Colorado Supreme Court upholds ban against use of graphic abortion photos at a church
I read with alarm a story at CNS News today that the Colorado Supreme Court is allowing an injunction to stand that prohibits pro-lifers from publicly displaying graphic images of aborted babies at a Denver church.
The Court’s reasoning demonstrated the height of judicial hypocrisy. It ruled signs such as Exhibits 43 and 9, right, “cause ‘psychological harm’ to children under 12,” according to CBN.
This from the same legal system that authorized the murders of the photographed children.
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This obvious free speech violation is serious in and of itself, but the injunction also carries ramifications for other pro-life activists around the country.
(That said, a prolonged public debate on just what it is about abortion images that makes them “gruesome,” as the Court called them, would certainly be worthwhile.)
There was no more detail in the story, but pro-life attorney Rebecca Messall was cited as “vow[ing] to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court,” and with the help of friend Leslie at The Passionate Pro-Lifer, I was able to speak with Rebecca.
Rebecca provided the backstory: For several years a group of pro-life activists had picketed “abortion neutral” St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in Denver every Palm Sunday, when its pastor led an outdoor procession. The group sometimes conducted a follow-up picket on Easter.
Here are photos of the procession inside the church courtyard, and then as the procession continued on public property, where pro-lifers stood…
In between Palm Sunday and Easter 2005 the church filed for an emergency injunction to stop the protesters from showing images. These included a bloody doll nailed to a cross.
Pro-life activists Ken Scott and Clifton Powell were named in the injunction. It was they who sued and have been fighting a legal battle ever since.
Last week the state Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Court of Appeals to stop the protesters from displaying images at the church. No specific images were cited, just “large posters or similar displays depicting gruesome images of mutilated fetuses or dead bodies in a manner reasonably likely to be viewed by children under 12 years of age attending worship service and/or worship-related events at plaintiff church,” according to Court documents.
“We argued that our clients had a right to be on public property speaking on matter of public concern,” Rebecca, pictured left, told me.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in a similar case, Snyder v. Phelps – the Westboro Baptist protesters.
Rebecca said in theory the injunction is just against graphic protests at this church.
“But the Court is agreeing with the concept that a private party can see protesters on public property and say they don’t want to see them,” said Rebecca. “Since when can private parties enjoin you because they find your message offensive, while claiming vague psychological harm to children but submitting no evidence?”
Rebecca reiterated her clients will file a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court. “The idea behind the First Amendment is to motivate change by protecting speech people don’t like,” explained Rebecca. “The world is obviously trying to suppress graphic photos of abortion, because it would motivate people to change.”
[Photos via Ken and Jo Scott]