ADL to Supreme Court: Buffer Zones Protect Public Safety, Freedom of Access and Personal Privacy

New York, NY, November 25, 2013 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) led a coalition of organizations filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, a case involving the constitutionality of a Massachusetts law creating a buffer zone around reproductive health clinics.

Christopher Wolf, ADL Civil Rights Chair, and Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Director of Civil Rights, issued the following statement:

The Supreme Court should recognize, as it has before, that buffer zones like the type permitted by the Massachusetts law are a reasonable way to protect public safety, freedom of access and personal privacy without violating anyone’s freedom of expression.  Similar zones have been upheld around houses of worship and funeral services.

Our brief urges the Supreme Court to recognize that other legislatures and courts have relied on its previous rulings to adopt and approve a substantial body of law regarding buffer zones.  If the Supreme Court decides that the Massachusetts buffer zone law is invalid, then the Court must also be willing to accept that protesters may crowd the doors of synagogues, churches, and mosques, chanting slogans at worshippers as they enter, and that picketers may mingle with the mourners at military funerals, confronting grieving parents with placards proclaiming, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” That would be a deeply disturbing result.

We also reject the argument in this case that the Massachusetts law violates the free speech of abortion protestors because it prevents them from having close personal contact with the intended recipients of their message as they approach the clinic.  The court below was correct in determining that the protestors were still able to communicate their message very effectively.

ADL’s brief was joined by a dozen other organizations, including the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Methodist Foundation for Social Action, the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and the Union for Reform Judaism.

The brief was prepared for the League by the Boston law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo PC.

In its 9-0 ruling, the court found the 2007 law preventing anti-abortion activists from standing within a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive health facilities overly broad and a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. ADL called the decision a disappointing setback for women's access to reproductive health services.

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.