Blog Archives

Unconstitutional Court Censorship Prompts Daleiden First Amendment Federal Court Appeal

Thomas More Society Defends Planned Parenthood Exposé and “Undercover Journalism at Large”

SAN FRANCISCO, April 26, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ — Thomas More Society attorneys filed an appeal last week with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for undercover journalist David Daleiden, arguing for reversal of a preliminary injunction that bars Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress from publishing undercover videos from the 2014 and 2015 annual meetings of the National Abortion Federation (“NAF”). Daleiden’s appeal assails the lower court’s decree as a blatantly unconstitutional “prior restraint” on free speech, based on repeated Supreme Court precedents that condemn such gag orders, most notably the famous Pentagon Papers case in which the Justices refused the federal government’s plea to stop publication of top secret files discussing the Vietnam war which had been leaked to the New York Times and Washington Post. The appeal brief also argues that release of undercover video of significant (if not paramount) public interest should not be suppressed, in order to protect the public’s right to know – a critical element of our professed democratic self-governance as an open and free society. Indeed, the United States Congress, numerous state legislators, and criminal investigators have subpoenaed and relied on Daleiden’s video releases to instigate hearings, new legal and regulatory initiatives, defunding measures, and also possible civil and criminal enforcement actions against the abortion industry. Congress itself had subpoenaed the suppressed videos and the lower court upheld that subpoena, which in turn led to a public hearing by the House Select Committee on Infant Lives, held last week.

This prejudicial censorship targeted at civilian investigator Daleiden threatens undercover journalism at large, explained Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society, a national non-profit law firm. “The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is working in tandem with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and promoters to suppress David Daleiden’s First Amendment rights and to shut down the resulting investigations focused on the abortion groups’ involvement in baby parts trafficking,” stated Brejcha.

The Society’s appeal, filed with California-based co-counsel, comes on the heels of the preliminary injunction entered by District Judge William H. Orrick of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. NAF had sought entry of this censorship in response to Daleiden’s public release of a series of videos exposing illegal and unsavory practices by Planned Parenthood and other abortion industry participants. NAF’s principal claim in its lawsuit, filed last summer, is that Daleiden and CMP violated the federal Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), a 1970 federal law designed to combat organized crime.

About the RICO claims, Brejcha said, “These are totally inapposite charges in this scenario – charges that have been decisively rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. Equally as other investigative journalists for so-called mainstream news media, such as CBS’s Sixty Minutes, regularly resort to undercover journalism tactics to ferret out hidden crime, citizen journalists like David Daleiden have every right to penetrate the criminal underworld to bring to light and open to public scrutiny evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing.”

Read the appeal filed on April 19, 2016 for David Daleiden in the lawsuit by National Abortion Federation here.

Find additional background on the case at the following links:

About the Thomas More Society
The Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the Thomas More Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. For more information, visit
www.thomasmoresociety.org.  
Advertisements

Attorneys Defend the Nativity: Expression of Faith on Public Property Constitutional

Thomas More Society Legal Experts Uphold Private Citizens’ Right to Celebrate Christmas in the Public Square

CHICAGO, Nov. 26, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — Never fear, the attorneys are here to separate fact from fiction surrounding private citizens’ right to freely express religious faith in the public square. Nativity scenes will appear in nine State Capitols this Christmas – five of them due to the work of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm.

As experts on public nativity displays, Thomas More Society attorneys have settled legal challenges for private groups sponsoring Christmas manger scenes for thirty years, since helping defend the original erection of a life size crèche on Chicago’s Daley Plaza.

Christmas 2014 marks the eighth year that statues of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus have resided in a small stable at the Illinois State Capitol. Thomas More Society has also helped secure permits for nativity scenes to be displayed this year in the State Capitols of Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Texas, and on the Governor’s Mansion lawn in Oklahoma.

“These nativity displays represent classic free speech and the free exercise of faith by private citizens in the public square,” explained Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society. “However,” he added, “The issue has not been without controversy.”

