Maryland Police Must Take ‘Constitution 101’ Classes After Illegal Pro-Life Arrests
BALTIMORE March 7, 2012 — The Alliance Defense Fund has announced that Maryland State Police may no longer illegally arrest and silence pro-life advocates, and the police will undergo training on constitutional rights as part of a settlement the state reached with ADF attorneys on behalf of Defend Life, a Maryland pro-life group, and nine individual plaintiffs. ADF is calling the police course “Constitution 101.”
Defend Life has sponsored Father Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck, chair of the National Pro-Life Center on Capitol Hill, as a speaker at various educational events. Thus, the National Pro-Life Center and its partner organization, Faith and Action, congratulate Defend Life and the individual plaintiffs on this victory for all pro-lifers in Maryland.
The Maryland Board of Public Works, which includes Governor Martin O’Malley as one of its three members, announced today that it will grant a $385,000 settlement with nine individuals who were illegally arrested and jailed by Maryland State Police.
The case began when at least 12 state and municipal police officers handcuffed 18 participants in Defend Life’s annual Face the Truth Tour on August 1, 2008. The pro-lifers were holding large images of abortion victims along Route 24 in Bel Air, Maryland.
Details of the illegal arrests include the following offenses: No reason was given for arrests; phone calls were denied; a lawyer was denied access; and teenage girls were bra-searched.
Face the Truth Tours are a project of the Pro-Life Action League, Joe Scheidler’s national organization based in Chicago, in which other groups such as Defend Life participate.
Jack Ames is founder and director of Defend Life. He said, “Thanks be to God! The good news is that the First Amendment still lives in Maryland. Our founding fathers, who so wisely enshrined the right of free speech into our Constitution, would be extremely pleased.
“This historic decision should embolden pro-lifers all across America to continue to take to the streets, exposing the reality of pre-born child killing until the day comes that abortion is not only illegal in America, but also unthinkable!”
According to Fran Griffin, publicist for Defend Life, the settlement must still be approved by the individual plaintiffs. After transfer of funds has been accomplished, a news conference with more details will be held in Baltimore.
While 18 were arrested, only nine individuals in addition to Defend Life filed suit. Those arrested included five college students, a businessman, and a professional engineer.
On August 12, 2008, all charges were dropped in Harford County District Court against the 18 persons who had been arrested.
Defend Life and the individual persons filed suit against Harford County, Bel Air, and the Maryland State Police. In 2010, a settlement was reached with Harford County.
In 2011, after dismissing Bel Air from the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett said in a summary judgment that the Maryland State Police had violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment free speech rights and their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable seizures.
Two of the most crucial parts of the out-of-court settlement are:
- The Maryland State Police cannot restrict speech, including speech employing images of aborted human babies, based on reactions of viewers or motorists to that speech.
- The Maryland State Police must agree to implement a training program within 120 days of settlement that will train its officials and employees on First and Fourth Amendment rights in a manner that is consistent with the District Court’s opinion. The program must be reviewed by plaintiffs’ counsel before implementation.