Court: Insufficient reason to shut down pro-lifer's speech

Friday, February 6, 2015
 | 
Charlie Butts (OneNewsNow.com)

A court has ruled in favor of a pro-life demonstrator in North Dakota whose free speech was shut down by a local police department.

Robert Rudnick was driving a "truth truck" in Williston, North Dakota, last year. That's a truck displaying large pictures of healthy babies next to pictures of aborted babies. Rudnick was ordered out of town by local police, but returned and was arrested for disorderly conduct.

The Williston court has dismissed the case earlier this week and dropped all charges against Rudnick. Attorney Jocelyn Floyd of the Thomas More Society, which defended the pro-lifer, tells OneNewsNow that the town's application of the ordinance was too broad.

Floyd

"But more specifically when they're applying a disorderly conduct statute to someone for their speech activities, there has to be a compelling interest," she explains. "And this is a legal standard that says you have to have a really, really good reason to stop this speech."

In addition, there is such a thing as a heckler's veto in which one person is trying to silence the speech of another because they disagree with it. The Supreme Court says that's not legal.

"So this is something important for all police departments across the country to be aware of," says the attorney. "[And that is] when you apply other statutes – things like disorderly conduct – against people for their speech, you're not just hurting that person, you're hurting everyone who wants to have a voice in this debate."

And that, she adds, has a chilling effect on free speech – and means organizations such as Thomas More Society potentially could sue on behalf of those whose speech has been squelched.

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