The Right to 'Pray in Peace': German High Court Issues Big Abortion Clinic Prayer Ruling
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Germany's highest administrative court has struck down bans against peaceful prayer gatherings near abortion facilities because they violate the country's constitution.
The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig, one of five supreme courts in Germany, ruled on June 20 that bans against prayer vigils outside of abortion clinics encroach upon the constitutional right of freedom of assembly as guaranteed by the Basic Law of 1949, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany.
It is a major win for the pro-life advocacy group 40 Days for Life led by Pavica Vojnović. A regional court already had confirmed the group's right to peaceful assembly in August 2022, but that ruling was appealed by the city of Pforzheim. The new ruling confirms that the city has no appeal.
"I'm truly relieved. Our prayers really help, as affected women have told us over and over. I am grateful that we can continue our prayer vigils. Every human life is precious and deserves protection," Vojnović said in a press release. Vojnović's legal defense was supported by ADF International, a faith-based nonprofit law firm.
"The court in Leipzig has once again made clear that peaceful prayer vigils cannot be banned. In view of the clear findings of the court, the federal government would be well advised to abandon its plans to massively restrict fundamental rights in the vicinity of abortion organizations," said Dr. Felix Böllmann, director of European advocacy for ADF International.
"The ruling upholds the fundamental importance of freedom of assembly and expression in the public square," Böllmann added. "The court has affirmed the fundamental right of Pavica and her group to come together to pray in peace. It is duplicitous and misleading to advance bans on prayer gatherings in the name of protecting women. The harassment of women is always, and already, a crime in Germany."
Tomislav Cunovic, Vojnović's lawyer noted "freedom of assembly and expression are cornerstones of democracy and the rule of law."
"That is why blanket bans on prayer assemblies based on mere allegations are contrary to fundamental rights. The courts have recognized this. Standing up for unborn children and peacefully expressing this opinion in front of abortion facilities cannot be banned by powerful lobby groups like Pro Familia," Cunovic said.
The high German court's ruling stands in contrast of the German government's plans to ban prayer vigils near abortion facilities.
Federal Minister for Family Affairs Lisa Paus has repeatedly announced a plan to restrict prayer and support services through "legal measures" in the vicinity of abortion-related facilities. Paus also plans to abolish section 218 of the German criminal code, which regulates abortions.
As CBN News reported in May of 2021, Vojnović explained she was shocked to hear in 2019 that the local municipality had suddenly denied permission for their group to hold vigils near the Pro Familia pre-abortion advisory center.
Twice a year, around 20 people had gathered to pray for the women considering abortion, and the lives of their unborn children. The vigils took place for 40 days– silently and peacefully.
Despite Vojnović applying for and being granted all of the necessary permissions for their previous vigils, the city of Pforzheim prevented them from praying near the facility for several years.
The group was not preventing anybody from entering the building, nor were they blocking the pavement in the surrounding area. The prayer vigils were peaceful throughout the 40 days. When monitored by the police at the request of "Pro Familia", no violations were found; and yet, the management of the pre-abortion counseling center requested that the vigil be moved some distance away, or banned altogether.
Pro Familia is the German arm of Planned Parenthood which provides abortion-related counseling and performs and financially profits from abortions throughout Germany, according to ADF International.
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