Private citizens who wish to display a nativity scene in traditional or designated public forums often run into roadblocks that violate their free speech rights, including:

  1. Take it all down
    Either unwilling or unable to discern what is legally permissible, some authorities will allow no displays that allude to Christmas. This was the case last year when the U.S. Military’s Guantanamo Bay commander ordered the removal of all Christmas nativities, and nativity scenes were also removed from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina.
  2. Secular only
    When only allowing secular holiday scenes, some authorities refuse to permit any display deemed “religious,” deferring to generic winter symbolism such as snowflakes and mittens.

“These are issues that our Thomas More Society experts can address,” offered Brejcha, who has helped file permit requests and brought about amicable resolutions to disputes with municipal and state officials over Christian nativity scenes for three decades.

Brejcha added that resolution is often simply a case of education, “Nativity displays represent a constitutionally protected expression by private citizens in traditional or designated public forums, where the sole role of the government must be that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all citizens to have their ‘say.’ Such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of our nation are not merely tolerable but fully deserving of robust legal protection.” In other words – there’s no need for a fight before Christmas.

Individuals or private citizen groups who are interested in sponsoring a public nativity scene – or those encountering roadblocks in doing so – may contact the Thomas More Society at 312.782.1680 or info@thomasmoresociety.org.

About the Thomas More Society
The Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society defends and fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
www.thomasmoresociety.org

Springfield Welcomes Christmas Nativity Scene to State Capitol Rotunda Beginning December 3

Thomas More Society Facilitates Illinois’ Sixth Annual Display of Religion in the Public Square

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Nov. 27, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ — The State Capitol Rotunda in Springfield welcomes the 6th annual Christmas Nativity scene beginning at noon on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. This privately-funded display of religion in Illinois’ public square has been hosted by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee and facilitated by the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based not-for-profit public interest law firm.

The Christmas crèche display will stand in the center of the Illinois State Capitol Rotunda, next to the Governor’s Holiday Tree, and will depict the newborn Christ child lying in a manger inside a handcrafted wooden stable. The official unveiling of the Nativity tableau will feature a celebration marking Christmas, the Christian holy day honoring the birth of Jesus Christ.

WHAT: Springfield Nativity Scene opening celebration

WHEN: Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at 12 p.m. noon to 1 p.m. (Central)
The exhibit will remain in the rotunda throughout the Christmas season.

WHERE: The Illinois State Capitol Rotunda, South 2nd Street & East Capitol Avenue, Springfield, IL
MAP: goo.gl/maps/vc7ch

WHO: open to the public, sponsored by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee

CELEBRATION DETAILS:

 

    • Rev. Bernie Lutchman, President of Business Men in Christ of Springfield will give an invocation.
    • Springfield Baptist Church Official Praise Team led by Music Pastor Brian Morgan will perform Christmas carols.
    • Chaplain Steve Holden of US Emergency Chaplains Corps will lay a Christmas wreath in honor and special recognition of the service and sacrifice of America’s military veterans.

      Speakers include…

    • • Most Rev. Thomas J. Paprocki, Bishop of the Catholic

Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

      • Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society and Springfield
      Nativity Scene Committee legal counsel
      • Pastor Charlie Carver, South Tower Community Church of Dawson
      • Beth Rogers, Springfield Nativity Scene Committee
    • Pastor Brian Williams, Broken Chains Church

The crèche and manger represent a constitutionally protected expression by private citizens in a traditional public forum, namely the Capitol Rotunda, where political rallies are routinely held during sessions of the Illinois General Assembly and other times. This is classic free speech and citizens’ free exercise of their religious faith in the public square, where the sole role of the government is that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all citizens to have their “say.” Government is neither censor nor endorser of such religious speech. This display is privately funded and sponsored by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee, bereft of any government aid or endorsement, and therefore it is clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and its counterpart in the Illinois Constitution of 1970.

The Springfield Nativity Scene Committee’s primary goal is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. A secondary mission is to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and the media that such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of the nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal protection.

