Maryland to pay $385,000 to pro-life group for unlawful arrests: will train troopers on Constitution
BEL AIR, MARYLAND, March 8, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The state of Maryland is paying $385,000 to a pro-life group and training state police officers about the Constitution as part of a settlement after violating the pro-life protesters’ First and Fourth Amendment rights in 2008.
In August 2008, 18 members of Defend Life peacefully demonstrated along a roadway as part of their “Face the Truth” campaign, when 12 Maryland State Police officers handcuffed and arrested them, and transported them to the Hartford County Detention Center in Bel Air, Maryland. Some members of the group – which included three women and two minors, aged 14 and 17– were put into leg shackles, subjected to two strip searches, denied the right to make phone calls, and denied contact with attorneys Steve Peroutka and Scott Whiteman.
The following month, nine members filed a federal lawsuit before the U.S. District of Maryland, represented by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, the Thomas More Society of Chicago, and the American Catholic Lawyers Association.
The Maryland Board of Public Works voted Wednesday to settle their lawsuit. In addition to the monetary award, state troopers must implement a review of the Constitution within 120 days of the settlement’s approval.
Jack Ames, director and founder of Defend Life, said in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com, “Thanks be to God! The good news is that the First Amendment still lives in Maryland. Our Founding Fathers who so wisely enshrined the right of free speech into our Constitution would be extremely pleased.”
“We’re glad to hear this news, which is certainly a vindication of the position we took in the federal lawsuit, which we filed and prosecuted over the last three-and-a-half years, along with the Alliance Defense Fund and America Catholic Lawyers Association,” attorney Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society in Chicago, told LifeSiteNews.com.
“That amount bespeaks the seriousness of the conduct of the Maryland State Police,” he said. “The settlement includes a mandate for training on First Amendment rights, and we trust there will be no recurrence in the future of this misconduct.”
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Defend Life had conducted its protests, which use graphic images of aborted children, in the state since 2001 without incident. However, Ames told LifeSiteNews.com he later learned “plain-clothes Maryland State Police had conducted secret surveillance of the 2007 Defend Life Face the Truth Tour in Westminster, Maryland.” The following year, state troopers asked the group to disperse and leave the area before arresting the protesters at the intersection of Routes 24 and 924, just north of I-95.
“They had a hard time figuring out what to charge them with, because frankly they didn’t violate any criminal laws, so they made up a couple,” Brejcha told LifeSiteNews. “They said they didn’t have a permit to conduct the demonstration, and there was no such permit requirement in force.” Ultimately, police charged them with loitering, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order.
All charges against the pro-lifers were dismissed at the first trial.
The real reason for the arrest, Brejcha said, was something else entirely.
As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, he said, “we netted a harvest of police phone and radio call transcripts, which showed the reason for the arrests were complaints from the public, members of whom were upset about the content of the signs.” He said that represents a classic case of “a heckler’s veto,” a violation of the First Amendment. “The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to allow folks to speak openly and freely with political messages,” he said.
Prejudice and hostility against pro-lifers may also play a role, he said.
“We also had a really obnoxious, repugnant quotation on the radio by a notorious Sgt. [Dona] Bohlen, a lady who said of the protesters after their arrest, ‘they can sit in a cell for an hour… or three or four and rot.’ So there was a lot of hard feelings and animus against the pro-life position on the part of many of these arresting officers, including at the supervisory level.”
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Last July, Judge Richard Bennett ruled, “a reasonable police officer faced with the facts confronted by the Defendants would have known that, in ordering the demonstrators to leave Harford County, he would violate the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. Moreover, arresting the Plaintiffs for exercising those rights was a violation of the Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights.”
“This settlement, reached during an appeal by the Troopers to the Fourth Circuit, follows a ruling by the lower court that our clients’ rights were violated as a matter of law and that the trial would be to determine damages only,” said Christopher A. Ferrara, president and chief counsel of ACLA, in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. ACLA represented seven of the arrestees.
Brejcha told LifeSiteNews the case took nearly four years to conclude because it was “vigorously defended by the municipalities and the state police. It took a good bit of persistence and efforts on the part of the lawyers who were working in the case.”
Hartford County settled with the group last year.
Brejcha said his group and others are filing new lawsuits to protect the rights of pro-life protesters nationwide. The Thomas More Society is currently overseeing two cases of police overreach in Delaware and Massachusetts.
“There are a lot of police officers whose good, hard efforts and support of people’s rights we applaud, but there are these bad apples, and one by one we’ve got to go after them and make sure that our rights are respected everywhere,” Brejacha said.
Ames said he was pleased with this settlement. “This historic decision should embolden Pro-Life activists all across America to continue to take to the streets, exposing the reality of pre-born child killing until the day comes that abortion is not only illegal in American, but also unthinkable!”
Donald Trump says he will promote LGBT ‘equality’ as president
CONCORD, New Hampshire, February 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Does Donald Trump support the gay agenda or oppose it? On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, observers are still scratching their heads about where the GOP frontrunner actually stands.
