A group of North Carolina Christians filed a lawsuit against Greensboro authorities this week after being threatened with arrest while praying outside a city abortion clinic.
The Triad City Beat reports the lawsuit accuses Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan and police Lt. Dan Knott of violating the pro-lifers’ constitutional rights through their enforcement of a Guilford County stay-at-home order.
The plaintiffs, Pastor David Troyer, Jolene Troyer, Paul Nisley and Josiah Chavez are represented by the Thomas More Society. All of the individuals are involved in Love Life, a pro-life ministry that encourages peaceful, prayerful, law-abiding outreach outside abortion facilities.
On March 28, Nisley, Chavez and Jolene Troyer said they were praying for moms and unborn babies on the sidewalk outside a Greensboro abortion facility when police arrived. According to the lawsuit, police told them to go home or they would be arrested for violating the county stay-at-home order; and they complied.
Later that day, four other pro-lifers with Love Life went to pray outside the abortion facility and were arrested. As LifeNews.com reported, seven pro-life Christians also were arrested on March 30 outside the abortion facility. None of them are part of the lawsuit.
“Due to the threats and the arrests made by the Greensboro Police Department, plaintiffs are fearful of exercising their constitutionally protected rights … arrest and being charged with a crime,” the lawsuit states.
It accuses the city mayor and Lt. Knott of violating the pro-lifers’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. It asks for a temporary restraining order so the pro-life advocates can continue to pray outside the abortion facility.
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“Prayer is still legal during this pandemic,” said Stephen Crampton, senior counsel at the Thomas More Society. “Greensboro’s Mayor Vaughan should be ashamed of herself for using the cover of this national crisis to attack public expressions of religious faith that she disagrees with. If Mayor Vaughan were truly interested in saving lives, she would shut down this abortion clinic, which is using up critical personal protective equipment needed for the COVID-19 response.”
Vaughan told the local news that she has not looked closely at the lawsuit yet. She said they are trying to balance people’s constitutional rights with their health and safety during a global health pandemic.
“It is a countywide stay-at-home order asking people to restrict travel, not speech,” Vaughan told the news outlet.
Though abortions are not essential or life-saving, many states are allowing abortion facilities to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, non-essential medical procedures, travel, religious services and other activities are being restricted.
Love Life leaders said they respect the police and local authorities, and they have been trying to abide by the restrictions to keep people safe. However, they said they cannot give up their ministry as long as unborn babies’ lives are at stake.
“At least 20 children were brought to that abortion center to be murdered [Saturday],” the pro-life organization said in a statement. “If children are continuing to be murdered in these abortion centers, the Church must be present.”
Love Life encourages prayer and peaceful, respectful outreach to people outside abortion facilities. It centers its mission around the principle of “loving our neighbor” by offering resources and hope to mothers, fathers and their babies.
According to Love Life, pro-life sidewalk counselors helped save at least six unborn babies from abortion Saturday in New York City and Charlotte.
“Until the doors of abortion centers are closed, we are encouraging and challenging The Church and all Christians across this nation to start prayer walking individually at their local abortion centers where innocent lives are being taken,” the organization said. “Let’s be diligent to practice social distancing while we prayer walk. ”