A judge has poked fun at the New York attorney general’s claim that pro-life protesters are guilty of harassment for staging their events on the public sidewalks outside an abortion business in New York.
The judge reasoned that if being annoying was grounds for a harassment charge, “I could sue all of you here today.”
The case was brought against a group of pro-life Christians by Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for their activities near a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Jamaica area of Queens.
The AG sued member of the Rock Church in Queens in federal court, citing the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, also called FACE, and similar New York laws. Enacted by Congress to prevent violence and physical obstruction of abortion clinic entrances, Schneiderman is using FACE to shut down pro-life speech, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver has charged.
“Schneiderman’s disdain for free speech in general, and the pro-life message in particular, was made clear in his press conference announcing the lawsuit, where he said, ‘We are not a nation where you can choose your point of view,’ and that pro-life Christians ‘run their mouths’ with ‘unlawful, un-American rhetoric,'” according to Liberty Counsel.
“It is obvious Attorney General Schneiderman abhors the Christian, pro-life message of our client and is willing to twist the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act to silence any opposition to abortion,” said Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel’s assistant vice president of legal affairs. “It is inexcusable for the highest legal officer of the State of New York to declare war on free speech and the pro-life message, and we hope the court will turn back this assault on our most cherished liberties.”
Liberty Counsel is working with one of the protesters facing charges.
The Thomas More Society, which is defending others, noted Tuesday that U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon’s remark about annoying behavior offered some insight into her thinking about the case.
The judge also noted that leafletting is a “form of really protected speech,” and sidewalks are the “quintessential public forum,” which are arguments in favor of allowing the protesters to have their say.
The hearing this week was on a request to dismiss the lawsuit against protesters who gather outside Choices Women’s Medical Center abortion business.
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Martin Cannon said the state’s case seemed to focus on the idea “that harassment should be defined by someone’s reaction.”
Rev. Kenneth Griepp, a senior pastor at the church, said he expects vindication.
“As a voice for the unborn, we are committed to raising awareness about the over 3,500 children that are being murdered every day here in America. We do so as peaceful people of God.”
Cannon said: “These harassment charges are unconstitutionally vague. The prosecution’s very loose handling of a serious charge serves to highlight the baseless claims in a case solely intended to discourage any opposition to abortion.”
Schneiderman alleges the Christians unlawfully harassed patients, families and clinic staff, and physically obstruct them from entering the clinic.
Schneiderman, in a previous statement, called the pro-lifers’ tactics “horrifying” and “illegal.”
“The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction. We’ll do what it takes to protect those rights for women across New York,” he said.