Victory for Pro-Life Speech!

(Toledo, Ohio)—Last August, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Cal and Corrie Zastrow against the City of Toledo, its Chief of Police, and two City police officers in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

The lawsuit alleged that the City and its officers violated the Zastrow’s constitutional rights protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by preventing them from engaging in peaceful, free speech activity on the public sidewalks adjacent to the Capital Care Network, a local abortion center.

Late yesterday, the presiding judge signed a Consent Judgment and Order, enjoining the City:

“from enforcing any and all code provisions, specifically including the following provisions of the Ohio Revised Code: Menacing (ORC § 2903.22), Obstructing Official Business (ORC § 2921.31), and Disorderly Conduct (ORC § 2917.11); and the following provisions of the Toledo Municipal Code: Criminal Trespass (§ 541.05), Disorderly Conduct (§ 509.03), Loitering (§ 509.08), and the Anti-Noise Law (§ 507) (collectively referred to as the “Code Provisions”) as applied to the non-obstructive, expressive activity of pro-life demonstrators, including Plaintiffs, on the public fora adjacent to the Capital Care Network . . .”

Pursuant to the Consent Judgment and Order, the City is also required to pay AFLC $7,500 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

AFLC Co-Founder and Senior Counsel Robert Muise noted that the court order will fully protect all pro-lifers who demonstrate at this abortion center, and that it was a complete victory as a result.

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 surrounding facilities where abortions are performed, including on the public sidewalks adjacent to the Capital Care Network abortion center.

As set forth in the lawsuit, the City and its police officers have 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 while they are engaging in their First Amendment activity on the public sidewalks adjacent to the Capital Care Network abortion center.

The court’s order effectively halts this government assault on the rights of pro-lifers.

Muise commented:

“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.  As this court order demonstrates, the Constitution protects our clients’ pro-life activity from such abuse.  The government has no authority to silence our clients’ speech simply because they are preaching the Gospel on a public sidewalk next to an abortion center.”

David Yerushalmi, AFLC Co-Founder and 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 Toledo and its officers in this case were deplorable, and they violated our clients’ fundamental rights.  We stopped this egregious activity in Toledo, and we intend to stop it wherever it raises its ugly head.”