Trump has repeatedly and consistently said he supports the natural definition of marriage, but can a President Trump be relied on to promote it resolutely and cogently? It is this question that has many marriage activists expressing concern about his increasingly likely hold on the GOP nomination.
In fact, the National Organization for Marriage has gone so far as to say that Trump has “abandoned” the pro-marriage cause.
Trump himself underscored the problem on the weekend when he told a New Hampshire television station that from the White House he would push “equality” for homosexuals even further forward.
A cable news reporter self-identifying as a lesbian asked him last Thursday after a rally in Exeter, "When President Trump is in office, can we look for more forward motion on equality for gays and lesbians?"
“Well, you can and look - again, we're going to bring people together. That's your thing, and other people have their thing,” Trump told Sue O’Connell of New England Cable News. “We have to bring all people together. And if we don't, we're not gonna have a country anymore. It's gonna be a total mess.”
Following the comments, Trump appeared Sunday on ABC’s This Week program with George Stephanopoulos and would not commit to appointing Supreme Court justices who’d overturn Obergefell, though that would be his “preference.”
“We’re going to look at judges. They’ve got to be great judges. They’ve got to be conservative judges. We’re going to see how they stand depending on what their views are. But that would be my preference,” he told Stephanopoulos. “I would prefer that they stand against, but we’ll see what happens. It depends on the judge.”
Trump’s comments follow his statements during a Fox News Sunday interview last week, when he said, “If I'm elected, I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things, but they've got a long way to go.”
“[Marriage] should be a states rights issue,” Trump continued. “I can see changes coming down the line, frankly.”
When asked by Fox if he “might try to appoint justices to overrule the decision on same-sex marriage,” Trump replied, “I would strongly consider that, yes.”
The real estate mogul criticized the Supreme Court for the Obergefell decision imposing homosexual “marriage” on all 50 states last June, but then later in August, Trump voiced support to NBC News for banning companies from firing employees on the basis of sexual orientation. “I don't think it should be a reason” to fire workers, he said at the time on Meet the Press.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and a number influential evangelicals have endorsed Senator Ted Cruz in the race for president. The Texas senator has not only committed to appointing pro-marriage justices, but says the president and the states can rightly defy the “fundamentally illegitimate” ruling just as President Lincoln defied the Dred Scott decision.
NOM has also been highly critical of Trump, saying he has “abandoned” their cause. The organization said in its January 27 blog post just prior to the Iowa Caucus that “Donald Trump does not support a constitutional amendment to restore marriage to our laws. Worse, he has publicly abandoned the fight for marriage. When the US Supreme Court issued their illegitimate ruling redefining marriage, Trump promptly threw in the towel with these comments on MSNBC: ‘You have to go with it. The decision's been made, and that is the law of the land.’”
NOM had said the week before that Trump “has made no commitments to fight for marriage, or the rights of supporters of marriage to not be discriminated against and punished for refusing to go along with the lie that is same-sex 'marriage.'”
New Hampshire voters have been tracked as showing support for homosexual “marriage,” as a poll last February showed 52 percent of Republican NH primary voters saying opposing gay “marriage” is unacceptable.
The latest CNN/WMUR tracking poll shows that overall 33 percent of likely Republican primary voters support Trump, giving him a growing 17-point lead over the nearest GOP contender. RealClearPolitics polling average in the state puts him at 31.0 percent support, with Marco Rubio second at 14.7, John Kasich third at 13.2, and Ted Cruz fourth at 12.7.
The unravelling of Chris Christie
February 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- I'm a member of the clergy and for the past eight years have lobbied the powerful in Trenton, covering the administrations of both Governors Jon Corzine and Chris Christie. I did much of my work on behalf of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, associated with Tony Perkins' Family Research Council. I am currently the President of the Center for Garden State Families.
Those of us who are engaged in the fight to secure the right to believe, speak, and practice the Christian faith in America were all heartened by the election of a Pro-Life Governor in 2009. Not only did Chris Christie run as an open Pro-Lifer, but he adopted a position in support of natural marriage in the course of the campaign. And when legislative Democrats attempted to pass same-sex marriage in the lame duck session, so they could have outgoing Governor Corzine sign it into law, Chris Christie rallied opposition and stopped it. Those were the early, hopeful days; but as Governor, Chris Christie has presented himself in an inconsistent, even scatterbrained way, often making decisions that go against earlier stated beliefs.
One of his first decisions was to make a liberal Democrat the state's Attorney General. Once approved by the Senate, and she was, the Attorney General could not be fired by the Governor, as was the case with other cabinet officers. This gave a liberal Democrat enormous power and she used it to join up with liberal Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in filing a brief against Christians in a case called Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Just one day after being sworn in, the newly appointed state Attorney General took the most aggressive legal posture available to defend former Governor Corzine’s one-gun-a-month handgun rationing law, moving to dismiss an NRA lawsuit to overturn the law, and later vigorously opposing the NRA’s motion for a preliminary injunction in the case. Because of this appointment, New Jersey did not join in the lawsuits to overturn ObamaCare.
