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Orlando Sentinel names me: “Chump of the Week”

Thanks to the local lamestream media for naming me Chump of the Week!

Read here what they claim I said. Then scroll down to the actual text of what I originally wrote by email.

Chump of the Week: Jay Rogers

We don’t necessarily endorse protests in front of someone’s home, but we opposed Winter Park’s new ordinance banning residential protests as an unwarranted infringement on free speech. Americans ought to defend free speech rights even if they don’t like the speech. But now Rogers is threatening to double down on anti-abortion protests in front of Planned Parenthood CEO Jenna Tosh’s home, in direct violation of the new law. If Rogers and his group don’t like the ordinance, they need to respect the rule of law and mount a court challenge.

– Orlando Sentinel, Our weekly CHAMP & CHUMP, September 29, 2012

The Chump Award stemmed from an earlier article in which I was interviewed by Orlando Sentinel reporter Anika Palm.

Jay Rogers, a local anti-abortion-rights activist who calls himself a pro-life evangelist, made a video of the event outside Tosh’s home. Rogers said he and others who were involved are likely to demonstrate outside Tosh’s home again, testing how the city will respond — and that they are willing to go to jail.

“The irony of the Winter Park ordinance is that it will probably force us to place more of an emphasis now on Jenna Tosh,” he said in an email. “Thus the ordinance will do exactly the opposite of what the city commission hopes it will do. And ultimately, if past precedent is any indicator, we will probably win our right to peacefully demonstrate.”

– Orlando Sentinel, Winter Park to vote on restricting picketing in front of homes, September 21, 2012

In the email interview, I didn’t say that we would “double down on protests in front of Jenna Tosh’s home” or even that I was “likely to demonstrate outside Tosh’s home again.” I said that coming arrests were possible, but nowhere did I exclude civil challenges. In fact, I ended by saying, “… several Christian advocacy groups as well as those concerned with first amendment issues plan to challenge this in court.”

I also wrote that in the 1990s, over 200 pro-life Christians challenged a similar no-free-speech buffer zone in front of an abortion clinic in Melbourne, Florida. We prevailed in the end and won our right to peacefully assemble on that sidewalk solely due to direct challenges, even after the civil case of Madsen v. Women’s Health Center failed. I have continually said that these “no-free-speech” buffer zones sometimes have the opposite effect of what they intend to do. They ultimately will fail because they are unprincipled, thinly veiled efforts to curb peaceful free speech.

I wrote Anika Palm two emails to clear up some inaccuracies after the article appeared. In the second email, I wrote:

One other little criticism on the article is that I said nowhere that I was planning on getting arrested. I did say I was arrested in the past for challenging a similar buffer zone. In reality, we don’t know exactly how we will go about challenging this. It is possible to challenge the ordinance with a lawsuit without involving the criminal courts. Arrests are more dramatic and draw more media attention, but they are not necessarily the most effective way to challenge something like this.

“An unjust law is no law at all.”

– Saint Augustine

On the heels of that clarification, came the Chump of the Week Award with me allegedly saying that we would definitely break the law (which if an unjust law is no law at all, as St. Augustine said) and that we “need to respect the rule of law and mount a court challenge.”

The Orlando Sentinel also falsely assumes that we won’t mount a civil challenge, which I did, in fact, note as a possibility in my interview. I explained that we simply didn’t know at that point, since the ordinance had not yet been passed, but laid out all the options. The “double down on protests” remark is simply a fabrication.

I am not shocked by this. Since 1989, I’ve seen myself and others misquoted and mischaracterized by the liberal media whenever they cover pro-life events. Perhaps I should have learned my lesson by now. Occasionally, I find a fair reporter, so I gave Anika Palm the benefit of the doubt. Besides a few factual mistakes, I did think that her original articles were relatively fair compared to some of the outrageous advocacy journalism I have seen in the past. Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, we now have email transcripts to verify remarks made to the press. So there is really no excuse for further distorting my comments.

