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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Wyoming City Shouldn’t Have Barred Protesters

(CN) - An anti-abortion group has the right to protest at a Boy Scout event, the divided Wyoming Supreme Court ruled.

The 47-page decision throws out a restraining order given to the city of Jackson, keeping Operation Save America from demonstrating in the town square during the 2011 Boy Scouts Elk Fest.

The order prohibited Operation Save America from displaying graphic posters of aborted fetuses within two blocks of Town Square.

Members of the group arrived in town a few days before the Elk Fest to protest the clinic of Dr. Brent Blue, who purportedly is lone abortion practitioner in the state.

At the Jackson Hole high school and middle school, OSA members called Dr. Blue a killer and displayed posters depicting aborted fetuses.

The city asked for the restraining order to keep OSA and its photos away from the Elk Fest, and a Teton County judge granted the order on the night before the event.

Within the week, OSA appealed.

The Wyoming Supreme Court overturned the order Tuesday, finding that the temporary restraining order violated the First Amendment.

"Speech directed at abortion policy is public issue speech," Justice Michael Golden wrote for the majority. "The fact that the messages conveyed may be offensive to their recipients does not deprive them of constitutional protection."

"The record contains no evidence that OSA engages in speech that is directed at inciting violence or is likely to produce imminent lawless action, and in the absence of such evidence, we conclude that prohibiting OSA's speech is not supported," he added.

Justices E. James Burke and Barton Voigt joined the majority opinion.

Chief Justice Marilyn Kite dissented, joined by Justice William Hill, saying that restraining order should have been considered moot, not overturned.

"No evidence was presented in this case that Operation Save America will return to Jackson and attempt to assemble or display posters during another event like the Boy Scout expo and auction or, in the event that it does, that the town will again file for a temporary restraining order without providing notice or an opportunity to be heard," Kite wrote.

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