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Rockford Tables Proposed Bubble Zone Ordinance: 'On Hold' as City Considers New Arguments, Implications

by Staff
February 10, 2010
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ROCKFORD, Ill., ( -- City of Rockford officials have tabled its recently proposed "bubble zone" ordinance for two months as they consider new objections from the Chicago-based Thomas More Society and local pro-life activists. Yesterday, attorneys from the Thomas More Society sent a letter to Rockford's mayor and aldermen respectfully urging them to reject the bubble zone measure as ill-advised and unconstitutional. Additionally, pro-life activists assert that enacting the bubble zone ordinance would overlook and validate the grossly objectionable activities on the part of the Northern Illinois Women's Center, Rockford's abortion clinic with its notorious history of displaying obscene images and harassing protesters. Clinic window displays feature a host of anti-Christian symbols including a rubber chicken covering the body of Jesus Christ on a crucifix, images of Jesus Christ making an explicit gesture with the words "Even Jesus Hates You," and more rubber chickens dangling from nooses. A nun doll in a miniature casket appears in another window, along with crudely hand-drawn signs slandering priests and other pro-life sidewalk counselors as HIV-positive perverts and child molesters.

"We've been involved in federal litigation with both the clinic proprietor, his thug ally, and Rockford for two years now, and while we had hoped to settle and compromise with the city, this proposed 'bubble zone' ordinance represented a major setback. Yet we're now pleased that, at least, discussions about the negative impact and patent illegality of the ordinance are moving forward," said Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. "This two month delay is a legal victory, albeit a modest one, as prospects for passage of the bubble zone proposal have been dimmed, if not wholly curtailed. We trust that City council members will carefully reconsider this unwise, unwelcome, ill-timed and illicit proposal."

In the law firm's letter to Rockford officials, Brejcha detailed how this new ordinance, if adopted, would infringe the free speech rights of peaceful sidewalk counselors. Moreover, it is really "anti-choice," as it deprives expectant mothers of any genuine chance to make free, fully informed choices. Finally, Illinois' Labor Dispute Act, which precludes municipal regulation of labor picketing, would render Rockford's bubble-zone "viewpoint-discriminatory" and illegal.

Pro-life advocate Kevin Rilott sent another letter to the city stating that its officials should refrain from putting their stamp of approval on the hateful, obscene and intimidating images displayed by the abortion clinic. Rilott wrote, "Is this really the type of bigotry...the Rockford City council wants to protect, promote, and defend with it's [sic] bubble zone?"

The Thomas More Society has represented pro-life activists in Rockford for several years in both federal and state courts. The pending civil rights lawsuit Rilott v. Rockford et al (No. 08 CV 50045) alleges hate crimes by the abortion clinic proprietor, Wayne Webster, and his ally, Keith Sterkeson, as well as defacement of a pro-life "bus bench" ad by a Rockford bus driver.

About the Thomas More Society
Founded in 1997, the Thomas More Society is a not- for-profit, public interest law firm based in Chicago and dedicated to fighting for the rights and dignity of all human beings, from conception until natural death. The Society vigorously defends clients in state and federal courtrooms around the country, addressing vital issues across the pro-life spectrum, including pregnancy discrimination, end-of-life health care, the right of conscientious objection for medical workers, freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and peaceable nonviolent protest.

As a public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, supported solely by private donations. Visit for more information.

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