A big news story in the Seattle-Tacoma area—on the day when many of your friends and mine were marching for life in Washington, D.C.—involved a Redmond, Wash., ordinance restricting the display of portable signs.
The ordinance was challenged by Dennis Ballen, owner of “Blazing Bagels,” who regularly stationed an employee outside his establishment with a sandwich sign reading: “Fresh Bagels— Now Open.” The big news on January 22nd was that Ballen won his case. The Honorable Thomas S. Zilly, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, ruled that the City’s ban “is more extensive than necessary and not narrowly tailored to the City’s interests.” The spin most newspapers put on the story emphasized the tasty and appealing aspects of the case. “Banning boards boosting bagels is bad,” declared Dan Richman of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter. Ballen himself had argued against the ban with an appeal to the harmlessness of bagels. “If a person has right to wear a Nike shirt advertising Nike,” he asked in an earlier Post-Intelligencer story,“why can’t I sell bagels?” And indeed, it’s hard to understand why the City of Redmond would want to inhibit the excesses of the bagel trade. Were some crazies in city government beginning to believe that bagels were people, too?
So, as Paul Harvey has long said, here’s the rest of the story … The City of Redmond had not in fact targeted the purveyors of bagels: Ballen was cited only as an afterthought. The actual target of the ordinance was Ben Owen, a local pro-lifer known for displaying very large pictures of dead babies where people who killed babies didn’t want to see them. Owen’s attorney pointed out that Ballen was violating the ordinance without any trouble; for the sake of consistency, the City decided to give Ballen trouble; and the rest was Redmond bagel history.
Due to the adverse judgment on the ordinance, pro-lifer is now free to show the grisly truth about abortion to those who can’t stand to see it. The decision may also affect similar ordinances in other municipalities.
An interesting footnote: although Ballen was represented by William Maurer of the Institute for Justice, he received extensive vocal support from ACLU-Washington staff attorney Aaron Caplan.
So don’t say the ACLU never did anything for pro-lifers.
Relief to Pro-Lifers Removed from Sidewalk Federal Court Grants Relief to Pro-Lifers Removes from Public Sidewalk Near High-School
Los Angeles—Federal Judge Edward Rafeedie of the Central District of California issued a preliminary injunction in favor of four pro-life activists who seek to communicate to young people the truth about abortion. The pro-lifers were represented by Catherine Short, Legal Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation.
The injunction prohibits the Long Beach Unified School District, a high school principal, six Long Beach police officers and the city from arresting or otherwise interfering with the pro-lifers “holding signs, distributing literature, and discussing abortion with students and other present on the sidewalk adjoining Millikan High School during school dismissal periods.”
The decision arose out of a civil rights action filed by Dan McCullough, Eric Milton, Myh Vo, and Christine Reeves. On September 26, 2002, the four were holding signs and distributing literature on the public sidewalk in front of Millikan High School in Long Beach. The police told them they were trespassing because the sidewalk was considered school property and the principal didn’t want them there.When threatened with arrest, three of them retreated to the opposite sidewalk, but Mr.McCullough refused to leave and was taken into custody.
About twenty minutes later, the police demanded that Mr. Milton hand over his videotape of the incident. When he declined to do so, they threatened him and the others with arrest. Ultimately, the police got the tape from Mr.Milton by placing handcuffs on him. Fortunately, the tape was later retrieved from the police.
The defendants initially argued that the public sidewalk adjacent to a high school is not a public forum, then that the plaintiffs’ speech could be restricted because it was “offensive” and the students were a “captive audience,” and finally that part of the public sidewalk technically belonged to the school district. The district court rejected all of these arguments.
Mrs. Short stated, “We are very pleased with the court’s order allowing our clients to return to Millikan High School and show their peers the ugly and, yes, ‘offensive,’ truth about abortion.”