Angel Dillard, a 44-year old woman from Valley Center, Kansas, was also slapped with a FACE charge by the Justice Department after she sent a very strongly worded letter to a Wichita doctor who was planning to start performing abortions at her clinic. Dillard’s letter was perhaps overzealous and starkly outlined the problems the doctor would encounter in the community, but Dillard said that she would pray that the doctor would make “the right choice” so that God would not bring judgment on her. The district court judge determined that Dillard was presenting a “religious argument” and that her statements were insufficient “to create any belief by a reasonable recipient that the writer was threatening violence.”
Kansas District Judge J. Thomas Marten refused to issue an injunction against Dillard, pointing out that to prove a violation of the FACE Act, the government would at least have to prove that Dillard’s letter could be reasonably understood as a “serious expression of an intent to commit an act” of violence against the doctor. With “no direct evidence” of any real plot by Ms. Dillard, suspicions against her remained “purely speculative.”
Judge Marten reminded the government of the foundational importance of free speech: “the First Amendment is the absolute bedrock of this country’s freedom and I think the ability to express an opinion on a topic that is important to one – even if it is controversial – has to be protected.” The DOJ responded that it was “obviously disappointed” with this idea. The Civil Rights Division does not seem to think that the First Amendment applies to those who speak out against abortion.
The FACE Act is intended to prevent violence. But even the National Abortion Federation acknowledges that the law doesn’t override protestors’ right to free expression, whether they are pro-life or pro-abortion. Both Ms. Dillard and Ms. Pine were prosecuted for exercising their First Amendment right when an ideologically-driven Justice Department wrongly prosecuted them under federal law.
The worst of it is that these are not isolated cases. The Division is pursuing another FACE Act prosecution of Richard Retta, a 79-year-old grandfather, for merely talking to women outside of an abortion clinic in the District of Columbia. That case is just as legally indefensible.
Unsurprisingly, the same DOJ enforcers are behind all three cases; Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas E. Perez and the Deputy Chief for the hyper-politicized Special Litigation Section Julie K. Abbate, are both among the attorneys spearheading litigation against Pine, Dillard, and Retta.
The only violence being done in these cases is to the rule of law, the First Amendment, and the right of the people to be free from an abusive and out-of-control Justice Department. Peaceful protesters shouldn’t be victimized by lawyers who use their power to impose their misguided ideology on an unsuspecting nation.