Ban on a gathering by a “Church activist” blocked by a judge

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Baltimore city officials cannot bar a conservative Roman Catholic media outlet from holding a prayer rally at a city-owned pavilion at a meeting of US bishops next month, a federal judge ruled, saying that the First Amendment right to free speech is “at the heart of this matter.” United States District Judge Ellen Hollander ruled Tuesday night that St. Michael’s Media Inc., also known as Church Militant, is likely to succeed in its claims that the city l ‘discriminated on the basis of her political views and violated her rights to freedom of expression. The judge’s order says city officials cannot bar the lodge manager from contracting with Michigan-based St. Michael’s Media to use the venue for a rally and conference he plans to hold. organize on November 16. But the judge refused to set contract terms ordered by the court for a rally. Hollander’s order stated that she “anticipated negotiations in good faith, but expressed no opinion on the terms of a contract.” Cal Harris, spokesperson for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, said the city will ask an appeals court to review the judge’s decision. “We are disappointed with the court’s decision and the potential threat to public safety if this event occurs,” Harris wrote in an email. “The proposed rally is expected to take place on Baltimore City property, and we have a responsibility to protect our property and our fellow citizens.” The waterfront pavilion is across from a hotel where the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is scheduled to hold its national meeting. From November 15 to 18. St. Michael’s said it deliberately chose the date and location of its gathering to coincide with the bishops’ meeting. The group also said they held a city-authorized peaceful rally at the same site during the National Bishops Meeting in 2018. An advertisement for the planned rally touted speeches by former Donald Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, and far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos. The city says the rally poses a threat to public safety, arguing that the fringe group encouraged the rioters who stormed the United States Capitol in January. The city also said Yiannopoulos’ speeches attracted counter-protesters and resulted in violence and property damage, while Bannon “regularly called for violence against government officials.” to show that the decision was based on these justifications. The city appears to have based its decision on the “early reaction” of counter-protesters that could lead to violence at the rally, Hollander noted. wrote. “The city cannot bring up hypothetical rowdies and then grant them a veto.” The judge also questioned the relevance of the city’s claims regarding St. Michael’s Media’s reaction to the Capitol Riot. “The city never accuses St. Michael’s of actual involvement in the events of January 6, 2021. Rather, it criticizes the plaintiff for his coverage and support of the event,” Hollander wrote. Marc Randazza, attorney for St. Michael’s Media, said he had no doubt the rally would go as planned now that the judge ruled in favor of the group. Michael’s Media sued the city, its mayor and city attorney James Shea last month. The far-right outlet says it publishes articles about the Catholic Church on its website and often criticizes Church leaders. in the heart of downtown Baltimore. “For a city like Baltimore, with an already stretched police department and a well-documented police shortage, the decision to cancel an event featuring a guest speaker who invites additional protesters, counter-protesters, spending and the potential violence is more than reasonable, ”the town’s lawyers wrote, referring to Yiannopoulos. Michael’s wants to hold on. “There’s no one coming to protest against me these days, which is a great relief,” said Yiannopoulos, now a paid columnist for St. Michael’s. St. Michael’s offered to remove Yiannopoulos and Bannon from the rally’s list of speakers and let the city censor speeches, but the city rejected those overtures, Randazza said. which I find confusing, “he added.” The biggest risk that will exist at this (rally) will either be frostbite or someone slipping and breaking a hip. “In 2017, a confidant Pope Francis specifically mentioned ChurchMilitant.com in an article condemning the way some American Evangelicals and Catholics mix religion and politics. Reverend Antonio Spadaro’s article in a Vatican-approved magazine said the media qualified the election 2016 presidential election of “spiritual warfare” and Trump’s rise to the presidency of “divine election.”

Baltimore city officials cannot bar a conservative Roman Catholic media outlet from holding a prayer rally at a city-owned pavilion at a meeting of US bishops next month, a federal judge ruled, saying that the First Amendment right to free speech is “at the heart of this matter.”