Governor Christie appointed a radical "sexologist" to run the NJ Department of Children & Families. This appointee would later resign when it emerged that she had held the top job in an organization that had supported a study advocating the normalization of some forms of adult-child sex.
His judicial appointments were also confusing. While claiming to oppose same-sex marriage, Governor Christie nominated an openly gay Republican to the state Supreme Court who supported it. Even Democrats wouldn't support this plainly unqualified appointment, and he never served. The Governor supported the advancement of a liberal Democrat to the job of Chief Justice, while refusing to support the re-appointment of a Republican and the Court's most conservative member. He also appointed a controversial defense attorney who had defended a number of Islamic extremists who had violated immigration law.
In 2013, many of those in the Christian community opposed legislation that banned young people from receiving counseling and therapy to lead them away from homosexuality. As an ex-gay myself, I could have personally attested to the benefits of such counseling, much of which is no different than what is found in contemporary twelve-step programs. However, the Christian community opposing the ban was not afforded the opportunity to meet with the Governor. Only the homosexual community with its pro-ban agenda was given that benefit.
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I don't blame the Governor for this, but I do blame his staff. As President Ronald Reagan said, "personnel is policy," and Governor Christie's choices in personnel have not advanced the policies he campaigned on, and often it was the direct opposite.
New Jersey ended up being just the second state in the country that only allows young people to receive counseling that advocates homosexuality, but bans by law counseling that advocates heterosexuality. When he signed it into law, Governor Christie embraced the made-up "science" of the propagandists, when he cited un-specified "research" that "sexual orientation is determined at birth." This is the so-called "gay-gene" trope that has baffled those engaged in the Science of Genetics because it has never been discovered.
As a candidate for Governor, Chris Christie talked the talk and raised the expectations of Christians in New Jersey. As Governor, and especially in his appointments, Christie undermined our confidence in his leadership. Christians should ask tough questions before extending our faith in him again.
Pro-life investigator hits back with new footage after judge blocks release of abortion sting videos
SAN FRANCISCO, February 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- A new video from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) shows two National Abortion Federation (NAF) employees saying that abortion clinics would be interested in kickbacks from profits on fetal tissue and body part sales.
The video comes three days after a San Francisco imposed an injunction sought by NAF against CMP videos that one of the abortion group's attorneys said meant that "NAF's members can sleep a little easier tonight."
CMP accused the pro-abortion organization of hiding behind the court.
According to U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick, however, NAF "made...a showing" that release of CMP videos would harm rights to privacy, freedom of association, and liberty of NAF members.
"Critical to my decision are that the defendants agreed to injunctive relief if they breached the agreements and that, after the release of defendants’ first set of Human Capital Project videos and related information in July 2015, there has been a documented, dramatic increase in the volume and extent of threats to and harassment of NAF and its members," wrote Orrick.
Additionally, the judge found that CMP's videos “thus far have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions," and that nobody from the abortion industry “admitted to engaging in, agreed to engage in, or expressed interest in engaging in potentially illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit" in the CMP videos.
However, in a new video released today that is unrelated to the injunction, a NAF employee told undercover journalists that kickbacks "definitely [sound] like something some [of] our members would be really interested in," with another chiming in that money from private purchasers to abortion clinics were "a win-win" for clinics.
The undercover investigators, who had purported to be part of a biotechnology company with an interest in fetal parts, were offered the chance to be at a NAF conference. “We have an exhibit hall and then we also have the general conference. But I mean, this is a very great way to talk to our members. We have a group purchasing program through our membership,” the journalists were told. “So it seems like this would be a really great option to be able to offer our members, as well.”
This is the second ruling against CMP in recent weeks, and the second by Orrick since July. The San Francisco judge issued a restraining order against CMP related to NAF's 2014 and 2015 meetings in San Francisco and Baltimore that Friday's ruling extended.
The other recent ruling came in the form of an indictment of CMP's David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Merritt and Daleiden turned themselves into Houston authorities for booking and processing last week. After being released on bail, Daleiden spoke at a LifeSiteNews/Christian Defense Coalition press conference after which more than 100,000 petition signatures backing Daleiden were dropped off to the Harris County, Texas District Attorney's office.
According to Orrick, who says he reviewed the more than 500 hours of recordings from CMP, "It should be said that the majority of the recordings lack much public interest, and despite the misleading contentions of defendants, there is little that is new in the remainder of the recordings. Weighed against that public interest are NAF’s and its members’ legitimate interests in their rights to privacy, security, and association by maintaining the confidentiality of their presentations and conversations at NAF Annual Meetings. The balance is strongly in NAF’s favor.”
NAF did not respond to a request for comment about the allegations by Orrick and a NAF spokesperson that CMP's videos have caused threats and other security concerns against NAF members.