By Jay Rogers
Published November 1, 1993
Federal court decides in favor of pro-lifers
MELBOURNE, Florida (FR) – In a major victory for pro-life activists, a federal appeals court ruled that a court ordered injunction against pro-lifers at a Melbourne abortion clinic infringed on freedom of speech. The court said that the order issued by Circuit Judge Robert McGregor should be lifted. In April, McGregor created a buffer zone around the Aware Woman abortion clinic in Melbourne that kept pro-life demonstrators from getting too close. About 150 pro-lifers were arrested earlier this year for violating the court order. (The Forerunner April/May 1993, “Christians Are Arrested For Praying.”)
The federal court noted that Judge McGregor created a criminal statue prohibiting “pro-life free speech activity in a certain geographical location.” Because the injunction contained “viewpoint specific” discrimination (i.e., it prohibited only pro-life free speech) it was deemed unconstitutional. This decision has monumental importance in the legal war over abortion and will be used as a precedent in arguing similar cases all over the country.
The appeal was won by Matthew D. Staver, attorney and president of the Liberty Counsel. Staver’s case was argued on behalf of Myrna Cheffer, an Orlando area pro-life activist. Cheffer was not among the 150 pro-life individuals who were arrested for entering the buffer zone. Nevertheless, she filed this suit in federal district court seeking to prohibit enforcement of the state court injunction. Cheffer claimed that the injunction acted as a prior restraint on her free speech rights and that the threat of arrest chilled her ability to exercise these rights. The federal appeals court ruled in favor of Cheffer and handed the order back down to the district court recommending that it be repealed.
According to Staver: “It’s a landmark decision. This particular order is one of the strongest of its kind as it relates to abortion picketing and free speech. It specifically indicates that this injunction is viewpoint oriented, content specific and it violates free speech. It is also significant as it relates to the buffer zone legislation that was going to be before the Florida legislature next week placing 50-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics and the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances bill on the federal level. This decision will clearly allow suits against those type of buffer zone restrictions. This particular injunction goes way beyond trying to restrict trespass or things of that nature. It restricts picketing that occurs within a traditional sidewalk, highway, residential area.
“We now have a conflict in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on the federal level and the Florida Supreme Court in their interpretation. That will be very strong basis on which the United States Supreme Court could accept this case on the appeal. In the meantime, we will ask the federal court to block the continued enforcement of this injunction. I would also caution the city of Melbourne Police Department from making arrests of people while they are within that 36-foot buffer zone because I think they tread a very thine line upon which they could be sued under this federal court ruling for deprivation of individual civil rights.”
The following are excerpts from Chief Judge Gerald Tjoflat’s decision: “Perhaps few Americans are content with the current legal status of abortion in America. Many see a woman’s ability to choose abortion as a part of her fundamental constitutional right to self-determination that is ill-protected by wavering jurisprudence by the Supreme Court. Many others see the 1.4 million abortions each year as an American Holocaust permitted by the moral vacillation of the government. This case arises out of the clash of these opposing beliefs, and governmental attempts to restrict their free expression.
“On April 8, 1993, Judge McGregor issued an Amended Permanent Injunction in which he enjoined certain activities of Operation Rescue and others in a court-drawn ‘buffer zone’ surrounding the abortion clinic…. On its face, the injunction appears to ‘criminalize’ various acts of peaceful protest, including the mere penetration of the buffer zone by anyone acting ‘in concert’ with those named in the injunction … The local police understood the injunction to require them to arrest ‘pro-life’ individuals who violated the buffer zone.
“An injunction is an extraordinary remedy that operates only on the parties before the court. Legislation operates more broadly, extending to all actors within the legislature’s jurisdiction. Nevertheless, when Judge McGregor issued the Amended Permanent Injunction in the state case, he, in effect, created a criminal statute prohibiting ‘pro-life’ free speech in a certain geographical location. But by extending the injunction to nonparties and by attaching criminal penalties otherwise protected by the Constitution, Judge McGregor crafted a law…. We refuse to prefer form over substance; the injunction has all the attributes of a criminal statute and we will treat it accordingly….
“That free speech restrictions at issue here are viewpoint-based cannot be seriously doubted. Such a restriction is no more viewpoint-neutral than one restricting the speech of ‘the Republican Party, the state Republican Party, George Bush, Bob Dole, Jack Kemp and all persons acting in concert with them or on their behalf.’ The practical effect of this section of the injunction was to assure that while ‘pro-life’ speakers would be arrested, ‘pro-choice’ demonstrators would not. A viewpoint-specific restriction in a traditional public forum is unconstitutional….
“The Supreme Court has noted that ‘[t]he loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’ This is apparently precisely what occurred. Several of those arrested testified that they were designated for arrest by clinic workers and police officers because they were perceived to be ‘pro-life.’ Judge McGregor accepted this interpretation of the intent of the injunction and explained (to the arrestees): ‘[T]he injunction did not pertain to those on the other side of the issue, because the word “in concert with” means in concert with those who had taken a certain position in respect to the clinic, adverse to the clinic. If you are saying that is the selective basis that the pro-choice were not arrested when pro-life was arrested, that’s the basis of the selection….’
“It is tempting, of course, to entertain the argument that the speech in this case is disruptive, discourteous, and offensive, but that is irrelevant…. We protect much that offends in the name of free speech – we cannot refuse such protection to those who find abortion morally reprehensible. The district court treated the state court injunction as an ordinary injunction when it had the effect of a criminal statute. Consequently, the order of the district court was founded on a mistake of law. We vacate the order, and remand for further consideration of the issuance of a preliminary injunction in light of this opinion.
“IT IS SO ORDERED.”
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » forerunner
Your comments are welcome!
With “preaching to the lost” being such a basic foundation of Christianity, why do many in the church seem to be apathetic on this issue of preaching in highways and byways of towns and cities?
Is it biblical to stand in the public places of the world and proclaim the gospel, regardless if people want to hear it or not?
Does the Bible really call church pastors, leaders and evangelists to proclaim the gospel in the public square as part of obedience to the Great Commission, or is public preaching something that is outdated and not applicable for our day and age?
These any many other questions are answered in this documentary.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!
Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification
In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.
By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).
$7.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!
These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.
Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.
Watch these pro-life videos on-line.
“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California
“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter
$4.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)