Christians Arrested for Praying Outside Abortion Clinic Fight for Their Rights in Court

On Tuesday, a pro-life Christian organization sued Greensboro, N.C., and the surrounding Guilford County after members of the group were arrested for praying outside an abortion clinic. They were abiding by the social distancing rules in the county's Emergency Proclamation. Local police arrested the Christians for supposedly violating the order set in place to fight the coronavirus when they were not.

After the law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent the city a demand order to halt these attacks, the city doubled down. It even altered the order to single out religious speech.

Global Impact Ministries, which runs the pro-life charity Love Life, sued Greensboro on Tuesday. ADF is representing Global Impact Ministries in the suit, which accuses the city of violating many constitutional rights: the free exercise of religion, free speech, due process, freedom of expressive association, equal protection of the laws, and the right of religious Americans not to be targeted for their religion under the Establishment Clause.

"The government can’t allow some people to walk and talk on sidewalks and then say that these pro-life citizens can’t walk and pray there. This was never about public health and safety; it was about the government silencing people because it doesn’t like what they have to say," Denise Harle, senior counsel at ADF, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

Both Global Impact Ministries and ADF support the government's coronavirus restrictions, but they argue that praying outside an abortion clinic did not violate them.

"While we support the efforts of authorities to prioritize the public’s health and safety, people of faith can’t be singled out as the city has done here. If abortion businesses can stay open to perform elective abortions during the pandemic, Christians who abide by health and safety guidelines should certainly be allowed to pray outside," Harle added.

The lawsuit makes six claims against the city and the county. The suit explains that Love Life halted its usual practice of silent prayer walks conducted by volunteers and encouraged any volunteers who wish to walk individually to do so while abiding by CDC social distancing requirements. However, Love Life staff continued to engage in prayer walking and other efforts to save the lives of the unborn.

Even so, police threatened to arrest Love Life volunteers outside the abortion clinic Woman's Choice of Greensboro on Saturday. Also that day, they arrested Love Life founder Justin Reeder, Love Life attorney Jason Oesterreich, Carl Ubinas, and Isaiah Burner, charging them with violating the stay-at-home order. Reeder, Osterreich, and Ubinas were charged with one count of Resist Delay Obstruct Public Officer. Reeder, Osterreich, and Burner were arrested again on Monday, along with Leroy Stokes Jr., Andre Gonzalez, Richard Whittier, and John Mcatee.

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