A county in North Carolina settled with members of a pro-life group earlier this month after they were arrested for praying and counseling outside of an abortion clinic, according to a Thursday press release.
The groups Cities4Life and Global Impact Ministries had several members praying and attempting to counsel women going to an abortion clinic in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in April 2020, and following the arrest Alliance for Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit days later, according to the Thursday press release. Cities4Life and the county settled on March 17 that the pro-life group has the right to “peaceful advocacy on public sidewalks and public streets” in line with the First Amendment.
The county had previously cited the pandemic as one of the reasons for the arrest, arguing that there were too many people in a small area, but agreed in the settlement that if any similar “order or “emergency regulation” was put in place again, the county would also provide an exemption for First Amendment activities including “religious or spiritual worship” or “speech and assembly.”The county also agreed to pay $20,000 as a settlement payment for damages, attorney fees or costs incurred by the pro-life groups due to the arrest and the subsequent lawsuit.
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Denise Harle, senior counsel and director of the Center for Life with ADF, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the case had been a perfect example of “abuse of government power.”
“David Benham and members of two pro-life organizations were arrested for peaceful prayer and sidewalk counseling in front of an abortion facility,” Harle said. “The same policy that was used against them even permitted picnicking and golfing – but apparently not praying while walking. The government took advantage of a crisis to silence speech it didn’t like, and now, three years later, the county has agreed that even during a crisis, banning the First Amendment is not an option.”
Harle noted that while she was pleased that the county had made an effort to resolve the situation, the city has not and that part of the lawsuit is still ongoing.
“We are pleased that the county has finally agreed to respect the basic freedoms of Mr. Benham and the other pro-life citizens, and we invite the city to do the same.”
The county manager’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.