However, I thank the Orlando Sentinel for awarding me Chump of the Week. The pro-abortion, pro-Planned Parenthood political bent of the Orlando Sentinel distortion is noted. Planned Parenthood CEO Jenna Tosh is one of their bloggers in fact.

I wear the title as a badge of honor.

Someone asked me if I would post the original interview. Here it is in unaltered form, except to correct a few typos.

Media inquiry: Winter Park anti-protesting ordinance

Mr. Rogers:

I’m writing a story about Winter Park’s decision to approve the ordinance restricting protesters from targeting specific homes in residential areas, and I was hoping you might be able to answer a couple of questions for my story.

Were you among the protesters on Aug. 18, and if so, will you continue to try to protest in Jenna Tosh’s neighborhood? Do you have concerns that the ordinance infringes upon your free speech, and if so, what will you do to combat it?

Thank you.

Anika Palm
Reporter, Orlando Sentinel
633 N. Orange Ave.
Orlando, FL 32802

My Response

Thank you for asking me these questions, Anika Palm. I would be delighted to answer.

1. Were you among the protesters on Aug. 18?

Yes, I was among this group, but we don’t consider ourselves to be protesters. Most of us prefer the term, “pro-life evangelist” or “street evangelist.” We use the term “Awareness Campaign” to describe our outreaches in the neighborhoods of abortionists and abortion center workers. We were not there to protest one individual or a residence, but to make the entire neighborhood aware that the workers of Planned Parenthood, including CEO Jenna Tosh, are caught in a destructive death industry that kills unborn children and harms women. Our distributed flyers call for prayer and repentance. We also recognize that we, as Christians, bear part of the responsibility and guilt for allowing abortion on demand in all 50 states of our nation for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy. We have some of the most liberal abortion laws in the world here in America. We want to make entire communities aware of this — not just the traffic that goes by an abortion clinic on a weekday morning.

I was present at the campaign as an observer who video-taped the event. I was also there as a prayerful witness and participant. I do not usually hold signs at these events because I am working a video camera. I document these Awareness Campaigns as a social and spiritual phenomenon and then trace their effect over a period of time. It is important to record the peaceful demeanor of the evangelists present at the events and show that we are obedient and respectful to the police officers when they are sometimes called to the scene.

I also document that we have seen several abortion doctors quit or “retire from doing abortions” after we have held Awareness Campaigns in their neighborhoods. These include Dr. Vera Stefanac who worked for Dr. James Pendergraft, a notorious late-term abortion clinic chain owner who is based here in Orlando, and Dr. Scott Spagnolo-Hye, who did not like that we stood out in front of his gated community with signs on several occasions. However, when Scott Hye decided that he was quitting abortion and going into family practice, he wanted to make sure that one of our videographer/evangelists at Orlando Women’s Center recorded his announcement and posted it on YouTube.

See Jill Stanek’s article on Dr. Scott Hye’s announcement.

The abortion clinic workers who come to know us over a period of time understand that we are peaceful, caring Christians who are concerned with the sanctity of life. This includes the care for lives of these abortion clinic workers as well. Of course, we hope that they will repent of the sin of child murder and come to know the goodness and grace of Jesus Christ. To work for this, we use all types of prayer and persuasion. Some Orlando pro-life evangelists are more confrontational than others, but we have seen only peaceful tactics.

I hope that in time Jenna Tosh will see the ugly reality of abortion as child killing and that she will repent. Having said that I understand fully that people are disturbed when we bring the issue of abortion with graphic imagery and signs into the public right of way within a residential community. Abortion is disturbing. That is the very point of the Awareness Campaign — to disturb people with an ugly reality. We are not much different than the Civil Rights activists of the 1950s and ’60s who disturbed entire cities in order to bring light to injustice. We are no different than other Christians of historical record.

