Conservative Group Files Brief in Support of Pro-Life Tennessee License Plate

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - A conservative legal group is filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a pro-life license plate in Tennessee.

In the ACLU of Tennessee v. Bredesen, a federal district court ruled the "Choose Life" specialty license plate unconstitutional. But Liberty Union argued in its brief with the appeals court that opponents of the license plate have no standing to sue because they never applied for their own specialty plate.

"Abortion proponents never cease to amaze me by their incredulous audacity. These abortion advocates essentially argue a principle that would prohibit any private parade in a public forum simply because a heckler disagrees with the message presented," said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, in a statement.

"Abortion advocates are seeking to hijack the 'Choose Life' specialty plate. When individuals present a private message in a public forum or when the state presents its own message, the Constitution does not give a heckler the right to play ventriloquist espousing a contrary message," said Staver.

The brief argues that if the pro-life message displayed on the license plate is considered private speech conducted in a public forum, pro-abortion activists cannot censor their viewpoint. The government can selectively promote certain interests without having to represent opposing messages, Liberty Counsel added.

For example, the group said, the government can promote a healthy message warning against smoking without having to promote a pro-tobacco message. In the 1977 Supreme Court ruling in Maher v. Roe, the high court said a state may "make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion," the Liberty Counsel noted.

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