A far-right Catholic group’s protest rally – featuring former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and other speakers – can proceed as planned next month at the Inner Harbor, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Hollander today issued an injunction reversing the city’s decision to cancel the event sponsored by Michigan-based St. Michael’s Media, which publishes a conservative Catholic website called Church Militant.
The group sued the city, Mayor Brandon Scott and City Solicitor James L. Shea, arguing that the cancellation infringed on its constitutional rights to free speech, religion and assembly.
“The unbridled discretion exercised by the City; its use of the heckler’s veto as an explicit justification; its shifting, post hoc rationalizations; and the City’s invocation of political rhetoric by rally organizers and speakers, point to the conclusion that plaintiff is likely to succeed on the claim that the City engaged in viewpoint discrimination with respect to plaintiff’s political views,” Hollander wrote.
A spokesman for Scott said the city would file an appeal.
“We are disappointed by the court’s decision and [the] potential threat to public safety if this event ensues,” Scott’s communications director, Cal Harris, said in an emailed statement.
Censorship or Safety
Shea originally called a halt to the November 16 event – to be held at the city-owned MECU Pavilion on Pier Six – saying it could cause “significant disruption.”
City lawyers argued in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that the presence of speakers like Bannon and right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos in the city could lead to violence.
Attorneys for St. Michael’s Media said the event posed no threat, pointing out that the group held a similar rally at the Inner Harbor in 2018 without incident.
The “Bishops: Enough is Enough Prayer Rally” is timed to coincide with the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to be held at the nearby Marriott Waterfront.
Church Militant, which produces videos and articles about Catholic news, regularly blasts the bishops for covering up sex abuse within the Catholic Church. The group also denounces them for supporting LGBTQ rights, globalism, immigration and other causes they regard as immoral or dangerous.
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Church Militant/St. Michael’s Media on its watch list of hate groups as a result of anti-LGBTQ ideology and organizing.