Ben Johnson


Maryland to pay $385,000 to pro-life group for unlawful arrests: will train troopers on Constitution

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

BEL AIR, MARYLAND, March 8, 2012, ( – 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, “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

“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 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 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!”


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John Jalsevac John Jalsevac Follow John

BREAKING: Planned Parenthood shooting suspect surrenders, is in custody: police

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By John Jalsevac

Nov. 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Five hours after a single male shooter reportedly opened fire at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, chatter on police radio is indicating that the suspect has now been "detained."

"We have our suspect and he says he is alone," said police on the police radio channel. 

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers also confirmed via Twitter shortly after 7:00 pm EST that the suspect was in custody.

The news comes almost exactly an hour after the start of a 6:00 pm. press conference in which Lt. Catherine Buckley had confirmed that a single shooter was still at large, and had exchanged gunfire with police moments before.

According to Lt. Buckley, four, and possibly five police officers have been shot since the first 911 call was received at 11:38 am local time today. An unknown number of civilians have also been shot.

Although initial reports had suggested that the shooting began outside the Planned Parenthood, possibly outside a nearby bank, Lt. Buckley said that in fact the incident began at the Planned Parenthood itself.

She said that the suspect had also brought unknown "items" with him to the Planned Parenthood. 

Pro-life groups have started responding to the news, urging caution in jumping to conclusions about the motivations of the shooter, while also condemning the use of violence in promoting the pro-life cause. 

"Information is very sketchy about the currently active shooting situation in Colorado Springs," said Pavone. "The Planned Parenthood was the address given in the initial call to the police, but we still do not know what connection, if any, the shooting has to do with Planned Parenthood or abortion.

"As leaders in the pro-life movement, we call for calm and pray for a peaceful resolution of this situation."

Troy Newman of Operation Rescue and Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, also issued statements.

"Operation Rescue unequivocally deplores and denounces all violence at abortion clinics and has a long history of working through peaceful channels to advocate on behalf of women and their babies," said Newman. "We express deep concern for everyone involved and are praying for the safety of those at the Planned Parenthood office and for law enforcement personnel. We pray this tragic situation can be quickly resolved without further injury to anyone."

"Although we don't know the reasons for the shooting near the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs today, the pro-life movement is praying for the safety of all involved and as a movement we have always unequivocally condemned all forms of violence at abortion clinics. We must continually as a nation stand against violence on all levels," said Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, based in Washington, D.C.


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Rubio says SCOTUS didn’t ‘settle’ marriage issue: ‘God’s rules always win’

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By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Surging GOP presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, says that "God's law" trumps the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision imposing same-sex “marriage” nationwide.

The senator also told Christian Broadcast Network's David Brody that the Supreme Court's redefinition of marriage is not "settled," but instead "current law."

“No law is settled,” said Rubio. “Roe v. Wade is current law, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to aspire to fix it, because we think it’s wrong.”

“If you live in a society where the government creates an avenue and a way for you to peacefully change the law, then you’re called to participate in that process to try to change it,” he explained, and "the proper place for that to be defined is at the state level, where marriage has always been regulated — not by the Supreme Court and not by the federal government.”

However, when laws conflict with religious beliefs, "God's rules always win," said Rubio.

“In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin — violate God’s law and sin — if we’re ordered to stop preaching the Gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that,” Rubio expounded. “We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

“I continue to believe that marriage law should be between one man and one woman," said the senator, who earlier in the fall was backed by billionaire GOP donor and same-sex "marriage" supporter Paul Singer.

Singer, who also backs looser immigration laws and a strong U.S.-Israel alliance, has long pushed for the GOP to change its position on marriage in part due to the sexual orientation of his son.

Despite Singer's support, Rubio's marriage stance has largely been consistent. He told Brody earlier in the year that "there isn't such a right" to same-sex "marriage."

"You have to have a ridiculous reading of the U.S. Constitution to reach the conclusion that people have a right to marry someone of the same sex."

Rubio also said religious liberty should be defended against LGBT activists he says "want to stigmatize, they want to ostracize anyone who disagrees with them as haters."