Any individuals or groups wishing to sing near the Nativity Scene on weekdays over the noon hour are invited to contact Salli Chernis of the Illinois Secretary of State office, 217-782-8996 for a permit.

About the Thomas More Society
Thomas More Society is a national not-for-profit law firm that exists to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. Headquartered in Chicago, the Society fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro-bono professional legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
www.thomasmoresociety.org

Florida State Capitol Welcomes Christmas Nativity Scene Beginning December 3

English: Florida Capitol Complex as seen at Night.

English: Florida Capitol Complex as seen at Night. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thomas More Society Facilitates Tallahassee Display of Religion in the Public Square

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Nov. 27, 2013 /Christian Newswire/
— The Florida State Capitol building in Tallahassee will become home
to a Christmas Nativity scene beginning at noon on Tuesday, December 3,
2013. This privately-funded display of religion in Florida’s public
square has been hosted by the Florida Nativity Scene Committee and
facilitated by the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based not-for-profit
public interest law firm.

The Christmas crèche display will stand
in the center of the Capitol Rotunda and will depict the newborn Christ
child lying in a manger. The official unveiling of the Nativity tableau
will feature a celebration marking Christmas, the Christian holy day
honoring the birth of Jesus Christ.

WHAT: Florida Nativity Scene opening celebration

WHEN: Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at 12 p.m. noon to 1 p.m. (Eastern)
The exhibit will remain in the rotunda throughout the Christmas season.

WHERE: The Florida State Capitol Rotunda, 400 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL
MAP: goo.gl/maps/O1AW1

WHO: Open to the public, sponsored by the Florida Nativity Scene Committee, chaired by Pam Olsen

CELEBRATION DETAILS:

  • Bishop Joe Brown, Senior Pastor of University Ministries, will lead opening prayer.
  • Father John Cayor, Rector of Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More, will offer a prayer for the troops.
  • Students from Community Christian School in Tallahassee will perform Christmas carols.Speakers include…

    • Scott Beigle, Founder and President of Faith Radio

    • Alejandro Capote, Political and Community Coordinator of Noles4LIFE at Florida State University

After Christmas, on Friday, December 27, the holy family figures of
Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus will be joined by figures representing
the Biblical Wise Men on the rotunda’s opposite side. The secondary
display, sponsored by Reclaim Christmas for Christ, founded by Sandra
Lee Snowden, will remain at the capitol along with the original nativity
through Monday, January 6. The dual exhibits will conclude with a
public January 6 commemoration of the Epiphany at noon (Eastern). The
Epiphany, widely practiced in Hispanic and Latino cultures as Three
Kings Day
, marks the visit by the “wise men from the East” to bring the
Christ child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The manger
scenes represent a constitutionally protected expression by private
citizens in a traditional public forum, namely the capitol rotunda. This
is classic free speech and citizens’ free exercise of their religious
faith in the public square, where the sole role of the government is
that of a viewpoint-neutral gatekeeper assuring open access for all
citizens to have their “say.” Government is neither censor nor endorser
of such religious speech. This display is privately funded and
sponsored, bereft of any government aid or endorsement, and therefore it
is clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment
of the United States Constitution
.

The joint primary goal of the
Florida Nativity Scene Committee and Reclaim Christmas for Christ is to
celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. A secondary
mission is to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and the media that
such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of
the nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal
protection.

The Tallahassee nativity initiative was inspired by
last year’s dispute over a Christian holiday display in the Chicago
suburb of Arlington Heights. Eventually resolved with intervention by
the Thomas More Society, the conflict has prompted America Nativity
Scene, founded by Jim Finnegan, to help place privately funded manger
scenes in public squares nationwide.

Arlington Heights Rejects Privately Sponsored and Funded Nativity Scene Protected by U.S. Constitution

Nativity scene on the 2001 Christkindlmarket i...

Nativity scene on the 2001 Christkindlmarket in downtown Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thomas More Society Defends Private Religious Speech in “North School Park,” a Traditional Public Forum.

