Wyoming state gvt to pay $30,000 for censoring pro-life group

A state organization wins a settlement, aided with a brief from the ACLU.
By Ben Johnson

By Ben Johnson

CHEYENNE, WYOMING, April 7, 2012, ( – The state government has reached a settlement with a Wyoming family organization after denying the group the right to display a pro-life message in the state Capitol Building.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal approved the settlement Thursday, which prescribes the state to pay WyWatch $30,000 in attorney’s fees, as well as $1 in nominal damages.

The state acknowledged it violated the First Amendment rights of WyWatch Family Action by refusing its petition after granting that right to other groups.

Rich Cathcart, the state’s construction manager, originally gave permission to set up a display in the Herschler Gallery, located in a hallway Wyoming legislators pass through when walking from the Capitol Building to their parking lot. One picture shows a group of women beneath the words “We Regret Our Abortions” and includes the website for the “Silent No More” campaign; the other depicts an unborn baby and a passage of Scripture. Neither image is graphic.

They scheduled the display for February 2, the beginning of the upcoming legislative session, as the legislature was considering two new pro-life bills.

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Becky Vandeberghe, chairman of WyWatch, said, “It’s sad that it took such drastic measures” for the state to recognize their right to speak.

The successful case featured a strange coalition of a pro-life organization aided by the American Civil Liberties Union. The state chapter of the ACLU filed an amicus brief with the court in January. 

“While the ACLU doesn’t agree with WyWatch’s anti-choice message,” said ACLU of Wyoming attorney Jennifer Horvath, “we firmly support their right to say it.”

“The best antidote to speech we disagree with is more speech,” she said.


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