A pro-life ministry won its legal battle against a North Carolina county after activists were arrested for praying outside an abortion clinic.
In March 2020, members with Love Life/Global Impact Ministries engaged in peaceful prayer outside of A Woman's Choice abortion clinic. Police in Guilford County and Greensboro detained the individuals, alleging that they were not in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.
While outside the clinic, Love Life made sure there were no more than 10 people present in its group and that they were spaced six feet apart. Activists adhered to the social distancing guidelines and carried hand sanitizer with them.
At the time of the arrests, county officials said they would stand by the seizure because activists traveled by car and not by foot from outside the county. They also claimed that the COVID order gave them the authority to prohibit all First Amendment activity.
Those restrictions were not found in the guidelines or in any law.
Guilford County has now agreed to pay $15,000 toward attorney fees incurred by the pro-life members and vowed to uphold citizens' First Amendment rights should a future COVID-related order come out.
"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."
Harle added, "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."