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Police Violate Free Speech Rights of Pro-Life Advocates in Hollywood, Florida
Thomas More Society Challenges Public Sidewalk Restriction at Abortion Clinic
Contact: Tom Ciesielka, 312-422-1333, tc@tcpr.net
HOLLYWOOD, Fla., Feb. 17, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ -- Thomas More Society attorneys have sent a letter to the city of Hollywood, Florida, and its police department challenging a recent police order. A Hollywood officer forbade pro-life advocates from standing on a public sidewalk in front of an abortion facility, apparently at the clinic's request. Last week, Officer Del Castillo told participants in the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil, that they could not stand on the public sidewalk in front of local abortion provider, A Woman's Center of Hollywood. The Thomas More Society contends that the officer's demand is a blatant First Amendment rights violation against those who gathered on the debut day of this year's public witness to the sanctity of human life.
"Forbidding pro-lifers from standing on public property violates 75 years of clear Supreme Court precedent that gives broad protections to those engaging in free speech in public places," said Corrina Konczal, Thomas More Society Associate Counsel. "We are confident that, once the city and Chief of Police are made aware of this officer's unconstitutional ban, that they will reverse this order and assure our clients of their rights to publicly pray and hold signs on any sidewalk in the city."
This is the third year that volunteers participating in the Hollywood prayer vigil have had a peaceful presence on the public property – including both the sidewalk and the parkway – outside of A Woman's Center. On February 10, 2016, Del Castillo told the pro-life advocates that they could not stand on the public sidewalk because the abortion providers had said they did not want the 40 Days for Life participants there. He stated that the abortion facility has the right to determine who may and may not stand on the sidewalk in front of its building. He implied that if this order was not obeyed, vigil participants could be ticketed.
"We should not be banned from the public sidewalk just because we're pro-life," said John Hickey, a 40 Days for Life Hollywood volunteer. "We're exercising our First Amendment rights by holding a peaceful prayer vigil to help women and unborn children. Hopefully, Officer Del Castillo's supervisors will reverse his incorrect order so that our free speech will be respected for the rest of the 40 Days vigil."
The Thomas More Society's letter calls upon the city of Hollywood and the office of the Chief of police to confirm that Officer Del Castillo was mistaken when he banned the vigil participants from the public sidewalk and to reassure pro-life advocates of their constitutional right to stand on the public sidewalk in front of the abortion vendor. The attorneys' missive notes specifically that "Officer Del Castillo's order is a clearly unconstitutional restriction of our clients' freedom of speech in a traditional public forum – a public sidewalk." The letter requests a response from the city and police department by this Friday.
Read the Thomas More Society's letter to the city Hollywood, Florida, and its police department here.
About the Thomas More Society
The Tomas 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 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. Visit thomasmoresociety.org.