“The Texas Citizens Participation Act carries forward the state’s commitment to the free exchange of ideas enshrined in our Texas and United States Constitutions,” reads the court’s decision.
Justice Jane Bland delivered the opinion, with a concurring opinion by Justice John Devine which Justice Jimmy Blacklock joined.
The court first heard oral arguments in the case on October 26.
Dickson has been successfully convincing city councils in Texas and beyond to adopt “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn” initiatives, prohibiting abortion within city limits.
In June 2019, Dickson lobbied the city council of Waskom to institute such an initiative. The local ordinance stated that “a surgical or chemical abortion is the purposeful and intentional ending of a human life, and is murder with malice aforethought since the baby in the womb has its own DNA.”
After Waskom passed the abortion ordinance, Dickson began describing the Lilith Fund, a pro-choice activist group, as a “criminal organization” on social media.
In July 2019, the Lilith Fund erected an “Abortion is Freedom” billboard in Waskom, which was followed a few months later by national reporting from CNN on Dickson and Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.
Dickson created links and directed readers to other messages opposing abortion. He wrote in other posts that the Lilith Fund “exists to help pregnant mothers murder their babies” and “murder innocent unborn children.”
The Lilith Fund then followed up these reactions with a defamation suit against Dickson in June 2020, citing that he connected them with “literal, criminal murder” and that Right to Life East Texas was engaging in a “conspiracy to commit defamation.”
The initial actions to dismiss the case under the Texas Citizens Participation Act by Dickson and Right to Life East Texas were first moved through the Travis County district court, which did not rule on the motion.
The Seventh Court of Appeals in Amarillo held that Dickson’s statements were opinions and that the case should be dismissed.
The appeal from the Lilith Fund then moved the case to the Texas Supreme Court where they have determined that “considering the context available to a reasonable reader, we hold that the plaintiffs failed to adduce specific evidence that Dickson’s statements were defamatory.”
“We return both sides of the abortion debate to the battlefield of speech where it belongs.” the opinion states.
“We are grateful that the Supreme Court of Texas unanimously ruled that the First Amendment protects speech and advocacy in favor of ordinances that outlaw and criminalize the activities of Texas abortion funds,” Dickson said in a statement to The Texan.
“We will continue to advocate for the criminal prosecution of Texas abortion funds and their donors, who have violated the state’s pre-Roe abortion statutes by aiding or abetting elective abortions in Texas.”
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Cameron Abrams is a reporter for The Texan. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Tabor College and a Master’s Degree from University of the Pacific, Cameron is finishing his doctoral studies where his research focuses on the postmodern philosophical influences in education. In his free time, you will find him listening to a podcast while training for an endurance running event.