A federal judge stopped the city of Baltimore from banning a planned protest during a meeting of U.S bishops later this year. FILE – Fr. Paul Kalchik, left, St. Michael’s Media founder and CEO Michael Voris, center, and Milo Yiannopoulos talk with a court officer before entering the federal courthouse, Sept. 30, 2021 in Baltimore. A federal judge has blocked Baltimore city officials from banning the conservative Roman Catholic media outlet from holding a prayer rally at a city-owned pavilion during a U.S. bishops’ meeting next month. U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander ruled late Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2021 that St. Michael’s Media is likely to succeed on its claims that the city discriminated against it on the basis of its political views and violated its First Amendment free speech rights. (AP Photo/Gail Burton, file) Gail Burton/AP

Baltimore cannot ban protest against US Catholic bishops, judge rules

Christopher Hutton October 13, 05:21 PM October 13, 05:21 PM

A federal judge stopped the city of Baltimore from banning a planned protest during a meeting of U.S bishops later this year.

District Judge Ellen Hollander ruled Tuesday that St. Michael’s Media cannot be prohibited from renting a pavilion in Baltimore to organize the protest, saying, “[Baltimore] cannot conjure up hypothetical hecklers and then grant them veto power.” The city previously barred the event, expressing concerns about public safety and the possibility of violence.

“The First Amendment to the Constitution is at the heart of this case,” wrote Hollander. “[St. Michael’s Media] has demonstrated a substantial likelihood that it will prevail on the merits of its free speech and assembly claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The balance of the equities favors the plaintiff, and an injunction is in the public interest.”

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“We are disappointed by the court’s decision and potential threat to public safety if this event ensues,” Cal Harris, communications director for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, told the Washington Examiner. “The proposed rally is slated to take place on Baltimore city property, and we have a responsibility to protect our property and fellow citizens. We remain committed to this charge and will appeal this decision.”

While Hollander ruled in favor of St. Michael’s, she refused to set a court-ordered contractual term for the rally. Instead, the judge stated in the order that she “anticipates good faith negotiations, but expresses no opinion on the terms of a contract.”

St. Michael’s Media had initially aimed to host a rally on Nov. 16. The rally was scheduled to occur simultaneously with the national meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The event is expected to feature appearances by Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopoulos.

“The judge clearly took her time to ensure that she got the constitutional issues right,” said Marc Randazza, attorney for St. Michael’s Media, in a press release. “I think that this is a great victory for the First Amendment,”

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Church Militant, the primary platform operated by St. Michael’s Media, is a Michigan-based news website owned by Michael Voris and unaffiliated with the Catholic Church. The website claims to be a Catholic news website that intends to “convert non-Catholics to the faith founded personally by Jesus Christ, and strengthen the faith of existing Catholics.”

In 2020, the website drew backlash after Voris accused Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory of being a “closeted homosexual,” “Marxist,” and an “African Queen.”

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