Free speech is constitutionally protected – but not at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Rutherford Institute has previously filed lawsuits on behalf of people who want to quietly demonstrate at the nation's highest court. Their latest filing was on behalf of two Christians who are against war and wanted to hold signs reflecting that view while on the huge Supreme Court plaza.
Institute founder John Whitehead tells OneNewsNow the lawsuit (Payden-Travers v. Talkin) was based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but he adds that a federal judge dismissed the case.
"The Supreme Court had, in the past, basically passed a law saying that people can't be out there, backing up a 60-year-old law, which says – believe it or not – that it's unlawful to display any flag, banner, or device that portrays a message," Whitehead explains. "This means Girl Scouts wanting to sell cookies on the front of that large plaza could be run off."
According to Whitehead, the original purpose of the rule was to make sure justices aren't influenced by demonstrations, but he questions if any such influence could really happen now.
"If you think about it," the attorney suggests, "the Supreme Court justices arrive in limousines through an underground entrance with guards around them. I doubt they ever even take a look out there [to the plaza]. They can on the surveillance cameras, but I don't think two peace activists are in any way going to sway a Supreme Court decision."
Finally, Whitehead says that according to federal law, "the government must have a compelling interest in order to violate free speech and the religious guarantees of the Constitution."