FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Ed Sitter August 29, 2017 P: 419-535-5800; firstname.lastname@example.org TOLEDO CITIZENS AGAINST CENSORSHIP SPEAKS OUT Press conference highlights dangerous Council proposal
Toledo-A coalition of business, community and faith leaders spoke out today in opposition to Council President Steven Steel's proposal to quash free speech and assembly in the city, a measure which the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee, chaired by Councilman Kurt Young, has on the agenda for a hearing on Wednesday, August 30th.
The Citizens Against Censorship coalition includes Greater Toledo Right to Life, Citizens for Community Values/First Freedom Ohio, the Diocese of Toledo Catholic Charities, and the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio. Each of these organizations have grave concerns about the proposal.
Toledo City Council is considering proposal 271-17 which would create a municipal ordinance regarding activities near a "health care facility", which is defined broadly to include any location at which medical care, treatment or diagnosis is provided to a person. The proposal specifies that a violation would be a first degree misdemeanor which carries potential fines of up to $1,000 and or 180 days in jail.
"The language in the proposed ordinance is subjective and designed to intimidate citizens from exercising their constitutional rights because of fear of targeted reprisal" stated Ed Sitter, spokesperson for the Citizens Against Censorship. "The proposed ordinance states if a citizen engages in a 'course of conduct within twenty feet of the premises of a health care facility' (See 20 Feet Buffer Video) which places another person in 'reasonable fear of physical harm', then they can be penalized; Councilman Steel's language leaves the door wide open to include any or all types of interaction."
Council President Steven Steel, who has previously worked as a client escort for abortion provider Capital Care Network, brought this measure which limits free speech and freedom of assembly, eroding Constitutionally-protected rights. Freedom of speech is generally defined as the right to articulate one's opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship.
"This ill-considered action is redundant in its justification to prevent physical harm" noted Barry Sheets, Right To Life Action Coalition of Ohio representative. "Current laws safeguard access to health care, prevent disorderly conduct and physical harm for all citizens. The few arrests made in response to calls alleging misconduct confirm that law enforcement has the means to safeguard people in the Municipal Code."
Many speakers at the press conference feel strongly that the measure is directly focused on quashing the speech of a particular group: those pro-life individuals who pray and witness outside of Toledo's two remaining abortion facilities. "The proposed ordinance allows Toledo City Council to put the interests of two businesses in front of the rights and safety of citizens" commented Peter Range, Director of Life and Justice Office of the Toledo Catholic Diocese. "The redundancy in the proposed ordinance further substantiates the targeted oppression of those that pray and reach out in love to the women dealing with an unplanned pregnancy."
Two businesses, (See Video of Escorts and Sidewalk Counselors) Capital Care Network at 1160 West Sylvania Avenue and Planned Parenthood's Toledo facility at 1301 Jefferson Avenue, would be the primary beneficiaries of Councilman Steel's initiative, while the rights of local unions that have grievances with area medical facilities would also be impacted, as well as squelching the rights of other citizens that want to use their right to assemble and their right to free speech to share their views publicly.
"The citizens that pray or suggest alternatives to individuals on public sidewalks have had a positive impact on many people and the Toledo Police Department records reflect there is no situation that hasn't already been sufficiently addressed with current ordinances, and no impedance of access has been documented in police records" stated Peter Range.
"Restricted constitutional rights, redundancy and self-interest of a few are justification for opposition to proposed Ordinance 271-17" said Ed Sitter. "Tomorrow's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee will see us further document these points through testimonies by organizations and individuals that want to protect our personal freedoms, who have been saved by the lifelines this ordinance will prevent and are generally concerned with Toledo City Council's wastefulness in putting time and resources into this redundant and punitive proposal."
Additional Resources: Supporting materials, videos and testimonies can be accessed at www.GTRTL.org.
ACLU.org says the freedom of speech, the press, association, assembly and petition: this set of guarantees, protected by the First Amendment, comprises what we refer to as freedom of expression. It is the foundation of a vibrant democracy, and without it, other fundamental rights, like the right to vote, would wither away."
USCourts.gov states "Congress shall make no law...abridging freedom of speech ...including the protection of actions that society may find very offensive, but society's outrage alone is not justification for suppressing free speech." Proposed Ordinance 271-17
American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Letter of opposition Citizens for Community Values Letter of opposition Greater Columbus Right to Life letter of opposition Additional Materials available at www.gtrtl.org Video of Capitol Care 20 Ft. Buffer / Capitol Care Escorts Speaker Information and Quotes Peter Range, Director of Office for Life and Justice at the Toledo Catholic Diocese Toledo Office: 1933 Spielbusch Avenue, Toledo, OH 43604 P 419-214-4933 "I'm thankful to report that 18 mothers now, that we know about, over the last 3 years that we have talked to have chosen life for their unborn children because we presented them with information about services in Toledo that they did not know about." Ed Sitter, Executive Director Greater Toledo Right to Life 5726 Southwyck Blvd., Suite 120, Toledo, OH 43614 P 419-535-5800 "Regardless of one's personal beliefs on abortion, this is an issue of Free Speech period! Sharing one's views in the public domain without physically threatening or harming anyone, is our constitutional right. Everyone should be allowed to assemble peaceably and express their personal views." Clarissa Lapinski, Project Rachel Post-Abortion Healing Ministry Coordinator Catholic Charities Toledo Office:1933 Spielbusch Avenue Toledo, OH 43604 P 419-583-6817 "In an effort to "protect" women this ordinance would take away the very help they are looking for. I know, because I was that woman" Barry Sheets, Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio PO Box 29261, Cleveland, OH 44129 P 614-989-5293 "This ill-considered action is redundant in its justification to prevent physical harm."
Greater Toledo Right to Life 5726 Southwyck Blvd., Ste. 120 Toledo, Ohio 43614 phone: (419)535-5800