FREE SPEECH -- The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) reports that it has filed an amicus curiae brief calling on the U.S.
Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to declare unconstitutional a
zone" ordinance used by the City of Oakland to censor anti-abortion appeals on public sidewalksand that got a clergyman arrested for peaceably offering leaflets.
"As debate over abortion intensifies across the country, it is
more important than ever to protect the pro-life message and to keep it
from being removed from the public square," said Walter M. Weber,
Senior Litigation Counsel with the ACLJ. "Laws like this
'bubble zone' ordinance have no business stifling peaceful
efforts to communicate the pro-life message. This type of censorship is
not only wrong but unconstitutional as well. It's our hope the
federal appeals court takes the corrective action necessary to remove
this anti-speech ordinance."
The challenged "bubble zone" ordinance restricts free
speech within 100 feet of the entrances of abortion businesses. Within
that larger zone, it is illegal to approach within eight (8) feet of
another person, without permission, for purposes of
"conversation," "displaying signs," or
"distributing literature." The Oakland ordinance thereby bans
the distribution of leaflets on public sidewalks and even expressly
defines "harassment" to include leafletting.
The ordinance is
being challenged by Rev. Walter Hoye, a pro-life sidewalk counselor who
is appealing a decision by a federal district court which upheld the
ordinance. Hoye is represented by the Life Legal Defense Foundation.
In its amicus brief supporting Hoye's appeal, the ACLJ said
the Oakland "bubble zone" ordinance imposes an "extreme
and unconstitutional restriction on such basic, fundamental free speech
activities as leafletting, speaking, and carrying signs." Focusing
upon the effect of the "bubble zone" on the distribution of
leaflets, the ACLJ brief cites numerous Supreme Court cases striking
down bans and permission requirements on leafletting.