A federal judge has come to the defense of several pro-life demonstrators who want to engage in peaceful speech activity on public sidewalks outside of an abortion business in Toledo, Ohio.
A Consent Judgment and Order signed by U.S. District Judge James Carr says the city and its officials are not allowed to enforce their “code provisions” against Cal and Corrie Zastrow because those actions would violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The case was brought to court last year by the American Freedom Law Center.
The complaint charges the city and its police were violating the Constitution by preventing the Zastrows from “engaging in peaceful, free speech activity on the public sidewalks adjacent to the Capital Care Network, a local abortion center.”
Explained AFLC: “Cal, and his daughter Corrie, are Christians. They oppose abortion because it is immoral and opposed to God’s law. Cal and Corrie protest abortion by engaging in prayer, preaching, worship, distributing literature, and holding pro-life signs on the public sidewalks.”
The ruling found that the city “engaged in a pattern of conduct whereby they have enforced or threatened to enforce various provisions of the Ohio Revised Code and the Toledo Municipal Code to restrict the free speech rights of Cal and Corrie.”
“This is yet another victory for the First Amendment in a case where a city and its police officers were abusing their authority to silence peaceful pro-life demonstrators to appease those engaged in the baby killing business,” said Robert Muise, co-founder of AFLC. “As this court order demonstrates, the Constitution protects our clients’ pro-life activity from such abuse.”
David Yerushalmi, AFLC senior counsel, added: “This victory is yet another blow to the abortion industry, which has too often relied on the government to promote and support its bloody business by silencing those who oppose it. The actions of the city of Toldeo and its officers in this case were deplorable, and they violated our clients’ fundamental rights.”
The ruling also requires the city to pay AFLC’s attorneys’ fees and costs.
The judge found the city had threatened the Christians with charges ranging from menacing and obstructing to disorderly conduct, loitering and noise.
It was, he concluded, a public forum in which the two were expressing their opinions.
Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, it claimed the city and its officers violated the Zastrows’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
The case erupted after repeated threats of police officers, including to arrest the two because they were not allowed to “do anything offensive to the business.”