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Pro-life Picketer Wins Free-Speech Dispute in Wisconsin

Mark Gabriel not only knows God and His Word, he knows the simplicity of our nation's Constitution and Bill of Rights. When city officials and police ordered him to stop and punished him when he did not, Mark brought legal action against the city. Mark stood like Daniel and saw deliverance from those that sought to silence his voice in ending abortion. God grant us more men like Mark who will stand for righteousness and not back down from unjust laws or officials! - Steve Mashburn

Pro-life Picketer Wins Free-Speech Dispute in Wisconsin

By Rusty Pugh
Agape Press
October 5, 2004


Since 1999, Mark Gabriel had peacefully demonstrated on a public walkway outside the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Grand Chute, Wisconsin . As part of his protest, he carried signs protesting the abortion provider's activities, neither obstructing traffic nor blocking the sidewalk. In 1999, however, Grand Chute law enforcement officials ticketed Gabriel for violating a city ordinance banning all signs on public rights-of-way. But believing himself to be within his constitutional rights, the Christian activist refused to pay his fine. Therefore, the police subsequently arrested him, and his signs were confiscated.

Gabriel engaged the assistance of Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization that works to promote religious freedom, the traditional family, and the sanctity of human life. The legal group sued on the pro-lifer's behalf, claiming the city had violated his right to free speech

Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver says holding personal signs with messages as a form of protest is as old as America itself. He says such signs "play an important role in democracy and the preservation of freedom," and the First Amendment rights to demonstrate and to express one's views must be jealously guarded.

"This case is basically a fundamental free-speech case that affects not just Grand Chute but should send a message to every other government around the country," Staver says. "The First Amendment at its core allows individuals to be on public rights-of-way to give their opinions, especially in the display of signs."

Following the ensuing lawsuit, Grand Chute entered into a settlement with Gabriel and agreed to dismiss the four pending municipal citations against him. The town also revoked its policy regarding sign picketing, restored the confiscated signs to the activist, and awarded attorney's fees to Liberty Counsel.

Erik Stanley, Liberty Counsel's chief counsel, noted that the legal group was satisfied with the settlement and pleased that Grand Chute's officials have recognized picketing with signs as an important, valid, and constitutionally protected form of communication.

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