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Navigating free speech: Baltimore’s legal battle with St. Michael’s Media

The city of Baltimore agreed to pay $275,000 in legal fees after a federal court ruling favored a far-right Catholic group, St. Michael’s Media.

The dispute arose when Baltimore officials attempted to block the group’s 2021 rally, citing concerns over hate speech. The court’s decision emphasized the protection of free speech, ruling against the city’s efforts to cancel the rally based on the group’s viewpoints.

National Catholic Reporter:

Baltimore’s Board of Estimates approved the rally-related settlement Wednesday.

In 2021, St. Michael’s Media was initially denied permission to rally outside a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, with city officials saying it posed a threat to public safety. Church Militant has been known for publishing stories against LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Catholic Church and strongly criticizing its advocates, among other controversial topics.

The group “planned to have speakers at this event with a known track record of inciting and fomenting violence, most notably including individuals that were directly tied to the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol,” Deputy City Solicitor Stephen Salsbury told the board.

St. Michael’s claimed the city wrongly blocked the event because it disapproved of the group’s message, and the rally went forward without incident after federal district and appeals courts overturned the city’s decision.

St. Michael’s continued to press for damages before ultimately agreeing to settle, according to Salsbury.

Read the full article here.

Key Points

  • Baltimore to pay $275,000 in legal fees after court rules in favor of St. Michael’s Media.
  • The city attempted to block the group’s 2021 rally, citing hate speech concerns.
  • The court ruled the city’s actions as viewpoint discrimination, highlighting the protection of free speech.
Theme Pros Cons
Free Speech Upholds the principle of free expression. Can protect speech that may incite hate.
Public Safety Aims to prevent hate speech and violence. May lead to censorship and suppression.


Questions to Consider

  1. Where should the line be drawn between protecting free speech and preventing hate speech?
  2. What are the implications of this ruling for future public events hosted by controversial groups?
  3. How can cities balance the need for public safety with the constitutional rights of organizations?

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