 

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., Nov. 23, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — The Arlington Heights Park District as well as other city officials have received a letter of complaint for their decision to reject a Nativity scene as part of an annual holiday display held in one of the city’s parks. The letter was authored by Tom Brejcha, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Society. Brejcha’s letter recounted that the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee had submitted a timely, genuine, and fully legitimate request to include a Nativity scene, constitutionally protected as it is a privately-sponsored and privately-funded expression of religious belief, among the many other planned Christmas-themed displays in this public celebration of the holiday season in this traditional public forum, a public park.

Mr. Steven Scholten, Executive Director of Arlington Parks, had told Mr. Jim Finnegan, Chairman of INSC, that the Park Board Commissioners had decided to exclude the Nativity Scene from the Christmas holiday display, which has been celebrated at North School Park, at Eastman Street and Arlington Heights Road, each December since 1991.The exhibit, featuring over 70,000 lights and a decorated evergreen on the Park’s fountain, showcases lighted streetscape trees, and a number of “display pieces,” including Channukah dreidels. While supervised by the Park Board, the Village of Arlington Heights also participates in the installation, funding, and sponsorship of one or more of the displays.

Brejcha explained, “The constitutional obligation of government officials, including the Park Board’s Executive Director, members of the Commission, and the Mayor and Trustees of Arlington Heights, is to administer this traditional public forum without discrimination against religious speech, equally as they cannot discriminate against those who would abstain from or oppose religious expression. Thus such privately sponsored and funded religious displays in traditional public forums are constitutionally protected,” Brejcha noted. “Even the ACLU has supported the right of citizens to proclaim the joyful message signaled by Jesus Christ’s birth in the public square.”

The Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, has been instrumental in securing permits for the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee’s fifth annual display of a Nativity Scene depicting the birth of Jesus, to be unveiled in the Rotunda of our Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, alongside the Governor’s “holiday tree,” on Tuesday, November 27, at noon. Tomorrow morning, Saturday, November 24, Jim Finnegan and the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee will unveil their annual Nativity display on Daley Plaza in Chicago, at 11 a.m.

Thomas More Society offers free legal help to individuals and private citizen groups interested in putting up similar Nativity scenes — privately sponsored and funded — in any traditional public forum in their own town, within Illinois or elsewhere. The Thomas More Society can be reached at 312.782.1680.

Read a copy of the Arlington Heights complaint letter here.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm that seeks to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. The Society is a nonprofit organization wholly supported by private donations. For more information or to support the work of Thomas More Society, please visit
www.thomasmoresociety.org.

Legal War’ for IRS if Churches Are Attacked for Speaking Out on Issues

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Ser...

Seal of the United States Internal Revenue Service. The design is the same as the Treasury seal with an IRS inscription. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thomas More Society Promises a Free and Aggressive Legal Defense to Any Religious Leaders Targeted or Victimized for the Robust Exercise of Their Free Speech Rights

CHICAGO, April 27, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — “The Internal Revenue Service has no legal right to investigate, let alone threaten or penalize, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria for illegal ‘electioneering’ after Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C. referred to policies of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin while delivering a robust, wholly legitimate critique of current federal efforts to quash and curtail religious liberties,” says Tom Brejcha, President of the Thomas More Society, a public interest Chicago-based law firm. “References to egregious, historic mistakes on the part of political leaders of the past in messages to congregations, even during an election year, are fully protected by the First Amendment, whether those messages are delivered from pulpits or on soapboxes in the public square.”

Backing up that message, Brejcha promised to provide free legal counsel and what it believes is a winning defense to any and all religious leaders whose free speech rights are assailed whether by the US government, or at the behest of any partisan political or private group. Brejcha was responding to reports of a complaint just filed with the IRS by Americans United for Separation of Church and State over Bishop Jenky’s comments.  “We think the law is very clear,” said Brejcha. “Well-settled Federal law does not prohibit churches and other tax-exempt non-profits from speaking out against government policies at odds with the common good or — as in this case — constitutionally obnoxious,” said Brejcha. “Where would the Civil Rights movement have been were it not for the courage of those of our religious leaders who spoke truth to power on behalf of the disenfranchised?” Brejcha added.

