Anti-Gay Protester First Amendment Suit Tossed

Earlier this morning, we took a look at how the First Amendment helped pro-ex-gay non-profit PFOX permeate a Maryland School to pass out pro-ex-gay literature. Well, here’s a somewhat-related story with a decidedly different ending…

You may recall Philadelphia’s 2004 Outfest, when a group of anti-gay activists took it upon themselves to spout fire and brimstone. Not surprisingly, the homos didn’t take too kindly to their hellish prescriptions (and, we’re sure, predictions). Surrounded by whistle-blowing queers, the protesters had to be rerouted by police.

After being jostled from place to place, eleven protesters refused to be jostled any longer and resisted the police, resulting in arrest. Said protesters went on to sue, insisting their first amendment rights had been violated. A Pennsylvania court, however (busy day there, no?), ruled otherwise. Federal Judge Lawrence Stengel admitted that while it’s the court’s duty to uphold freedom of speech, there are also certain stipulations, including proper permits.

(Note: You guys may have noticed that we’ve changed the picture. We got an email from Repent America director, Michael Marcavage informing us that we’d placed the wrong picture. We acknowledge our mistake and apologize. To make it up Marcavage, here’s a picture of him being surrounded by the aforementioned pissed off homos.)

Lancaster Online reports:

The government has a limited ability to restrict free speech rights, even in a public forum,” Stengel said.

“Once the city (of Philadelphia) had permitted the homosexual event, it was empowered to enforce the permit by excluding persons expressing contrary messages,” he said.

Stengel noted that in 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled organizers of private events could not be compelled to include a group of gay, lesbian and bisexual descendants of Irish immigrants in their annual St. Patrick’s Day parade because organizers had a right to exclude messages with which they did not agree.

The court, he said, recognized it was essential to the protection of free-speech rights to give an event organizer the right to shape the message of an event.

Stengel also said Repent America could have requested a permit for a counterprotest, but did not.

Now, let’s turn our eye back on this morning’s story. PFOX has the Constitutional right to distribute their potentially hazardous flyers because, as The First Amendment Center (the source from which we found the protest story) says, schools must include all viewpoints when presenting sexual education. The press release from which we quoted PFOX director, Regina Griggs, reads:

The First Amendment Center has released the first consensus guidelines to help public schools develop sexual orientation policies. The new guidelines advise school officials to include the viewpoints of all participants in order to develop policies that promote fairness for all. According to Charles Haynes, a primary drafter of the guidelines and Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center, the ex-gay viewpoint in public schools is protected by the First Amendment and should be heard.

Okay, we can understand that.

The school board, however, apparently doesn’t approve of PFOX’s presence, but feels its hands are tied. Now, taken with that 1995 ruling, wouldn’t it make sense that the Montgomery County School Board has the right to refuse PFOX’s distribution? No, because they’re a public school and, thus, don’t have the power to censor incoming messages.

Sure, it makes one long for private school, but at least it helps keep ex-gayers from taking over our nation’s public schools. Now, everyone sing the theme song to The Facts of Life.