Monday, October 02, 2006

Thomas More Law Center Asks U. S. Supreme Court to Review Honolulu's Ban On Pro-Life Expression

HT to Marti

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review its case challenging the constitutionality of the City and County of Honolulu’s ordinance that prohibits the flying of pro-life aerial banners over the beaches of Honolulu. In July of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of this ordinance, prompting the Law Center to seek review of the case in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Law Center filed the petition on behalf of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (“CBR”), a California-based pro-life organization, and its executive director, Gregg Cunningham.

Robert Muise, the Law Center attorney handling the case, commented, “CBR’s large aerial banners depicting images of aborted fetuses, although controversial, present a powerful message and communicate ideas that are rhetorically inexpressible. The constitution protects free speech, and in this case, speech that shows abortion is a violent act committed on innocent human life.”

Added Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, “If the pro-life movement is to succeed in banning all abortions, it must convince people that human life begins at conception and that every abortion does in fact result in the destruction of innocent human life.”

The federal lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the Honolulu ordinance on several grounds. Foremost is the allegation that this law violates the free speech rights of CBR and its executive director. According to the petition filed with the Supreme Court, this ordinance is unconstitutional because it is a total ban on a certain form of speech, and it completely forecloses an effective medium of communication for CBR.

The lawsuit also challenges this ordinance under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because Congress, through the FAA, has acted to preempt any state or municipal law that regulates banner towing and aerial advertising flight operations. The Law Center is asking the Supreme Court to review the Supremacy Clause issue in particular because the Ninth Circuit’s decision conflicts with a decision rendered by the Colorado Supreme Court, which held that such local ordinances are federally preempted and therefore unenforceable.

Muise commented further, “Because we have a decisional split and conflict between the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court on a federal question that has national implications, it is very likely that the Supreme Court will grant review of this case.”

CBR’s Airborne Reproductive Choice Campaign, which consists of large, colorful pictures depicting graphic images of first-term aborted fetuses displayed on banners towed behind aircraft, has attracted a great deal of national attention and controversy. CBR estimates that by displaying one banner for approximately five hours over a populated area, they are able to communicate their pro-life message to hundreds of thousands of people. CBR’s banners have flown over many states throughout the United States, and CBR wants to take its daring project to Hawaii, which is home to some of the most heavily visited beaches in the world.

Standing in CBR’s way at the moment is a local ordinance enacted by the City and County of Honolulu that prohibits any banner towing flight operations in Honolulu. This lawsuit is seeking to remove this obstacle.

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life through education, litigation, and related activities. It does not charge for its services. The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization. You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at Thomas More Law Center.