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D.C. Circuit Revives Frederick Douglass Foundation's Viewpoint Discrimination Case

Mayor Muriel Bowser allowed "Black Lives Matter" protestors to violate the City's defacement ordinance while enforcing the law against those with a different viewpoint

The Frederick Douglass Foundation
Aug. 16, 2023
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2023 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Frederick Douglass Foundation (FDF), a national grassroots educational organization built on a foundation of righteousness, justice, liberty and virtue, announced that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit revived their lawsuit against the District of Columbia for selective enforcement of the district's defacement ordinance in violation of the First Amendment, reversing the district court's dismissal of the case, Frederick Douglass Foundation v. District of Columbia.

In the summer of 2020, thousands of protesters marched in the streets proclaiming "Black Lives Matter" while defacing public property. The graffiti was widespread causing significant damage to walkways, streets and storefronts—and was an open violation of the District's defacement ordinance, and yet, none of the protestors were arrested. During that same time, District police officers arrested two pro-life advocates from the Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life for chalking "Black Pre-Born Lives Matter" on a public sidewalk.

"I am grateful to the U.S. Court of Appeals for acknowledging and upholding our First Amendment right to free speech and sending a message that viewpoint discrimination will not be tolerated," said Dean Nelson, chairman, Frederick Douglass Foundation. "Unlike the 'Black Lives Matter' protestors, the two pro-life advocates who were arrested did not cause any damage to public property—it was their viewpoint that was deemed politically unacceptable. Viewpoint discrimination is a violation of the First Amendment and we are thankful that the U. S. Court of Appeals agreed with us."

According to Judge Neomi Rao's opinion, the First Amendment prohibits the government from favoring some speakers over others and access to public fora must be open to everyone and to every message on the same terms.  Further, the District may act to prevent the defacement of public property, but it cannot open up its streets and sidewalks to some viewpoints and not others.

"This victory should mark the conclusion of the hostile behavior by Washington, D.C. officials towards pro-life expression," said Jonathan M. Alexandre, legal counsel, Frederick Douglass Foundation and senior counsel for Governmental Affairs, Liberty Counsel. "This is not the first time within the past ten years where D.C. has unfairly targeted and discriminated against pro-life speech. But they learned again today that when citizens peacefully and respectfully advocate for the cause of life, those citizens are always on the right side of history."

"To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money." -- Frederick Douglass

About the Frederick Douglass Foundation
The Frederick Douglass Foundation is a national grassroots educational organization that brings the sanctity of free markets and limited government ideas to bear on some of the greatest problems facing our nation. The foundation believes in value-oriented voting and new approaches to today's problems with the assistance of elected officials, scholars from universities and colleges and community activists.

SOURCE The Frederick Douglass Foundation

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