Ohio city forces couple to remove anti-abortion sign

Thursday, June 11, 1998

An official of a Cleveland, Ohio, suburb forced an expectant couple to remove an anti-abortion sign last week when President Clinton visited the city.

James and Koleen Hogan of University Heights said they posted a sign reading “America protect your unborn” in front of their home, hoping Clinton's motorcade would pass by it. A city inspector asked them to move the sign, which was sitting on an easement.

The Hogans said that when they offered to move it onto their property, the city official said he would confiscate the sign. Koleen Hogan, who is six months pregnant, said she removed the sign so it would not create more problems.

James Hogan told Cleveland's The Plain Dealer that he felt the city violated their right to state their views.

“I thought that one of the essentials of this country is the freedom of expression of political ideas,” he said. “And when any government suppresses this, we are all in jeopardy.”

An official with the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said the city clearly violated the couple's First Amendment rights.

“One would think that the city employees responsible for enforcing sign laws would know that people have a right to criticize government policy,” said Christine Link, the group's executive director. “The ACLU is horrified that the city apparently feels that [it] can bully [its] citizens for merely exercising their constitutional rights.”

The motorcade for Clinton, who was in Cleveland on June 3 to speak at John Carroll University, did not pass in front of the Hogan home.

Calls placed to University Heights Mayor Beryl Rothschild and the city's building department were not returned.