City Tries to Take Away Free Speech Rights of Pro-Lifers Praying at Abortion Clinic

State   |   Tom Ciesielka   |   Oct 10, 2014   |   4:47PM   |   Wilmington, DE

The Thomas More Society secured assurances from the city of Wilmington, Delaware, this week, that the participants of 40 Days for Life Wilmington need not obtain permits to conduct a peaceful prayer vigil on public property.  It was agreed that the group is lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.

In the first ten days of 40 Days for Life’s Fall Campaign, peaceful pro-life advocates praying in front of the Wilmington Planned Parenthood abortion facility, received several threats of citation from city officials and police.  The Thomas More Society attorneys responded with a demand that the city of Wilmington respect the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly.

freespeech2“We are grateful that we have been able to resolve this issue with the city of Wilmington in a swift and amicable fashion,” said Jocelyn Floyd, associate counsel for the Thomas More Society. “Pro-lifers should not be forced to apply for a permit or otherwise fear being threatened simply for carrying out their First Amendment rights on public property. The response we have received is an affirmation both for the pro-lifers in Wilmington and for all who are conducting 40 Days for Life vigils around the country.”

When 40 Days for Life Wilmington participants were kicking off the event with music and prayer on public property in front of Planned Parenthood, a “business compliance/license inspection” officer approached them and told them that they could not be on the public sidewalks without a permit. Wilmington police officers also stated on two occasions to 40 Days for Life coordinators that they were not allowed to include live music in the prayer vigil.

Thomas More Society special counsel James Haley, of Ferrara and Haley in Wilmington, informed the city that the peaceful activities of 40 Days for Life do not require a permit. The city responded with a letter acknowledging that the participants had not violated any city ordinances and assured that the peaceful prayer vigil, along with music and sidewalk counseling on the public property outside Planned Parenthood, did not require a permit, contrary to what the on-duty officers had stated.

“When the city official told us we couldn’t be on the sidewalks without a permit, we thought at first that we might have to leave,” said Julie Easter, 40 Days for Life Wilmington coordinator. “But I am extremely grateful that the Thomas More Society has provided legal counsel and that the city of Wilmington has affirmed our rights to conduct the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil. In the last week alone, we have been blessed to save two babies from abortion and to share pregnancy resources with their mothers.”

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The Thomas More Society provides legal counsel for 40 Days for Life across the country, upholding pro-life advocates’ right to expression of free speech and free assembly through peaceful prayer vigils and sidewalk counseling.

Read the Thomas More Society’s demand letter to the city of Wilmington here.

Read the city of Wilmington’s response letter here.