Pro-life activist sues city of Baltimore, alleging First Amendment discrimination

Baltimore, Planned Parenthood, pro-life

A Maryland man is suing the city of Baltimore for violating his right to free speech and exercise of religion by requiring him to have a permit before he can display pro-life signs outside an abortion facility.

In his suit, John Roswell is represented by the Thomas More Society (TMS). According to a news release distributed by his lawyers, Roswell was acting as a sidewalk counselor outside an area Planned Parenthood abortion facility in January 2020 when he was fined by the city because he did not have a permit to display the standalone A-frame signs he had brought with him. The signs, which bore images of preborn babies and had messages like, “Unborn Babies Are Human and Feel Pain,” did not impede sidewalk traffic and were only displayed while Roswell was outside the facility.

“John Roswell is a good citizen, so he set about gathering information about the permit process,” explained attorney Cameron Guenzel, Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “He learned that the signs require two permits, even though they are temporary and not affixed. Those permits can only be obtained via a costly and burdensome process, and can be granted, denied, or revoked at the unfettered discretion of the City of Baltimore and its employees.”

READ: Baltimore removes ‘Black Preborn Lives Matter’ from street in front of Planned Parenthood

“The real problem,” Guenzel said, “is that the City of Baltimore requires, for each permit, the consent of the adjacent landowner – in this case, an abortion provider that is hostile to Roswell.” Guenzel tried to negotiate with the city on Roswell’s behalf, but received no response.

Roswell was eventually fined $500 for displaying his signs. In an appeals hearing, the fine was reduced to $10, but the city maintains that he cannot return with his signs. Roswell’s federal lawsuit is not challenging this fine, but the city’s continued position that he is not free to display his signs.

Guenzel concluded, “With its restrictive permit process, where the requirement of a permit is not warranted, the City of Baltimore is violating John Roswell’s guaranteed rights to free speech and exercise of religion.”

What is Live Action News?

Live Action News is pro-life news and commentary from a pro-life perspective. Learn More

Contact for questions, corrections, or if you are seeking permission to reprint any Live Action News content.

GUEST ARTICLES: To submit a guest article to Live Action News, email with an attached Word document of 800-1000 words. Please also attach any photos relevant to your submission if applicable. If your submission is accepted for publication, you will be notified within three weeks. Guest articles are not compensated. (See here for Open License Agreement.) Thank you for your interest in Live Action News!

To Top