In settlement of a lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of several pro-life citizens whom police arrested for engaging in peaceful prayer and sidewalk counseling outside an abortion facility, Guilford County officials have agreed that engaging in pro-life advocacy on public sidewalks is protected by the First Amendment.
In the settlement, the county also agreed to pay $15,000 toward the pro-life members’ attorneys’ fees, and to uphold citizens’ First Amendment rights in any future proclamation order related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pro-life advocates agreed to forgo seeking damages from the county.
Law enforcement officials for the city of Greensboro and Guilford County claimed the arrests of several members of the Christian, pro-life ministry Love Life in March and April of last year were warranted because they violated the county’s emergency proclamation related to COVID-19. However, Love Life members had carefully adhered to all provisions of the proclamation, only engaging in activities that complied with the county’s order. In light of the settlement, ADF attorneys have filed a voluntary dismissal of the county from the case, which is still active against the city of Greensboro.
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“The government can concern itself with health and safety and still respect the constitutionally protected freedoms guaranteed to citizens,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life. “From the beginning, this case has been about government silencing people because it didn’t like what they had to say. If abortion businesses could stay open to perform elective abortions during the pandemic, Christians abiding by health and safety guidelines should certainly be allowed to pray outside. We commend Guilford County officials for agreeing to respect the free speech rights of Love Life members and acknowledging their freedom to pray and speak in the public square, and we invite the city of Greensboro to do the same.”
On March 28, 2020, and March 30, 2020, Love Life President Justin Reeder and a few other representatives of the organization walked near A Woman’s Choice abortion facility to pray both on public property and on adjacent private property where Love Life regularly prays with the property owners’ permission.
Mindful of the Guilford County COVID-19 proclamation, Love Life ensured that, at all times, fewer than 10 individuals were present in its group, that they were spaced at least six feet apart, and that they were equipped with sanitizer, as required by the social distancing provisions of the proclamation.
ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Global Impact Ministries v. City of Greensboro, with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Scott Gaylord, one of more than 3,500 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case on behalf of Love Life, which is the name under which Global Impact Ministries operates.