North Carolina's Guilford County will be paying pro-life ministry Love Life $15,000 for arresting its members twice in 2020 for praying outside Greensboro's A Woman's Choice abortion clinic.
The Christian Headlines reported that the Guilford County's payment is in settlement of the lawsuit filed by Alliance Defending Freedom in behalf of Love Life, the trade name of Global Impact Ministries, and its members for violating their rights to free speech and religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment. The settlement also involves Guilford County agreeing that Love Life's actions on their day of arrest were under the protection of the First Amendment.
In response to Guilford County's fulfillment of the settlement, Alliance Defending Freedom filed the case's "voluntary dismissal" but will continue to keep the lawsuit against the city of Greensboro. Love Life and its members, on the other hand, have similarly agreed not to push through in demanding damages.
Alliance Defending Freedom recounted in a statement that Love Life President Justin Reeder and other members went to the adjacent property of A Woman's Choice abortion facility on March 28 and March 30, 2020 to pray. The adjacent property's owners have previously given them permission to pray there since they regularly do so.
As per COVID-19 mandate, Reeder and his companions were less than 10 persons when they gathered. They also adhered to the required social distancing of six feet apart and brought along sanitizers for use throughout the prayer. Yet the Greensboro police arrested Love Life's members in March and April 2020 due to claims of violating COVID-19 mandates, particularly for traveling by car and "not by foot and because they traveled from outside the county."
Alliance Defending Freedom said Love Life's members were arrested despite praying peacefully outside the abortion clinic when the police arrived. The said members, more importantly, complied to the county's proclamation "intentionally and carefully." Alliance Defending Freedom also pointed out that the prohibitions cited by the police from the Guilford County emergency proclamation on COVID-19 does not even exist. Greensboro claimed that the said proclamation empowers city authority to prohibit all First Amendment activities.
Alliance Defending Freedom Center For Life Director Denise Harle underscored that the First Amendment rights of citizens are not extinguished because they are protected by the United States Constitution. Harle then urged the city of Greensboro to follow the example set by the county in acknowledging the First Amendment rights of Love Life's members by agreeing to the terms of the settlement.
"The government can concern itself with health and safety and still respect the constitutionally protected freedoms guaranteed to citizens. From the beginning, this case has been about government silencing people because it didn't like what they had to say," Harle said.
"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," she added.