By John Jalsevac
MINNEAPOLIS, July 17, (LifeSiteNews.com) - On Thursday, July 12, the Minnesota Supreme Court handed down a ruling reversing the criminal convictions of pro-life protesters Ron Rudnick and Luke Otterstad.
The pair was convicted for displaying large signs on an overpass on two occasions in the Twin Cities suburb of Anoka, Minnesota just weeks before the 2004 national elections. One sign displayed a large color photo of the aborted infant, "Baby Malachi," while next to it was a large handwritten sign that branded a local Congressional candidate as "pro-abortion."
On both occasions the pro-lifers were arrested and jailed by Anoka police, who also took their signs. Charges of "criminal nuisance" and a violation of Anoka's sign ordinance were upheld by a trial judge. Stiff fines and prison sentences were imposed.
The Thomas More Society, with the same team of appellate specialists that won Joe Scheidler's RICO case twice in the U.S. Supreme Court, filed a further appeal. Oral arguments were held last November, and last week, when a four Justice plurality ruled that the prosecution had not proven the signs a criminal "nuisance" or that Anoka's sign ordinance even applied. Two other Justices agreed with Justice Alan Page, former NFL star, who wrote in his concurrence that the defendants' First Amendment rights were violated as the prosecution had been "content-based" - that is, aimed at the pro-life message.
"It is clear on this record that the state's prosecution of appellants under the statute was content-based and therefore barred by the First Amendment," wrote Justice Page.
Tom Brejcha, chief counsel of the Thomas More Society stated, "Graphic photos are controversial even among pro-lifers. We urge that they be used prudently and sparingly - with warning signs wherever possible. But our society has to confront the brutal, bloody realities of this murderous atrocity, as mere abstract rhetoric too often fails to trigger the deep, visceral reaction needed to overcome contemporary America's bland indifference to this carnage."
Brejcha added, "It is impossible to convey certain messages, including the message that pro-lifers Rudnick and Otterstad sought to convey - with all its emotional content - without the use of graphic anti-abortion images. The First Amendment protects political speech that is annoying and even offensive, including speech that stirs people to anger or produces deeply unsettling effects. Those who disagree with a speaker's message must not suppress or criminalize it, but answer it with more speech."