Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Fort Myers, FL, Sued For Restricting Pro-Life Speech of Christian Sidewalk Counselors

From the Thomas More Law Center:
ANN ARBOR, MI —The Thomas More Law Center has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Fort Myers, Florida, and several of its officials for policies and practices curtailing the free speech rights of pro-life sidewalk counselors to pray and handout pro-life informational literature.

The Law Center filed suit on behalf of Judith Minahan, Edward and Marilyn Melone, and John Vetter, all of whom are Christians motivated by their faith to expose the evils of abortion. They seek to pray on the public sidewalk outside a Fort Myers abortion clinic and counsel expectant mothers in a non-confrontational manner to find alternatives to abortion.

The City of Fort Myers and its officials, however, require pro-life advocates to obtain a permit before more than two of them may engage in such activity. They are also prohibited from approaching people and distributing informational literature. As a result, if three pro-life advocates pray on the public sidewalk without a permit and hand out literature, they are subject to arrest.

According to Edward L. White III, the Law Center attorney handling the case, “Our clients simply want to peacefully pray and present a pro-life message on a public sidewalk without fear of arrest. We are seeking relief from the federal court to allow them and other pro-life advocates to do so freely without being subject to further violations of their constitutional rights.”

The Law Center has requested the federal court grant immediate relief to its clients so that they may engage in peaceful First Amendment activities on the public sidewalks of Fort Myers without being subjected to unconstitutional restrictions and threats of arrest.

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