“When Bishop Jenky said, ‘…every practicing Catholic must vote, and must vote their Catholic consciences…,’ he’s simply telling people that their religious convictions and values matter outside the church walls,” said Tom Brejcha.

TMS has successfully faced down the IRS twice recently, first when the Service delayed approval of the Coalition for Life of Iowa’s request for tax-exempt status while IRS was also pressing its pro-life members to refrain from conducting picketing or prayer vigils outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Iowa City. After TMS challenged the IRS’s legal position, the Service’s demands to stop the picketing were suddenly dropped and the Coalition promptly received an official IRS “Determination Letter” granting the requested tax exempt status.

In a second case, where the IRS made highly improper demands for information about prayer vigils conducted by the Christian Voices for Life, and was challenged by TMS, the IRS again backed down.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm that aims to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. The Society is a nonprofit organization wholly supported by private donations. For more information or to support the work of Thomas More Society, please visit
www.thomasmoresociety.org.

U.S. Department of Justice Drops ‘FACE’ Lawsuit Against Denver Pro-Lifer

The flag of the City and County of Denver sinc...

The flag of the City and County of Denver since 1926. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DENVER, March 22, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — Today, Thomas More Society attorneys secured agreement from the U.S. Attorney General’s office to dismiss all of the civil charges pending against Denver pro-life advocate Kenneth Scott, who had been accused of physically obstructing clients and employees of the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains abortion facility.  The Attorney General’s office filed suit last year in Denver’s federal district court, charging Scott with ten separate violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, asking the court to assess a $10,000 civil fine and an injunction keeping him 25 feet away from the abortion facility.

The agreement to dismiss the charges followed in the wake of a ruling last January by United States District Judge Philip Brimmer, denying the federal government’s bid for a preliminary injunction against Scott. Judge Brimmer ruled that the Attorney General had failed to prove that the government was reasonably likely to prevail at trial.

“This is a monumental vindication of the free speech rights of those who offer assistance at the nation’s abortion clinics,” said Peter Breen, executive director & legal counsel of the Thomas More Society, which represented Scott. “The charges against Scott, like a flurry of other charges the Justice Department recently has brought against pro-lifers all over the country, were fundamentally flawed and repugnant to the United States Constitution.  The Government here sought to criminalize leafleting on a public sidewalk, which is clearly protected by the First Amendment, even when that leafleting occurs outside an abortion clinic.”

The Thomas More Society retained Denver attorney Rebecca Messall to assist with the defense of Scott.  The agreement resulted after a settlement conference held this afternoon at the Alfred A. Arraj United States Courthouse in Denver.

A copy of the signed settlement agreement may be viewed here.

More information about the case can be found here.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm that seeks to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. The Society is a nonprofit organization wholly supported by private donations. For more information or to support the work of Thomas More Society, please visit
www.thomasmoresociety.org.

‘Porno Palace’ Next to Convent Violates State Law

Intercession of Charles Borromeo supported by ...

Image via Wikipedia

Thomas More Society Demands Village of Stone Park, IL to Close Strip Club

CHICAGO, March 15, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — On behalf of local residents and the Missionary Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, Thomas More Society attorneys demanded that the Village of Stone Park, Illinois, put a halt to construction of a three-million dollar strip club, “Get It,” located several feet from the property line of the Sisters’ convent.

“For over 60 years, the Sisters of St. Charles have devoted their lives to teaching the children of Stone Park — service for which they’re now being repaid with a ‘porno palace’ towering over their convent,” said Peter Breen, executive director of the Thomas More Society. “This facility was located in clear violation of state law, and zoning permissions were given without notice to the Sisters, whose convent is located immediately next to this facility.”

