MONTGOMERY – Alabama Attorney General Steven T. Marshall joined a 10-state effort this week urging a federal appeals court to support a religious organization’s right to free speech.

Alabama was part of a coalition of 10 states filing an amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief Monday defending a pregnancy center in Maryland against the City of Baltimore’s attempts to undermine its ability to speak about and offer alternatives to abortion.

The brief, filed before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, supports the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns’ opposition to a 2009 Baltimore city ordinance that requires such centers with pro-life pregnancy counselors to post signs telling clients that the facility does not provide abortions or referrals. However, the City of Baltimore fails to require abortion clinics to display the services which they do not offer, including adoption or prenatal care.

“The clear aim of the city ordinance is to impede the mission of pro-life counseling centers and silence the expression of religious belief,” said Attorney General Marshall. “A city cannot treat crisis pregnancy centers different from abortion clinics simply because it dislikes their pro-life message.”

Attorney General Marshall and the other states argue the ordinance uses consumer protection as cover to violate the First Amendment. It does so in targeting the non-commercial speech of charitable organizations who wish to communicate sincerely-held religious beliefs about abortion.

Alabama signed onto the West Virginia-led brief with attorneys general from Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

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