by Ben Johnson
CHEYENNE, WYOMING, April 10, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled today that the city of Jackson had violated pro-life activists’ First Amendment rights when it prohibited them from holding a protest on the city square last year.
Rev. Chet Gallegher and Pastor Mark Holick of Operation Save America were arrested last May 20, when they attempted to hold a three-day vigil to oppose the state’s only abortion clinic, owned by Dr. Brent Blue. That’s when they found out city attorney Audrey Cohen-Davis had sought a temporary restraining order against them without notifying them. The group had no opportunity to defend itself before District Judge Tom Day granted the motion, to prevent the protesters from being in the same location as a group of Boy Scouts.
“We gave them our word that we would not bring our graphic signs to that venue,” Rev. Rusty Lee Thomas of Operation Save America told LifeSiteNews.com. “But we told them we would come, we would preach, and we would hand out Christian pro-life literature. Well, they didn’t believe us. Behind our back, they sought this order. When we arrived, that’s when we find out they had brought this injunction against us.”
Justice Michael Golden wrote the 43-page opinion for the court’s 3-2 majority.
“They ruled that graphic signs in the public square are free speech under the First Amendment, and anywhere we go on the public square that is to be protected,” Thomas said. “These local governments do not have the authority to remove or abridge or violate our First Amendment rights.”
“This is a major ruling,” he told LifeSiteNews. “It’s a great blow against tyranny and a great defense of liberty.”
The ruling made the second pro-life victory for free speech in Wyoming in April. Last week, U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal awarded $30,000 in attorney’s fees to WyWatch Family Action, which sought to set up a pro-life display in the state Capitol Building in Cheyenne.
The group plans to return to the city next month to renew their protests.
Thomas said he hopes Jackson police will better enforce public safety laws this year. “There were six separate incidents where the public used their vehicles to try to run us over,” he said.
“The problem was, because the police did not defend our constitutional rights and did not stop the violence toward us, it escalated. I understand they’re under pressure from the public, but they still have a job to do.”
At a separate protest the group held in Jackson Mississippi, a man with two hunting knives slashed a banner held by senior citizens.