Contact: Liberty Counsel, 407-875-1776, Media@LC.org; Press Kit
HARRISBURG, Penn., March 21, 2017 /Christian Newswire/ -- Today Liberty Counsel presents oral arguments before the federal Court of Appeals in its lawsuit against a Harrisburg ordinance, which created unconstitutional buffer zones that silence pro-life speech on public property and sidewalks around abortion clinics. Liberty Counsel represents Becky Biter and Colleen Reilly, who regularly engaged in peaceful sidewalk counseling. They have been harassed and intimated by clinic staff and the local police since the ordinance passed. This ordinance pushes pro-life counselors sometimes 50 feet to more than 70 feet away and prohibits their freedom of speech. Harry Mihet, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Liberty Counsel, will present the argument.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned similar buffer zones in McCullen v. Coakley. Their unanimous decision establishes a strong precedent in favor of this lawsuit. Liberty Counsel's brief states that "the ordinance has completely abolished free speech in traditional public fora used for the expression of ideas, debate, and protest—specifically, public sidewalks and streets adjacent to health care facilities, including abortion clinics, throughout the City of Harrisburg."
This ordinance clearly discriminates based on the speaker's view. While pretending to be neutral, it allows pro-abortion individuals to speak freely within the buffer zones but bans all pro-life speech on the same public sidewalks outside the Planned Parenthood clinic and the Hillcrest abortion facility.
"Harrisonburg cannot discriminate against pro-life viewpoints. Drafted by Planned Parenthood, this ordinance targets pro-life viewpoints that are protected by the First Amendment," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "Public sidewalks and parks have always been protected as places where people can gather to participate in the marketplace of ideas. It is a dangerous position for a city to prohibit one viewpoint on human life," Staver concluded.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.