Foes Join Forces for Freedom of Speech: ACLU, ACLJ on Same Side in Ad Suit

By Murray, Frank J. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 19, 1997 | Go to article overview

Foes Join Forces for Freedom of Speech: ACLU, ACLJ on Same Side in Ad Suit


Murray, Frank J., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Abortion lawsuits make the strangest bedfellows.

In Phoenix, for instance, Arizona affiliates of two warring groups - the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Center for Law and Justice - were busy this week winning cases together.

One of those cases is unique. The odd couple is not just lawyering together. For the first time anywhere, they are co-plaintiffs.

They seek to topple the local transit system ban on religious ads. A hearing was held yesterday, two years into the litigation.

The Arizona ACLU state chapter, particularly lawyer James Weinstein, agrees with the ACLJ that even anti-abortion speech is worth defending - not a universal view in the national ACLU foundation that argues speech rights for the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi Party.

Benjamin F.W. Bull of the ACLJ's Scottsdale office and Mr. Weinstein, an Arizona State University law school professor, as they have for several years, spent this week as First Amendment allies - at court on the same side.

In a lawsuit that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, they won an order overturning the Phoenix ordinance requiring abortion protesters to respect a protest-free "bubble" 8 feet around clinic customers or staff walking on public streets.

That victory came Monday when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its 1995 decision and declared the ordinance unconstitutional.

Yesterday, Mr. Bull and Mr. Weinstein continued their crusade as co-plaintiffs to make the bus system rent ad space to Children of the Rosary.

They sued in 1995, seeking to post Bible-based ads against abortion. One says: " `Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.' - God. Jeremiah 1:5. CHOOSE LIFE! Children of the Rosary."

The transit system rejects ads on politics, religion, tobacco or alcohol. Transit system Deputy Director Neal Manske said Children of the Rosary ads would offend some people.

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Foes Join Forces for Freedom of Speech: ACLU, ACLJ on Same Side in Ad Suit
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