Pro-life activists have filed a lawsuit against Toledo, Ohio, and its police force, accusing them of violating their free speech and religious freedom rights.
Calvin Zastrow and his daughter, Corrie, filed the civil rights action Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio against the city of Toledo, its police chief and two officers.
At issue were multiple incidents in which the Zastrows were forced by police to stop holding religious pro-life demonstrations on a public sidewalk across the street from an abortion clinic.
One of the incidents, which took place on Oct. 3, 2017, involved Calvin being arrested for preaching and reading from a Bible as he stood across the street from the abortion facility.
"At no time prior to his arrest, did Plaintiff Calvin Zastrow enter upon the property of the Capital Care abortion center nor did he impede or block anyone from entering the abortion center. He remained on the public sidewalk. At no time did Plaintiff Calvin Zastrow engage in any violence," read the lawsuit.
"At no time did Plaintiff Calvin Zastrow employ any sound amplification device. He only used his voice and the spoken word. At no time did Plaintiff Calvin Zastrow physically block anyone from using the public sidewalk — the sidewalk is large enough to permit several people to walk on it at one time, as ... photographs ... demonstrate."
Robert Muise, co-founder and senior counsel of the American Freedom Law Center, which is representing the Zastrow family, said in a statement released Wednesday that he believed this was "yet another case of a city and its police officers exercising their muscle to silence peaceful pro-life demonstrators."
"The Constitution protects our clients' pro-life activity. The city and its police officers have no authority to silence our clients' speech simply because they are preaching the Gospel on a public sidewalk next to an abortion center," said Muise.
The Christian Post contacted the city of Toledo for comment on Friday and was told that officials had not yet seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment.
This is not the first time that the AFLC has represented Calvin Zastrow when he encountered legal trouble for his pro-life activism.
In June 2017, Zastrow and other pro-life activists were demonstrating outside an abortion clinic in Westland, Michigan, when they were arrested for allegedly disturbing the peace. In September 2017, all criminal charges against Zastrow were dismissed with prejudice, with the AFLC declaring it a "victory for pro-life speech."