Declares City of Austin’s ‘Forced Speech Ordinance’ Unconstitutional
AUSTIN, TX, June 23, 2014 —Today, Austin area pro-life centers gained a huge victory in their fight to protect their free speech and religious liberty rights. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin, and Austin area Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) were represented by Liberty Institute. Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values and a former lawyer for Liberty Institute was a part of the legal team that successfully defended the nonprofit centers. In the case Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin et al v. City of Austin, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the Austin city ordinance targeting the religious life-affirming groups unconstitutional. Finding that the ordinance was void for vagueness, the Court ruled that the City of Austin may not enforce its unconstitutional ordinances against the Diocese and other crisis pregnancy centers.
In 2012, Liberty Institute challenged the constitutionality of the Austin ordinance that unfairly required PRCs to post a sign at their front entrances with a false and misleading message about the services that they do not provide. However, pro-abortion facilities providing or facilitating abortions were not required to post signs or disclaimers that reference their services or procedures.
“The City of Austin tried to bully nonprofit pregnancy help centers with complete disregard towards religious liberty and free speech and they lost, badly,” said Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values and a member of the winning legal team. “The City of Austin was warned by legal experts and they forced it through the process anyway. This victory is a strong statement that pro-life centers were right all along and that legal judgment of the City cannot be trusted.”
“We are very pleased with today’s decision,” said Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute. “Our clients’ First Amendment Rights to free speech and religious exercise and expression have been upheld according to well-established constitutional law and the great work of these pregnancy resource centers to help women make informed decisions will no longer be hindered.”
Liberty Institute represents the Roman Catholic Diocese of Austin and Catholic Charities of Central Texas, who oversee the Gabriel Project Life Center, as well as the Austin Pregnancy Resource Center and the South Austin Pregnancy Resource Center.
To view the judge’s final judgment, click here.