organization Defend Life. Police insisted that participants in Defend Life’s “Face the Truth” 2008 tour needed permits to peacefully share their pro-life message along a public street.
“Pro-life advocates shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs. The government can’t require them to obtain permits to exercise their First Amendment rights,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster.
In June, Defend Life Director Elizabeth Walsh and volunteers contacted the Westminster Police Department more than two weeks before their planned demonstration—making sure it was in adherence to the law. Police told them that they needed permits from the city and the Maryland State Highway Administration, as well as permission from the owner of a nearby shopping center. Subsequently, a police captain told Defend Life that its permit requests would be denied and refused to provide an explanation.
“Pro-lifers shouldn’t be denied their free speech rights simply because some people don’t approve of their message. That’s a textbook violation of the First Amendment,” said ADF-allied attorney Owen M. Taylor, who is assisting with the case.
Defend Life held its “Face the Truth” tour this summer throughout Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Northern Virginia. Participants wore pro-life T-shirts, held signs, and occasionally shared their message verbally along the road to motorists.
A copy of the complaint filed in the lawsuit Walsh v. City of Westminster is available at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/WalshComplaint.pdf.
On Sept. 3, ADF attorneys filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of three young women who were arrested, jailed, shackled, and strip-searched after demonstrating on the last day of the Defend Life 2008 tour. A federal judge approved an agreement on Oct. 10 that prohibits enforcement of a permit requirement involved in that case while the court considers its constitutionality (www.telladf.org/news/story.aspx?cid=4708).
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.
Note: Facts in ADF news releases are verified prior to publication but may change over time. Members of the media are encouraged to contact ADF for the latest information on this matter.
20081024 Police prevent more Md pro lifers from sharing message
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Home > ADF News Center > Press Release
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund last week filed a suit on behalf of a pro-life group, Defend Life, against the City of Westminster contending that the city violated the group’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The disagreement is over a planned demonstration on July 30, 2008, by Defend Life as part of its “Face the Truth” tour to spread a pro-life message.
Defend Life is a non-profit, pro-life organization based in Baltimore. The group is seeking to get the city to change the wording of its ordinance regarding demonstrations, and also any damages prescribed by the court.
According to a copy of the lawsuit, filed Thursday, Oct. 23 in the District Court of Maryland, Elizabeth Walsh of Owings Mills, director of Defend Life’s tour, said the Westminster Police Department told the organization they would have to have permits from the city, State Highway Administration and permission of a shopping center located near the intersection of Route 140 and Englar Road in order to stage a demonstration.
However, the lawsuit contends that the SHA does not require such a permit, and the city did not grant the group a permit.
Defend Life says the requirements “chilled” the group’s free speech and equal protection rights.
Read the rest of Mr. Schelle’s article here: Group files free speech lawsuit against Westminster by Charles Schelle
20081027 Group files free speech lawsuit against Westminster Schelle