An anti-abortion group wants a federal judge to block Marathon County from banning a movie at the Wausau public library this weekend. 40 Days for Life of Wausau filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday. There was no immediate hearing scheduled for a judge to consider the case.
The suit claims the county violated the group’s First Amendment rights to free speech after it canceled a reservation for a meeting room where the film “Blood Money” was scheduled to be shown on Sunday afternoon.
“Defendants’ conduct constitutes illicit, standardless censorship and suppression of free speech,” according to the group’s complaint, which names library director Ralph Illick, county board chair Keith Langenhahn and the library board.
“The suppression of this movie was explicitly based, post hoc, on its subject matter related to the abortion issue – content-based viewpoint discrimination which is devoid of any compelling justification.”
According to the complaint, Illick canceled the reservation last week, claiming that showing the film would interfere with the normal use of our library. Illick cited Internet postings that indicated the possibility of protests if the library allowed the group to show the film. But the group says “audience reaction to speech, especially when merely hypothetical and speculative – as here – gives government no grounds for censoring it, let alone banning or suppressing it as Defendants threaten to do here.”
The county defended its policy in a letter sent yesterday and offered to let the group show the film at its building across the street from the library on 212 River Drive.
“If the display of the film by your client’s group provoked a civil disturbance inside the library, the result would be interference with the normal use of the library,” county corporation counsel Scott Corbett said in the letter.
Organizers are asking for a temporary restraining order that would block the county from banning the movie at the library. The group says having police officers on hand could adequately protect against any possible disruption caused by a protest.
UDPATE: Marathon County decided Thursday to reinstate the group’s reservation for the meeting room this weekend, allowing the video showing to move ahead as planned.