"I believe, as do a significant percentage of Americans, that the institution of marriage, an institution that existed before government, that existed before laws, that institution should remain in our laws recognized as the union of one man and one woman," he said.

Rubio also hired social conservative leader Eric Teetsel as his director of faith outreach this month.

However, things have not been entirely smooth for Rubio on marriage. Social conservatives were concerned when the executive director of the LGBT-focused Log Cabin Republicans told Reuters in the spring that the Catholic senator is "not as adamantly opposed to all things LGBT as some of his statements suggest."

The LGBT activist group had meetings with Rubio's office "going back some time," though the senator himself never attended those meetings. Rubio has publicly said that he would attend the homosexual "wedding" of a gay loved one, and also that he believed "that sexual preference is something that people are born with," as opposed to being a choice.

Additionally, days after the Supreme Court redefined marriage, Rubio said that he disagreed with the decision but that "we live in a republic and must abide by the law."

"I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman," he said. "People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

Rubio also said at the time that "it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood…"

“I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”

The Florida senator said in July that he opposed a constitutional marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution to leave marriage up to the states because that would involve the federal government in state marriage policies.

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Former The View star Sherri Shepherd and then-husband Lamar Sally in 2010 s_bukley /
Steve Weatherbe

Court orders Sherri Shepherd to pay child support for surrogate son she abandoned

Steve Weatherbe
By Steve Weatherbe

November 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- Sherri Shepherd, a Hollywood celebrity who co-hosted the popular talk show The View for seven years, has lost a maternity suit launched by her ex-husband Lamar Sally, forcing her to pay him alimony and child support for their one-year surrogate son LJ. The decision follows an unseemly fight which pro-life blogger Cassy Fiano says has exposed how surrogacy results in “commodifying” the unborn.

Shepherd, a co-host of the View from 2007 to 2014, met Sally, a screenwriter, in 2010 and they married a year later. Because her eggs were not viable, they arranged a surrogate mother in Pennsylvania to bear them a baby conceived in vitro using Sally’s sperm and a donated egg.

But the marriage soured in mid-term about the time Shepherd lost her job with The View. According to one tabloid explanation, she was worried he would contribute little to parenting responsibilities.  Sally filed for separation in 2014, Shepherd filed for divorce a few days, then Sally sued for sole custody, then alimony and child support.

Earlier this year she told PEOPLE she had gone along with the surrogacy to prevent the breakup of the marriage and had not really wanted the child.

Shepherd, an avowed Christian who once denied evolution on The View and a successful comic actor on Broadway, TV, and in film since the mid-90s, didn’t want anything to do with LJ, as Lamar named the boy, who after all carried none of her genes. She refused to be at bedside for the birth, and refused to let her name be put on the birth certificate and to shoulder any responsibility for LJ’s support.

But in April the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, and now the state’s Superior Court, ruled that Shepherd’s name must go on the birth certificate and she must pay Sally alimony and child support.

“The ultimate outcome is that this baby has two parents and the parents are Lamar Sally and Sherri Shepherd,” Shepherd’s lawyer Tiffany Palmer said.

As for the father, Sally told PEOPLE, “I'm glad it's finally over. I'm glad the judges saw through all the lies that she put out there, and the negative media attention. If she won't be there for L.J. emotionally, I'll be parent enough for the both of us.”

But Shepherd said, “I am appealing the ruling that happened,” though in the meantime, Sally will “get his settlement every month. There’s nothing I can do.”

Commented Fiano in Live Action News, “What’s so sickening about this case is that this little boy, whose life was created in a test tube, was treated as nothing more than a commodity…Saying that you don’t want a baby but will engineer one to get something you want is horrific.” As for trying to get out from child support payments now that the marriage had failed, that was “despicable.”

Fiano went on to characterize the Shepherd-Sally affair as a “notable example” of commodification of children, and “by no means an anomaly.” She cited a British report than over the past five years 123 babies conceived in vitro were callously aborted when they turned out to have Down Syndrome.

“When we’re not ready for babies, we have an abortion,” she added. “But then when we decide we are ready we manufacture them in a laboratory and destroy any extras. Children exist when we want them to exist, to fill the holes in us that we want them to fill, instead of being independent lives with their own inherent value and dignity.”

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