2. Will you continue to try to protest in Jenna Tosh’s neighborhood?

My understanding of the ordinance is that it complies with Frisby vs. Shultz, according to city attorney Larry Brown, who works for the Winter Park City Commission. Frisby allows pro-life evangelists to proselytize door to door and to target entire neighborhoods — but allows cities to pass ordinances that would restrict demonstrators from harassing one individual by loitering in front of his or her home. However, we have no idea how the City of Winter Park will interpret Larry Brown’s ordinance, to whom it will apply, or how the police will enforce it. We may only be able to know by testing it.

Our campaigns have been spread out over more than 30 abortion doctors and clinic owners/presidents/CEOs in Florida. We know that there are about 100 more that we have not visited yet. We usually leaflet a neighborhood on one day, stand for two hours on another day and then move on to our next campaign a month later. We have also experimented with other types of Awareness Campaigns at church and family events — and even a few music festivals, high schools and colleges — to educate Floridians about the ugly reality of abortion.

The irony of the Winter Park ordinance is that it will probably force us to place more of an emphasis now on Jenna Tosh. Thus the ordinance will do exactly the opposite of what the city commission hopes it will do. And ultimately, if past precedent is any indicator, we will probably win our right to peacefully demonstrate.

3. Do you have concerns that the ordinance infringes upon your free speech?

For seven years, I lived in and owned a house across the street from an infamous abortion clinic in Melbourne, Florida, Aware Woman Center from Choice owned by Patricia Baird-Windle (check the Orlando Sentinel archives for more info). In that time, I saw over 200 arrests of citizens who challenged a similar buffer zone. I remember the first demonstration in 1993, in which over 100 were arrested.

They were arrested because law enforcement determined that they must have held anti-abortion beliefs. Pro-lifers in the buffer zone were arrested after being pointed out by abortion center workers, while the “clinic defenders” were allowed to hold a counter-demonstration in the same buffer zone. I was one of those arrested although my only crime was walking on the sidewalk while wearing a t-shirt that said: “Choose Life.”

I witnessed middle-aged and elderly men — some of them war veterans — weeping in the county jail. They were deeply hurt that they had lived to see a day when they could be arrested for standing and praying on a sidewalk in from of an abortion clinic.

When I stood in front of Sanford district Judge McGregor a day later, I asked him if I was singled out because I held pro-life beliefs. I was pleased when several years later, I saw my words (as John Doe #16) recorded in Justice Scalia’s dissent of a Supreme Court ruling, Madsen vs. Women’s Health Center, that resulted in part from our cases:

John Doe No. 16: “This was the first time that I was in this area myself and I had not attempted to block an entrance to a clinic in that town or anywhere else in the State of Florida in the last year or ever.

“I also understand that the reason why I was arrested was because I acted in concert with those who were demonstrating [that were] pro-life. I guess the question that I’m asking is — were the beliefs [and] ideologies of the people that were present — were those taken into consideration when we were arrested?

. . . . .

“When you issued the Injunction did you determine that it would only apply to — that it would apply only to people that were demonstrating that were pro-life?”

The Court: “In effect, yes.” (emphasis added).

I see a similar duplicity working in the Winter Park ordinance. For instance, who determines what is a “protest” or a “picket”? Who can rightly determine if a resident feels “threatened” simply due to the words or slogans of passersby on a public right of way? If a public nuisance can be regulated by already existing laws and ordinances, then why is a “no-free-speech” zone even necessary? To me, it seems as though Planned Parenthood determined this and that the Winter Park City Commissioners have become the self-inflated ideological lap dogs of the abortion industry.

There is yet other irony here. I was a Longwood, Florida resident in 1993. I was not at all active in the pro-life street ministry when I read in the Orlando Sentinel about a “no-prayer, no-free-speech buffer zone” injunction that was being applied to a 36-foot area in front of the Aware Woman abortion center in Melbourne, Florida. I came at first to observe and write about the event in my position with The Forerunner — a monthly Christian newspaper. To make a long story short, I ended up being arrested three times in resistance to the injunction and came to be the owner of the house across the street from the abortion center.

