In a decision strongly protective of First Amendment rights, the US Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional a Massachusetts law which restricts protests on public sidewalks within 35 feet of the entrances, exits, and driveways of abortion clinics in the state. Noting that by its very terms, the law applied to “public ways and sidewalks,” spaces that have traditionally been considered open public forums for free speech activity, the Supreme Court held that the government’s ability to regulate speech in these spaces is “very limited,” and was unconstitutionally exceeded by the Massachusetts law.
In filing an amicus curiae brief in McCullen v. Coakley, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute argued that the restrictions imposed by the Massachusetts law imposed an undue burden on protestors of a certain viewpoint, as the law did not apply to clinic workers within the covered area. Furthermore, Institute attorneys argued that the law did not comport with a reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on First Amendment activity.
“By this decision, the Supreme Court recognizes that all speech — even speech that many might find disagreeable — must be protected equally,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “The Court recognizes that the Massachusetts law placing an undue burden on people of a particular viewpoint is repugnant to the principles inherent in the First Amendment, and that speech, however unpopular, must always be protected from undue government interference.”
© 2014 The Rutherford Institute