Catholic media accuses Baltimore of canceling rally over religious messages


Conservative Roman Catholic media has accused the city of Baltimore of canceling its planned rally at a meeting of American bishops because the city disapproves of its religious message.

Michigan-based St. Michael’s Media, also known as Church Militant, said it deliberately chose the date and location of the rally to coincide with the bishops’ meeting, and that it organized a peaceful rally authorized by the city on the same site during the episcopal meeting in 2018.

The group is suing the city for allegedly violating its constitutional rights to freedom of expression, religious expression and free assembly. St. Michael’s Media also claimed the city wanted to cancel the rally because its leaders preferred the “modern mainstream Catholic doctrine” of the bishops.

The city of Baltimore denied the allegations and said the rally posed a threat to public safety, saying the group encouraged rioters on the U.S. Capitol in January. He also said the group’s religious stance had nothing to do with the cancellation.

For more Associated Press reporting, see below.

A Catholic media outlet has accused Baltimore of canceling its planned rally because the city does not approve of its religious message. Members of the Catholic Church listen to a prayer during an opening session of the Annual Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, November 12, 2018, in Baltimore.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images

Event planners are asking a federal judge to rule whether the city is trampling on their First Amendment rights. U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander on Thursday heard testimony from clergy abuse survivors who wish to speak at the “prayer rally” that St. Michael’s Media was planning to hold on November 16 at a waterfront lodge on the waterfront. water belonging to the city.

An event ad touts speeches by former Donald Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon and far-right agitator Milo Yiannopoulos, who testified at Thursday’s hearing. Yiannopoulos said he wanted to speak at the rally because he had been raped by a Catholic priest and wanted to encourage other abuse survivors to “confront the facilitators and the abusers.”

The Associated Press does not usually name people who have been sexually abused, but Yiannopoulos agreed to be identified and said he wrote about what happened in the past.

The city said Yiannopoulos’ speeches attracted counter-protesters and resulted in violence and property damage. He also said Bannon “regularly calls for violence against government officials,” noting that Twitter banned his account last year after calling for the beheadings of Dr Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Yiannopoulos said he had adopted a softer, less caustic tone in his speeches in recent years and that he doubted any counter-protesters would show up at an event like the one St. Michael’s wants to host.

“The risk seems close to zero to me,” said Yiannopoulos, now a paid columnist for St. Michael’s Media. “There is no one to protest against me these days, which is a great relief.”

On September 13, Michigan-based St. Michael’s Media sued the city, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and city attorney James Shea on September 13.

In a court case, the city said it asked the contractor who runs the pavilion to cancel the event “out of legitimate fear it might incite violence in the heart of downtown Baltimore.”

“And for a city like Baltimore, with a police department already stretched with a well-documented police shortage, the decision to cancel an event featuring a guest speaker who invites additional protesters, counter-protesters, spending and potential violence is more than reasonable, ”the town’s lawyers wrote, referring to Yiannopolous.

Marc Randazza, a lawyer for St. Michael’s, said Yiannopoulos was prepared to step down if the city allowed the rally to proceed. The city rejected the offer, Randazza told the judge.

“I don’t want the sound of my own voice any more than I want the successful and peaceful execution of the rally,” Yiannopoulos said.

However, Yiannopoulos signed a written statement that he intended to sue the city for allegedly removing his free speech rights if he agreed to step down from speaking.

“I was not aware of the warning,” the judge said.

In 2017, a confidant of Pope Francis specifically mentioned in an article condemning the way some American Evangelicals and Catholics mix religion and politics. The article by Reverend Antonio Spadaro in a Vatican-approved magazine said the media presented the 2016 presidential election as a “spiritual war” and Trump’s rise to the presidency as “a divine election.”

The pavilion is across from a hotel where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is scheduled to hold its national meeting from November 15-18.

St. Michael’s also wants Hollander to order the lodge manager to “honor his contractual relationship” with him.

St. Michael’s lawsuit said its founder and CEO Michael Voris spoke with Shea about the cancellation in August. The town’s attorney told Voris his office had seen reports that St. Michael’s had “links” to the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill, according to the lawsuit.

“Mr. Voris immediately told Shea this was categorically untrue and asked for the source of these reports. Internet, ”the costume says.

In its court file, the city describes Church Militant as “an active propagandist” for baseless allegations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. Church Militant “promoted and exalted” the rioters who stormed the Capitol, and Voris glorified the insurgents on a broadcast on the night of January 6, city prosecutors wrote.

Michel voris
A conservative Roman Catholic media outlet that wants to hold a rally at a waterside pavilion in Baltimore says city officials have canceled the event because they disapprove of its religious message. In this October 11, 2010 file photo, Michael Voris holds a sword used when recording for at a studio in Ferndale, Michigan.
Paul Sancya / AP Photo

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