An injunction for harrassment was recently granted against a local pro-life advocate and leader of 40 Days for Life, a campaign working to end abortion through prayer, fasting and peaceful vigil, that could keep him from volunteering near Affiliated Medical Services on Farwell Avenue until Dec. 17, 2017.
But Dan Miller, with the help of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society, a national public interest law firm, and local lead counsel from a Brookfield-based law firm, will appeal the injunction that stems from a Temporary Restraining Order Milwaukee Police served Miller June 19, 2012, at the request of Alan Keltner.
Miller said Keltner, a volunteer for Affiliated Medical Services, is “very aggressive, more than most,” while Miller and volunteers are on the sidewalk counseling women heading into the abortion clinic. The injunction hearing came after an event that happened involving 40 Days for Life volunteers and Keltner in October.
“He approached one of our vigiler’s three daughters and began to occupy their personal space uncomfortably close and took it upon himself to give them a completely inappropriate sex education class … ” Miller said, explaining he knew who Keltner was and wanted to make others who brought children to pray with them aware of his actions.
“In case I wasn’t there, and I mean typically I am there, but I wanted to cover all the bases I guess, and equip our people, arm them with knowledge – certain knowledge of who this guy was and what kind of behavior was typical for him here and in the past – so I broadcasted his home address and his name in one of my emails and let them know what I thought of the guy and gave people a heads up, ‘If you don’t want to expose your children to this kind of evil, come on any other day other than a Friday morning.’”
Miller said one thing led to the next.
“He made up charges about me about physical contact, pushing, shoving, kicking, hitting, that sortof thing. I mean, I’ve been down there for four years straight and I have a completely clean record. I know what the rules are. I’m a big guy,” said Miller, who’s 6’7’’ and 290 pounds. “I need to be more cognizant of that no-contact rule than anbody else, not only because I’m the leader of 40 Days for Life, but also because of my physical presence.”
Keltner, who has volunteered at Affiliated Medical Services for two or three years helping women keep their appointments at the clinic, said he would refer your Catholic Herald to the trascript of the court hearing for information regarding the injunction.
He said he wants the law to be followed and the alleged intimidation, stalking and harrassment to stop.
“Both the women entering the clinic and I have rights against harrassment and stalking, and the Milwaukee County court has reaffirmed these rights and has ordered those people who have been harrassing and stalking me to cease,” Keltner said, explaining that the court didn’t rule on anything related to what happened on Oct. 11, but that they ruled on intimidation, harrassment and stalking. “They don’t have the right to frighten me, my family, and to intimidate people and this is why the court issued the four-year injunction, and I just want the harrassment, the stalking and the intimidation to stop.”
Keltner said the church has to do its part to stop it, too.
“The problem is the Thomas More Society and the Catholic Church continue to provide aid and support for those who’ve been found guilty here of harrassment and stalking and intimidation, and I think the Catholic Church is carrying a pretty heavy burden for its past support for those who violated the law and sought protection within the church,” he said. “… look, Pope Francis is doing his best to try to redirect the focus of the church, and I only wish that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will recognize its moral obligation to do its part to stop the harrassment and stalking and intimidation.”
Miller has said farewell to Farwell for now, because the injunction prevents him from being anywhere Keltner is – whether it’s the sidewalk or grocery store. “There’s nothing stopping this guy from showing up on any day that he doesn’t normally go down there, from taking a trip down there when I’m sidewalk counseling on the days that he normally isn’t there, just to get rid of me, so this is an egregious use of the law to silence my constitutionally protected First Amendment free speech rights,” Miller said, noting that they have a very good track record of a peaceful, prayerful presence and are taking the injunction very seriously because if it can happen to him, he wonders, “Who’s next?”
Miller said his lead counsel is confident by appealing the injunction, granted Dec. 17 by a commissioner after hearing Keltner’s side only, he will get a more fair and just hearing because they couldn’t cross examine his witness or present contradictory evidence that day. They will have that chance with the appeal.
This is the fifth case involving 40 Days for Life the Thomas More Society has taken; it helped with previous cases in the last four years, for things like disorderly conduct, all of which were thrown out.
Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society in Chicago, said he is happy to help Miller, who he described as a “big, tall guy who looks like a Green Bay Packer but he’s got a very gentle disposition.”
“It’s a classic First Amendment case where they’re accusing him of all kinds of false charges really,” Brejcha said. “It’s a fella who’s an ‘escort’ who volunteers for the abortion facility to prevent the ministry of Miller and other folks there who are trying to give women a choice by presenting the alternatives. The whole idea of choice presupposes an alternative. That’s what they do, is offer alternatives and help and so forth.”
Brejcha said the hearing on Tuesday was “complete denial of due process.”
“The procedural errors and the misapplication of the law were egregious in our view so we think that this result will be reversed.… They’re simply transparent attempts to supress the pro-life advocacy and the people who are there to offer alternatives to abortion,” Brejcha said. “Dan Miller is a hero. I mean he’s saved many, many lives. This is a life-saving mission that he’s on.”
Brejcha said by appealing the injunction, Miller will have another hearing – likely in February – where they will start from scratch and what happened in the lower court counts for nothing.
“We’re very optimistic, and we’ll give the law and facts very agressively and look for justice,” he said.
Helen Michaletz, Respect Life coordinator at St. Francis Borgia Parish, Cedarburg, who has been involved in 40 Days for Life since before Miller, said she is willing to testify in court, if necessary, regarding Keltner’s comments to her 9-, 10- and 12-year old daughters who had prayed with her at the abortion clinic in October, on a day off from school, during the 40 Days for Life campaign.
“Nobody goes skipping down to the abortion clinic, but they weren’t – I wasn’t dragging them. They’d done it before,” she said, explaining that Miller warned her that Keltner may target her children.
Michaletz said she wasn’t worried, but felt uncomfortable when Keltner came over and told her he was going to take a picture of her children and publish it some place.
She, Miller and another person created a barrier around the children until he left, she said.
Michaletz said Keltner returned, upsetting her daughters and her, the other prayer participants and Miller.
“He came over and started saying to my daughters, ‘I’m going to tell you what your mom and dad did to make you,’ … he’s going to tell them about the sexual act, and of course, I was very upset, naturally, by that, and my daughters were extremely upset,” Michaletz said, explaining that her daughters were “literally sobbing” from the visits he made to them, saying things like he would teach them about birth control so they’d never have to visit the abortion clinic.
Michaletz had never experienced anything like that.
“It’s just hard to watch somebody try to bully a 9-, 10- and 12-year-old girl who are holding rosaries standing there,” she said.
Michaletz said her daughters are willing to go back.
Miller hopes to return to Farwell, though he’s looking at this injunction as a blessing in disguise for now as he concentrates his efforts at Planned Parenthood on North Jackson Street.
Miller’s willing to learn what God wants to teach him through this injunction.
“My great-uncle Jim was a World War II glider pilot. He was shot down over seven times. He always used to tell me, ‘You know you’re over your target when you’re receiving a lot of flak. That’s exactly what this is – what we’re doing as a pro-life community is working. … ” he said, noting that in the last year abortions have decreased by 26 percent in Milwaukee County and that more pro-life laws have been passed as a nation.
“Our society is starting to see the truth of the pro-life initiative, of the pro-life message that abortion does kill children. Abortion does hurt women. Abortion does destroy families, so the tide is turning and any time we see this type of thing from a spiritual lens, we know when Satan lashes out like this at us, we know that we’re over the target. … To me this is completely a sign that we’re at the cusp of something absolutely beautiful, something great is going to happen out of this – that much I know,” he said.