(Brendan Clarey, Liberty Headlines) A Christian ministry filed a lawsuit Friday against Charlotte, North Carolina over the right of pro-life groups to communicate messages to via signage outside abortion clinics.
The pro-life ministry, Cities4Life, and its executive director Daniel Parks are suing in conjunction with the Thomas More Law Center over Charlotte’s discrimination against the group’s use of pro-life messages on their signs.
Specifically, the city has cited the group over an ordinance that prohibits the installations of permanent or semi-permanent signs in the public right-of-way.
Cities4Life contends its volunteers do not use such types of signs; that they are “generally held by volunteers;” and that they are taken away each time they discontinue their activities.
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.
The TMLC is arguing that the discrimination violates Cities4Life’s free speech, because the city’s discrimination is based on the content of the messages and therefore counts as censorship.
“The City of Charlotte and its code enforcement officials have used the City Code to violate the First Amendment by restricting Cities4Life’s use of signs, and therefore its speech, because they object to the content of those signs,” Tyler Brooks, the TMLC attorney in charge of the case said in a press release.
“Thus, despite their desire to exercise their constitutional rights and speak freely, Cities4Life and its volunteers have encountered unconstitutional censorship,” Brooks continued.
According to their website, Cities4Life’s “mission in Charlotte is to engage, strengthen, and support local churches and Christians to proclaim, protect, and provide LIFE for unborn babies in each city across America where abortion exists.”
“We view the neighborhoods and abortion clinics we serve as our mission field, and our approach is peaceful, prayerful and non-violent. CITIES4LIFE requires each volunteer and LIFE Network affiliate to sign and adhere to our Code of Conduct,” the website reads.
The ministry is peaceful and focuses on prayer, yet they have been targeted by a city ordinance that discriminates against their signs because of the pro-life message, the TMLC press release claims. Executive Director Daniel Parks has received at least four citations from the city that claim a violation of the ordinance since July.
“This is the second pro-life lawsuit we’ve filed in the past month,” said Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
“Despite the many pro-life victories in recent years, pro-abortion forces, which control the government in many large cities, have waged a guerrilla war against courageous pro-life advocates, like Cities4Life, who are engaged on the front lines of the battle,” Thompson continued. “Cities like Charlotte are using their law enforcement powers to silence the voice of these pro-life warriors.”
TMLC also filed an appeal for a pastor in Maine earlier this month who they claim was discriminated by a local noise ordinance used to silence him, because of his message rather than his volume.