In his address to the Village Board this week, Breen identified a state law imposing a one-mile “buffer zone” between adult entertainment facilities and “places of worship,” which he contends prohibits the placement of “Get It” next to the convent and its several chapels.

In April of 2010, the developer of “Get It” sued the Village of Stone Park, accusing its officials of shaking him down for cash and part ownership of the Club in exchange for permission to build the facility. The village settled the lawsuit in August of 2010. Even though the village’s ordinances were largely unchallenged by the lawsuit, the village agreed to repeal or amend numerous ordinances as part of the settlement agreement, ending that lawsuit. In particular, the village agreed to repeal a local ordinance — similar to the state statute — that imposed a 1,000-foot buffer zone between adult entertainment facilities and schools, parks, churches, and residential areas.

“The local buffer zone ordinances were never challenged in the lawsuit brought by the developer, nor could those ordinances be challenged, because they were valid and constitutional,” said Peter Breen, who spoke at the town hall meeting. “There was no reason to agree to the repeal of the ordinances protecting the people of Stone Park from strip clubs coming into their residential and other child-heavy areas.”

According to the Mayor of Stone Park, the village chose not to defend the developer’s lawsuit because doing so would cost the village half a million dollars. Village officials have discouraged residents and the Sisters from protesting “Get It.” However, this week, the Thomas More Society offered free legal services to the village of Stone Park should it choose to join residents in taking action against “Get It.”

“Get It” personnel have claimed that the facility is set to have its first “dry run” on April 1, and will officially open its doors during Holy Week, the most hallowed week on the Christian calendar, leading up to Easter Sunday.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm that seeks to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. The Society is a nonprofit organization wholly supported by private donations. For more information or to support the work of Thomas More Society, please visit
www.thomasmoresociety.org.

Maryland Police to Get Training About Pro-lifers’ Rights, Says Agreement

English: The Bill of Rights, the first ten ame...

Image via Wikipedia

‘Constitution 101’ classes required after police illegally arrested and strip-searched pro-life advocates

Contact: Tom Ciesielka, 312-422-1333, tc@tcpr.net

BALTIMORE, March 8, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ — The Maryland Board of Public Works voted yesterday to approve the settlement of consolidated lawsuits against Maryland State Police who illegally arrested and strip-searched pro-life activists while they peacefully protested on public property in Hartford County in August, 2008. As part of the settlement agreement, Maryland State Police must attend training classes on citizens’ rights as protected by the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The settlement also requires the State to pay for the pro-life advocates’ legal fees.

“While we applaud the settlement, we remain appalled by the illegal behavior of the Maryland State Police. We sincerely believe that with a better understanding of the First Amendment and a newfound respect for citizen protests, the Maryland State Police will strive hereafter to protect all the rights bestowed on individuals by the U.S. Constitution,” said Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.

Thomas More Society, together with American Catholic Lawyers Association and the Alliance Defense Fund, brought multiple lawsuits against state and local police on behalf of Jack Ames, the leader of Defend Life, and the group’s “2008 Truth Tour” participants after the pro-lifers were arrested with no charges stated. The group included young women who were subjected to sexually invasive searches by police while detained. After hours of mistreatment and several overnight detentions, the pro-lifers were released. Trumped up criminal charges such as not having a permit when permits were not legally required were abruptly dropped when the pro-lifers first appeared in court, after which suits were filed charging a gross violation of the protesters’ First Amendment rights.

Prior to filing their lawsuit, Thomas More Society attorneys uncovered compelling evidence of bad faith against the police officers, including 911 tapes and police recordings showing that officials imposed a “heckler’s veto” in making the arrests because they objected to the content of protest signs, and showing deep police bias such as Sergeant Bohlen’s comment: “they can sit in a cell for an hour … or three or four and rot.”

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Chicago-based Thomas More Society is a national public interest law firm that seeks to restore respect in law for life, marriage, and religious liberty. The Society is a nonprofit organization wholly supported by private donations. For more information or to support the work of Thomas More Society, please visit
www.thomasmoresociety.org.