WASHINGTON – A U.S. District Court judge decided Thursday that a pro-life group does not have the right to demonstrate on Pennsylvania Avenue during Monday’s Presidential Inaugural Parade.
Judge Harold Greene rejected the argument of the Christian Defense Coalition that the group has a First Amendment right to hold pro-life signs on Pennsylvania Avenue between Ninth and Tenth streets. The National Park Service denied the group’s permit request.
“The court concludes that nothing in the First Amendment or any other part of the Constitution compels it to set in motion the almost inevitable disruption of the Inaugural Parade,” Greene wrote.
Bleachers have already been erected by the Presidential Inaugural Committee in that area, said Park Service spokeswoman Sandra Alley.
The Rev. Patrick Mahoney, head of the 10,000-member Christian Defense Coalition, said he was disappointed with the decision. But, he added, “No matter what any court says, we will be there on Pennsylvania Avenue celebrating the First Amendment even if we are arrested.”
He said the Park Service has threatened his group with arrest if it showed up to demonstrate.
Mahoney said he plans to appeal the decision Friday morning, and to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
Alley said the Park Service was pleased with the verdict. “The opinion shows a strong knowledge and appreciation of the difficulties the Park Service faces and assures a fair balance of access to park land for all park users,” she said.
Mahoney has argued that his group filed its application to use the block on Pennsylvania Avenue before the Presidential Inaugural Committee. But Marina Utgoff-Braswell, attorney for Interior Department Secretary Bruce Babbitt, who was named in the suit, said the Presidential Inaugural Ceremonies Act of 1956 sets aside land to be used by the inaugural committee and it includes the area on Pennsylvania Mahoney was seeking. -30-