NY Pro-life Free Speech Trial Begins

February 12, 2018
 
BROOKLYN, NY – The trial begins today in a federal lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman seeking to punish and silence pro-life and Christian speech on public sidewalks.

Liberty Counsel represents one of the 14 defendants, Scott Fitchett, Jr., a pre-K teacher who has spent Saturdays peacefully sharing the gospel on public sidewalks wherever he goes, including outside the Choices Women’s Medical Center abortion facility. The Attorney General’s lawsuit against Fitchett is frivolous and has no basis in law or fact.


Attorney General Schneiderman’s lawsuit is based on the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) and similar New York laws. Enacted by Congress to prevent actual violence and physical obstruction of abortion facility entrances, Schneiderman is using FACE to shut down peaceful speech on a public sidewalk. In his press conference last year announcing the lawsuit, he said, “We are not a nation where you can choose your point of view,” and that pro-life Christians “run their mouths” with “unlawful, un-American rhetoric.” He called Christians’ efforts to counsel women considering abortion and to advocate for the rights of the unborn “horrifying” and “illegal.

In an earlier hearing, U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon told participants that leafletting is a “form of really protected speech” and that sidewalks are recognized as the “quintessential public forum.” Attorney General Schneiderman filed the lawsuit in June 2017 with the intent to shut down pro-life and Christian speech on public sidewalks outside an abortion facility in Jamaica, New York.

“It is inexcusable that the highest legal officer of the State of New York would attack the right of free speech peacefully conducted on public sidewalks,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “This brazen attempt to undermine the First Amendment is frivolous. Contrary to Attorney General Schneiderman’s statement, the First Amendment does protect pro-life and Christian viewpoints on public sidewalks,” said Staver.

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Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.