Speech Buffer Zone Challenged

May 24, 2019

HARRISBURG, PA – Liberty Counsel filed its Reply Brief asking the Court of Appeals to reverse the denial of a preliminary injunction against the City of Harrisburg’s “buffer zone” ordinance, which prohibits pro-life speech on 70 feet of public sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood abortion center.

In Reilly v. City of Harrisburg, U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo upheld the “buffer zone” ordinance, which was drafted by Planned Parenthood and passed without any debate or serious discussion.

Liberty Counsel represents Becky Biter and Colleen Reilly, who have regularly engaged in peaceful sidewalk counseling to encourage women to protect the life of their unborn babies. The Harrisburg ordinance pushes pro-life counselors up to 70 feet away from the Planned Parenthood abortion facility and prohibits their freedom of speech on the public sidewalk. Liberty Counsel has previously presented evidence concerning the ordinance’s gross intrusion into Biter and Reilly’s constitutional rights.

In 2017, Liberty Counsel won an appeal of a prior ruling by Judge Rambo. In that appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Rambo ignored the First Amendment’s requirement that Harrisburg prove its ordinance did not unconstitutionally burden speech. The Court sent the case back to the District Court, ordering Judge Rambo to determine whether Harrisburg could satisfy its demanding burden. Following an evidentiary hearing where Liberty Counsel showed the court critical admissions of unconstitutionality by city officials, Judge Rambo upheld the ordinance again, leading to the current appeal.

“The city of Harrisburg has a constitutional mandate to protect the free speech rights of all people in its jurisdiction, and it has no authority to discriminate on the basis of pro-life viewpoints,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Public sidewalks and parks have always been protected as places where people can gather to participate in the marketplace of ideas,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics. Liberty Counsel provides broadcast quality TV interviews via Hi-Def Skype and LTN at no cost.

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