This article first appeared online at OneNewsNow on August 23, 2011.
‘Blatant disregard for First Amendment’
by Chad Groening
A pro-life organization is going back to court in order to fight against the attempt by a defeated Democratic congressman to squelch their free-speech rights.
As reported earlier this month on OneNewsNow, the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that former Ohio Representative Steve Driehaus’s defamation suit against the Susan B. Anthony List can go to trial. The lawsuit alleges that the pro-life group cost Driehaus his job and a “loss of livelihood” by educating constituents with a billboard campaign about his vote in favor of taxpayer funding for abortion included in the Obama administration’s healthcare bill.
The Sixth Circuit also dismissed a challenge by the SBA List to Ohio’s False Statement Law, which empowers state officials to enforce stiff fines — even prison time — for criticism of candidates based on information deemed by officials to be “false.”
Emily Buchanan, executive director of the SBA List, says their legal team is appealing both rulings.
“The idea that a judge would take it upon himself to police speech is just a blatant disregard for the First Amendment,” she charges. “The debate about the voting record of a member of Congress is commonplace during the course of a campaign — and it’s up to the voters to decide which side of the issue they’re going to fall. And the voters in Driehaus’s district voted him out of Congress.
“To say that speech can be policed during the course of an election is a complete disregard for the First Amendment and the constitutional right for people to speak out,” she concludes.
Buchanan says even the ACLU of Ohio filed an amicus brief in support of the people’s right to criticize their public officials.