In Ohio, a Victory for Speech and Life

Inside the Issues with Alan Sears

Alan Sears, Esquire

ADF President, CEO, & General Counsel  

January 13, 2009

It's becoming a legal reality in many parts of the U.S. that, to win a fight for life, you must first win a fight for free speech.

One of the most vivid recent examples of the ongoing effort to squash pro-life protests comes out of Findlay, Ohio, where last summer several volunteers from Missionaries to the Preborn, led by Pastor Matthew Trewhella, stood at the corner of a busy intersection, peacefully holding up signs promoting pro-life messages.

Soon, the local chief of police showed up with two of his officers, ordering the group to disperse or come along to jail.  It was illegal, he said, to hold up signs like that without a city permit.  The group took the officers at their word and left the area.  A follow-up call to the mayor's office, however, revealed that, in fact, there was no ordinance requiring such a permit.

The Alliance Defense Fund sued the city on behalf of Pastor Trewhella and his fellow pro-life advocates, and last week, a federal court ruled that Findlay officials violated the group's First Amendment right to free speech.

"This permit scheme grants the City virtually unchecked discretion to deny permits for content based reasons," the court wrote.  "There are no objective standards by which the City is bound when considering whether to issue a permit.... Defendants' arguments to the contrary are not only baseless, but, even worse, border on bad faith."

"Christians shouldn't be penalized for expressing their beliefs," says ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. "Exercising your First Amendment rights is not a crime. The government has no right to harass and threaten citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights in public."

A copy of the opinion issued on January 6 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division, in Trewhella v. City of Findlay is available at

Please be in prayer for Christians and other pro-life advocates all over the country who are daring to speak out, boldly but peacefully, for the truth that life is precious, from conception to natural death.  We give thanks for the many victories God is giving ADF as we defend these First Amendment rights and pray He will continue to bless our efforts to defend all those who would hear and speak the truth.