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by Fern Shen11:26 amMar 1, 20240

Baltimore to pay $275,000 to far-right Catholic group after trying to cancel 2021 rally

Church Militant won its case against the Scott administration and held its “prayer rally” at the Inner Harbor, but continued to seek legal fees

Above: Church Militant founder, Michael Voris, forced to resign from the group in November. (YouTube)

Baltimore has agreed to pay $275,000 to settle a lawsuit by St. Michael’s Media, Inc. stemming from the city’s attempted cancellation of the Michigan-based group’s 2021 rally at the Inner Harbor.

Announced in the wake of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, with speakers including one-time Trump White House official Steve Bannon, the event was to take place at the city-owned MECU Pavilion at Pier Six.

Citing security concerns, as The Brew reported at the time, the administration of Mayor Brandon Scott informed the far right group, also known as Church Militant, that it was canceling the event.

St. Michael’s, known for its anti-immigrant, anti-gay ideology and virulent attacks on the Catholic Church, sued the city in federal court, seeking a preliminary injunction and monetary damages. The suit named Scott and then City Solicitor James L. Shea personally.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander sided with St. Michael’s, finding that the city’s action infringed on its rights to free speech and assembly.

The 4th U.S. Court of Appeals upheld Hollander’s decision, and the event took place, as planned, on November 16, 2021.

Counter protesters showed up, chanting “Sexist, racist, anti-gay, born-again Christians go away!” But there were no violent clashes.

Legal wrangling with the city went forward, however, as Church Militant sought to recoup legal fees and other costs.

One of the rally speakers, extreme-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, said at the time of the rally that it cost the group $350,000 in legal fees to “force the city of Baltimore to obey the law.”

In documents filed as part of the proposed settlement, set for Board of Estimates approval next Wednesday, the city Law Department sought to minimize the final amount to be paid as a result of mediation.

“The amount sought to settle this matter is less than a quarter of the alleged attorney’s fees and costs expended by plaintiff thus far,” the law office asserted.

Founder Fired

While the settlement comes as a victory for Church Militant, the group and its founder, Michael Voris, have lately been embroiled in controversy.

Voris, who headed the organization at the time of the rally, resigned in November for an unspecified violation of its morality clause.

Last week, the Washington Post published a story citing documents and interviews with staff revealing that “employees had complained that Voris had sent shirtless workout photos of himself to Church Militant staff and associates.”

“Somehow, things have gotten out of control”  – former Church Militant leader, Michael Voris.

The article also noted the irony of the scandal, pointing to Voris’ use of Church Militant to “wage war” on LGBTQ+ people and causes as part of its opposition to secular liberals and moderate Catholics.

In a December 15 email to supporters, the group’s board not only acknowledged Voris resignation, but disclosed an independent audit of his financial management, according to The Post.

Confirmed speakers for a November rally at Baltimore's Inner Harbor that has been canceled. (churchmilitant.com)

Confirmed speakers for a November 2021 rally at Baltimore’s MECU Pavilion that had been planned by the far-right Catholic group. (churchmilitant.com)

Meltdown Accelerates

The multiple setbacks represent a dramatic turn for the organization that at one time boasted more than 300,000 YouTube subscribers, dozens of employees and $2.2 million in annual revenue.

A recent report by The Catholic Review described a defamation lawsuit and money troubles that led Church Militant to sell its two office buildings in Ferndale, Michigan, and contemplate shutting down operations altogether.

Voris acknowledged the situation at a December hearing in the defamation case filed against him in federal court in New Hampshire.

“Somehow, things have gotten out of control,” he told U.S. District Judge Joseph N. LaPlante.

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