Bash Back retains lawyer in protest suit
|By Neal McNamara|
A Lansing “queer” anarchist group being sued by a right-wing Christian legal defense fund for a protest it carried out at a Delta Township church last November has retained Detroit lawyer Tracie Dominique Palmer, who is calling the lawsuit “baseless” and a “waste of judicial resources and taxpayer money.”
Palmer confirmed Wednesday that she will represent the group Bash Back pro-bono after the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund filed suit against the group in May in federal court on behalf of Mt. Hope Church in Delta Township.
In November 2008, Bash Back conducted a protest at Mt. Hope that included several members of the group entering the church dressed like churchgoers and disrupting a Sunday morning service by throwing pro-gay pamphlets, shouting “it’s OK to be gay,” unfurling a pro-gay banner and two members of the group kissing near the pulpit.
The ADF is suing Bash Back under the federal Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances act, which prohibits blocking access to abortion clinics but includes a clause that gives the same protection to churches.
Palmer said that a video of the incident taken by Mt. Hope shows that no member of Bash Back restricted access or exit of the church during the protest. While members of Bash Back were inside the church, there was also a group of protestors outside. The outside group, initially, were protesting in front of the main entrance of the church, but were told by staff to move to the roadside, which they did.
Palmer said that the ADF is using Mt. Hope and to gain publicity.
“I’m offended that an out of state group has done this,” Palmer said. “This was not an ongoing harassment, it was a single exercise of freedom of speech and we have an organization from Arizona that’s saying, ‘Let’s raise a ruckus.’”
The ADF includes a “prayer for relief” in its suit that Bash Back be banned from conducting protest activities at the church — though it does not specifically name the church as Mt. Hope — and that punitive damages be awarded for Bash Back’s alleged trespass onto church property.
Palmer said that a response to the ADF suit would be filed soon, pending a meeting with her clients set for Thursday.
The ADF did not return a call seeking comment.