Liberty Counsel Defends Pro-Lifers Against Florida City Officials’ Harassment

(AgapePress) – The City of Altamonte Springs, Florida, has agreed to ensure that sidewalk counselors near a local abortion clinic will not be arrested or harassed as they stand on adjacent property offering information, assistance, and alternatives to abortion.

Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm that defends First Amendment freedoms and civil rights, sent a demand letter to Altamonte Springs officials after the city’s police officers threatened to arrest pro-life sidewalk counselors near the All Women’s Health Center of Orlando. The police had responded on two occasions to complaints from an abortion clinic administrator, citing violations of sign and noise ordinances.

The law enforcement officials threatened the sidewalk counselors with citation and arrest; however, the city recanted after receiving Liberty Counsel’s legal demand letter and promised that the pro-lifers would not be arrested. The Altamonte Springs city manager also promised that the police would be instructed on constitutionally permissible free speech as it relates to the pro-lifers’ situation.

Liberty Counsel’s senior legal counsel, David Corry, says the law firm told the city officials that neither they nor the abortion clinic could lawfully use largely subjective ordinances that do not pertain to physical noise levels but pertain rather to content to suppress constitutionally protected free speech.

“It was a very vague, nonspecific, non-objective kind of criteria that allowed the business manager for the abortion clinic to call the police and say she was disturbed by what she heard,” Corry notes. “If you’re going to have a decibel level with a number attached to it, that’s an objective criterion,” he says; “but it can’t be because one person decides they’re disturbed by the content of what you’re saying or the tone of what you’re saying.”

And the same free-speech rights apply to public as well as private property, the Liberty Counsel spokesman emphasizes, including public or private property near an abortion clinic. In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down 300-foot “buffer zones” around an abortion clinic and its staff in Melbourne, Florida, and invalidated any requirement to obtain legal consent before speaking to people approaching the clinic.

Liberty Counsel’s founder, Mathew Staver, argued the Melbourne case, known as Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, in which the court also struck down a ban on images observable inside the clinic. Commenting on the 1994 case, Staver observed that the U.S. Constitution “protects the right of individuals to peacefully gather and express their opinions.” And at the same time, the attorney insists, “women have a right to receive information about the medical risks associated with abortion and the many life-saving alternatives available to pregnant women.”

And now, as Liberty Counsel details in a recent news release, the City of Altamonte has agreed to recognize those constitutionally protected rights. Now that city officials have agreed that pro-life advocates may peacefully gather near All Women’s Health Center, the law firm states, women seeking abortions will again have access to information about adoptions and other safer alternatives to abortion.

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One Response to “Liberty Counsel Defends Pro-Lifers Against Florida City Officials’ Harassment”

  1. David Paul says:

    Hello,
    I stand with other pro-life Christians at the abortion clinic at 443 Congress Streeet in Portland, Maine. We hold many graphic signs, try to offer alternatives to those intending abortion, and occasionally preach. Police, who have shown a bias in favor of Planned Parenthood from the beginning, about a year ago, are becoming more obvious in their harassment and intimidation. Of course, we are the ones who are supposed to do such things. I’m familiar with F.A.C.E. and other town laws including their vague terminology including of course ‘intimidation,’ but we are currently concerned with police being called to warn our preachers about noise being heard within the so-designated ‘medical facility.’ Today two cruisers showed up with such a warning to a preacher whom I believe was so moderate in his volume that it would be highly unlikely if not impossible he could be heard from within the clinic on the second floor. Our concern of course is that Planned Parenthood, who have been proven to be notorious liars even in court cases, will certainly not hesitate to do the same here to us. After all, all they would need to do is know someone is preaching, and complain. I have searched and searched to find more specifics regarding the ordinance in Maine, which I understand is one of the few states which has such an ordinance. I have a micro cam recorder on at all times (pictures and sound). The point is he couldn’t speak any lower and still be preaching. Could you please advise me on how we should proceed in exercising our rights and at the same time preclude fabricated complaines or even arrests. We are Christians who do not disturb the peace, and whose only intention is to provide those about to make the worst mistake of their lives with the alternatives. Thank you and God bless you.
    David Paul

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