Austin – Attorney General Ken Paxton has joined a 10-state amicus brief urging a federal appeals court to support a religious organization’s right to freedom to speak about and offer alternatives to abortion.
The coalition’s friend-of-the-court brief, filed April 3 in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, defends the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns in its fight against a city ordinance that violates the center’s free speech rights.
In 2009, the City of Baltimore passed a law requiring only pro-life pregnancy counselors to post statements about services they do not provide. The city demanded that the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns display a sign stating that they “do not provide or make referrals for abortion or birth control services.”
Yet, at the same time, the city does not require abortion clinics to display the services they do not offer, such as adoption or prenatal care. Such a discriminatory double standard threatens the mission of the center and its goal to create a comforting and supportive environment for women at a vulnerable time in their lives.
Paxton and his counterparts point out in the amicus brief that the city ordinance uses consumer protection as cover to violate the First Amendment by targeting the non-commercial speech of charitable organizations who wish to communicate sincerely-held religious beliefs about abortion.
“The Constitution protects the rights of the center’s staff from having to post signs or otherwise convey a message contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs,” Paxton said. “A city can say whatever it wants to about abortion, but it can’t be allowed to use the law to silence religious beliefs.”
Texas signed onto the West Virginia-led brief with attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina and Utah.