Major First Amendment Win: Court Sides with FSB on Free Speech Case

Posted on by Peter Basile in Firm News, Maryland Church Law.

Richmond – The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, only one step below the United States Supreme Court, sided with arguments made by the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns’ attorneys, including those from Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew, P.A., in a major victory for the First Amendment.

The case, which pitted the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns against the City of Baltimore, touched on one of the core principles of the United States Constitution: the First Amendment protection against compelled speech. The City of Baltimore had passed an ordinance requiring the Center to make postings in its business about procedures it did not perform.

In effect, the ordinance required the Center to publish material to the public that it was opposed to publishing. In siding with the Center, the Fourth Circuit’s rationale was that “[t]he dangers of compelled speech in an area as ideologically sensitive and spiritually fraught as this one require that the government not overplay its hand.”

“The Freedom of Speech afforded by the First Amendment is a bedrock principle of our democracy”, said FSB Principal Peter Basile, who was one of the attorneys representing the Center, “and, regardless of the underlying issue, it is important for all Americans to protect this right from unreasonable interference by the government, and particularly against unreasonable government-compelled speech.”

The Center’s argument, that the City’s overreach violated the First Amendment, hit squarely on the mark. The City’s ordinance drew this sharp criticism from the Court: “[w]eaponizing the means of government against ideological foes risks a grave violation of one of our nation’s dearest principles: that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

“In the end,” Mr. Basile said, “this is the type of result that we should all be proud of.  We are standing up for what is right, and for the principles our country was founded on.”

For more information about this case, or about Ferguson, Schetelich & Ballew, P.A., feel free to call our office at 410-837-2200.

Case Cited: Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, et al. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, et al., No. 16-2325, _____F2d.,_____ (4th Cir. 2018)