U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander ruled on Tuesday night that St. Michael’s Media Inc., also known as Church Militant, was likely to succeed in her claims that the city had discriminated against her on the basis of her political opinions and violated his rights to freedom of expression.

The judge’s order says city officials cannot bar the lodge manager from contracting with Michigan-based St. Michael’s Media to use the venue for a rally and conference he plans to hold. organize on November 16.

But the judge refused to set contract terms ordered by the court for a rally. Hollander’s order said she “anticipates negotiations in good faith, but expresses no opinion on the terms of a contract.”

Cal Harris, spokesperson for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, said the city will ask an appeals court to review the judge’s decision.

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision and the potential threat to public safety if this event occurs,” Harris wrote in an email. “The proposed rally is expected to take place on Baltimore City property, and we have a responsibility to protect our property and our fellow citizens.”

The waterfront lodge is across from a hotel where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is scheduled to hold its national meeting from November 15-18. St. Michael’s said it deliberately chose the date and place of its gathering to coincide with the bishops. Meet. The group also said they held a city-authorized peaceful rally at the same site during the national bishops’ meeting in 2018.

An advertisement for the planned rally praised speeches by former Donald Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon and far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos.

The city says the rally poses a threat to public safety, arguing that the fringe group encouraged the rioters who stormed the United States Capitol in January. The city also said Yiannopoulos’ speeches attracted counter-protesters and resulted in violence and property damage, while Bannon “regularly called for violence against government officials.”

But the judge said the city “presented somewhat shifting justifications for its actions, with little evidence to show the decision was based on those justifications.” The city appears to have based its decision on the “early reaction” of counter-protesters that could lead to violence at the rally, Hollander noted.

“The city’s invocation of a rowdy veto also raises serious concerns that its decision was prompted by point of view discrimination,” she wrote. “The city cannot bring up hypothetical rowdies and then grant them a veto.”

The judge also questioned the relevance of the city’s claims regarding St. Michael’s Media’s reaction to the Capitol Riot.

“The city never accuses St. Michael’s of actual involvement in the events of January 6, 2021. Rather, it criticizes the plaintiff for his coverage and support of the event,” Hollander wrote.

Marc Randazza, an attorney for St. Michael’s Media, said he had no doubt the rally would go as planned now that the judge ruled in favor of the group.

St. Michael’s Media sued the city, its mayor and city attorney James Shea last month. The far-right outlet says it publishes articles about the Catholic Church on its website and often criticizes Church leaders.

The city says it has asked the contractor who runs the pavilion to cancel the event “out of legitimate fear it will incite violence in the heart of downtown Baltimore.”

“For a city like Baltimore, with a police department already stretched with a well-documented police shortage, the decision to cancel an event featuring a speaker who invites additional protesters, counter-protesters, spending and violence potential is more than reasonable, ”city lawyers wrote, referring to Yiannopoulos.

Yiannopoulos told a hearing that he had adopted a less caustic tone in his speeches in recent years and that he doubted any counter-protesters would show up at an event like the one St. Michael’s wants to host.

“There’s no one protesting me these days, which is a great relief,” said Yiannopoulos, now a paid columnist for St. Michael’s.

St. Michael’s offered to remove Yiannopoulos and Bannon from the rally’s list of speakers and let the city censor speeches, but the city rejected those overtures, Randazza said.

“I feel like there is a real disgust and dislike for my clients, which I find confusing,” he added. “The biggest risk at this (gathering) will be either frostbite or someone slipping and breaking a hip.”

In 2017, a confidant of Pope Francis specifically mentioned ChurchMilitant.com in an article condemning the way some American Evangelicals and Catholics mix religion and politics. The article by Reverend Antonio Spadaro in a Vatican-approved magazine said the media presented the 2016 presidential election as a “spiritual war” and Trump’s rise to the presidency as “a divine election.”


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