Shortly after this time, I had a roommate, Graham Dugas, who was arrested for mailing a letter. (Our mailbox was across the street from our house in the buffer zone.) His case was dismissed because of “no evidence.”

The state attorney then began to enter “no evidence” for other arrests simply because by that point no one being arrested in the buffer zone in front of the abortion clinic was named in the injunction. The local court decided that although the Supreme Court ruled against our appeal in Madsen, that the injunction applied only to Madsen and others named in the injunction. We were not among those acting “in concert” with them since none of those people had ever ventured into the buffer zone.

Finally, my roommate settled with the City of Melbourne in a lawsuit for false arrest.

4. What will you do to combat it?

We are waiting to see whether the City of Winter Park wants to go down this road. If the City Commission makes a final vote passing the no-free-speech ordinance, no one knows if it will really bring “peace and tranquility to the city of Winter Park.” I have seen that it usually serves to galvanize the pro-life movement when people sense that their first amendment rights are being infringed upon.

I don’t know if it will occur, but I would not be surprised to see free-speech activists of all types from around Florida and even the whole country come to Winter Park. Who knows what they will do? Who knows if they will share our pro-life ethic? Who knows if they will demonstrate in front of Ms. Tosh’s residence, their liberal United Church of Christ congregation, Planned Parenthood’s upcoming fundraising events, Mr. Tosh’s place of business? And so on. It could be that the Winter Park City Commission is trying to quench some peaceful Christian campfire songs and slogans with several gallons of gasoline.

Due to Roe v. Wade, we in the pro-life movement feel that our hands are tied as to what we can hope to accomplish legislatively (beyond some limited measures restricting the “how” of abortion, but not the ability to abort an unborn child). Now with these buffer zone injunctions, we feel that a noose has been placed around our necks and it is slowly being tightened. It is vital that we resist. We are not lawless rebels, but I hope that some will decide to test the parameters of the “no-free-speech” buffer zone and several Christian advocacy groups as well as those concerned with first amendment issues plan to challenge this in court.

Background

The following links give the background to this story so far.

8/18/2012Awareness Campaign at Planned Parenthood CEO Jenna Tosh’s neighborhood – A pro-life event was held on a public sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood CEO Jenna Tosh’s home on Aloma Ave in Winter Park, Florida.

8/27/2012Winter Park, Florida Imposes Unconstitutional Free Speech Ban – The City Commission responded by making an ordinance targeting all gatherings in residential areas banning free-speech of any type if the speech, picket or protest is unwelcome.

8/27/2012The Comedy Central, Planned Parenthood, No-Free-Speech Buffer Zone Axis – At the same meeting, in which the emergency ordinance was unanimously voted on, the associate pastor of the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, Reverend Karen Barker-Duncan, where Jenna Tosh is a member, gave the invocation at the City Commission meeting. Not coincidentally, Sarah Sprinkel, also a member of the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, is the city commissioner who spearheaded the effort to pass the emergency ordinance.

9/10/2012 – The Winter Park City Commission approved the ordinance with a 4-1 vote, a second vote being necessary to make the ban permanent. Mayor Ken Bradley was the only opposing vote. At the public hearing, I expressed concern that although a 1988 Supreme Court precedent, Frisby v. Schultz, upheld a Brookfield, Wisconsin ordinance banning protests targeting a particular resident, the Winter Park ordinance is overly broad. This ordinance goes far beyond the legal parameters handed down in Frisby, which still allows citizens to picket and march in neighborhoods.

9/23/2012The Screwtape Letters of Winter Park, Florida – All heaven breaks loose at the First Congregationalist Church (UCC) of Winter Park.

9/24/2012 – The “no-free-speech” measure was made permanent when the city commission votes to ratify it. Again Mayor Ken Bradley was the only opposing vote.

Your comments are welcome!

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