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Attack on Free Speech–Alert from Jordan Warfel 30 June, 2009

Posted by David Anderson in Action Item.

Last night, the Delaware State Senate voted to pass S.B.169, a bill that threatens pro-lifers right to free speech.  In yet another act of defiance toward the public, they voted to pass the bill without a committee hearing or any time for the public to view the bill or voice their concerns.

You can view S.B.169 at http://legis.delaware.gov/LIS/lis145.nsf/vwLegislation/SB+169/$file/legis.html?open The part of the bill that is most concerning is section 2 which could ban “protest, education, or counseling” on public sidewalks within 100 feet of an abortion clinic.  S.B.169 could be used to charge peaceful pro-life protesters and prayer vigil attendees with misdemeanors.  We expect that the House could suspend the rules to pass S.B. 169 without a committee hearing tonight!

3 Reasons to Oppose S.B.169

1.  S.B.169 is purposefully vague.  Terms such as “education,” “counseling,” and “consent” are not well defined and could lead to the violation of the free speech rights of protesters and prayer vigil attendees.  It is so radical that parents would not even be allowed to talk their own daughters out of having an abortion within 100 feet of the abortion clinic.  If your 14 year old daughter decided to have an abortion and you followed her to the abortion clinic to try to change her mind, you would be charged with a misdemeanor!!

2.  S.B. 169 may be unconstitutional.  If the vague language of S.B.126 is used to prohibit free speech on public sidewalks and right of ways, the bill could be struck down in federal court as a violation of the free speech rights afforded to us by the U.S. Constitution.

3.  S.B. 169 will be tied up in court costing the tax payers of Delaware money to defend the bill.  In these hard financial times, the last thing Delaware needs is costly litigation to defend hastily and carelessly passed bills.

Please take the following 2 steps to stop S.B.169.

1.  Find your State Representative and ask them to oppose S.B.169.  You can find there phone numbers at www.delawarefamilies.org.  Call them at their home number first, then their office number.  Communicate the three reasons why we oppose S.B.169.  Also ask them to give us a committee hearing so that we can voice our concerns about the bill.  Always remember who we represent.

2.  If you can manage, please take time to attend the session Tuesday night.  It will go all evening into the early morning hours.  Tuesday is the last night of session this year.  Please consider coming to Legislative Hall one last time this year for a while in the evening to talk to your Representative.



1. Laura - 2 July, 2009

The post is wrong. The bill is constitutional. The bill was based upon a Colorado law that the Supreme Court itself constitutional. The ACLU reviewed the bill and raised no constitutional challenges with it.

2. David Anderson - 2 July, 2009

Actually, the Supreme Court has struck down this type prior restraint.

It directly violates the Jews for Jesus case. In the Kokinda case, the Supreme Court permitted the postal service to enforce a rule against asking (soliciting) for donations on postal property. In that case, political activists were asking for donations while standing on a sidewalk leading from the post office building to the post office parking lot.
However, the court suggested that it would reject a rule that banned free distribution of literature on such properties. Discussing the difference, the Court said,

As residents of metropolitan areas know from daily experience, confrontation by a person asking for money disrupts passage and is more intrusive and intimidating than an encounter with a person giving out information. One need not ponder the contents of a leaflet or pamphlet in order mechanically to take it out of someone’s hand, but one must listen, comprehend, decide and act in order to respond to a solicitation.

ISKCON, Inc. v. Lee applied the same type of philosophy to an airport which was not public property.

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