Thu, Mar 28, 2002
(Ann Arbor, MI) â€” In a ruling the Thomas More Law Center called a â€œsound victoryâ€ for the pro-life cause and free speech, a Montana federal judge signed an order this past week upholding the First Amendment right of pro-life demonstrators to carry graphic signs of aborted babies.
â€œThis is a sound victory for free speech and the pro-life cause,â€ said Robert Muise, the Thomas More Law Center attorney handling this case. â€œThese graphic pictures of aborted babies are the most effective way to show the public that abortion is a terrible and violent act. Abortion supporters want these signs taken out of the public square, and too often the police and city attorneys are willing accomplices. However, as this case shows, the First Amendment protects the pro-life demonstratorsâ€™ right to use these signs to speak out against abortion.â€
The Montana case received national attention last year. On August 10, 2001, Jonathan Martin and Michael Stamp, along with his wife and several children, were demonstrating against abortion on a public sidewalk outside of a local Planned Parenthood facility in Great Falls, Montana, with signs displaying pro-life messages, Sacred Scripture passages, and images of aborted babies. A Great Falls Assistant City Attorney, flanked by two police officers, ordered them to remove their graphic signs or they would be cited and the signs would be confiscated. According to this Assistant City Attorney, the signs were a â€œpublic nuisance.â€ Rather than risk arrest and have their signs confiscated, the pro-life demonstrators left the area.
The Thomas More Law Center was retained and quickly filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the pro-life demonstrators seeking a declaration that their First Amendment rights had been violated and an award of damages and attorneysâ€™ fees.
On March 18, 2002, Montana federal district court judge Sam Haddon signed a Consent Judgment finding that the Assistant City Attorney had â€œunconstitutionally deprived Plaintiffs of their rights guaranteed to them under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitutionâ€ by preventing them from demonstrating with their aborted baby signs. The judge ordered the Assistant City Attorney to pay the Plaintiffs nominal damages for the loss of their constitutional rights and attorneysâ€™ fees and costs in the amount of $9,346.01.
The Thomas More Law Center is a national public interest law firm which defends and promotes religious freedom, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life through education, litigation, and related activities. The Center provides its services without charge, and is dependent upon individual donations, foundations, and corporations for support. The Thomas More Law Center is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization. You may contact the Center at (734) 827-2001, or visit its website at www.thomasmore.org