Pavica Vojnović (right) and Lidia Rieder outside the Mannheim court. / ADF International
CNA Newsroom, Sep 1, 2022 / 03:50 am (CNA).
Silent prayer gatherings near an abortion counseling facility cannot be prohibited, a German court ruled Wednesday.
The decision lifts a ban issued in 2019 by the city of Pforzheim in southwest Germany and upheld in May 2021 by a lower court decision.
The Mannheim Administrative Court ruled on Aug. 31 that “authorities could only make an assembly dependent on such a condition if public safety would be directly endangered if the assembly were held. This was not the case here.”
The prayer organizer welcomed the decision.
“Every human life is valuable and deserves protection. I am heartened that we will be able to resume our prayer vigils in support of women and their unborn children in the place where we think it makes the most sense,” said Pavica Vojnović.
The pro-life activist led the prayer vigils by the group 40 Days for Life.
Pavica Vojnović takes part in a 40 Days for Life event in Pforzheim, Germany. Credit: ADF International.
Vojnović brought the legal appeal in defense of the fundamental rights to freedom of religion, expression, and assembly with the support of the human rights organization ADF International.
Pro Familia, a member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, runs the center.
“This is a clear victory not just for 40 Days for Life but also for all concerned with the protection of fundamental human rights. The German people have the right to peaceful assembly and expression, including silent prayer, on their public streets,” said Lidia Rieder, legal officer for ADF International, who has supported Vojnović’s case.
In 2019, the local municipality in Pforzheim, in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, denied the prayer group permission to hold vigils near the center.
Twice a year, around 20 people gathered to pray for 40 days for women facing abortion and their unborn children. Vigil participants did not prevent anybody from entering the building or blocking the pavement in the surrounding area.
When the advisory center asked police to monitor the activists, they found no violations. But the center’s management asked that the vigil be moved some distance away or banned altogether.
The organization 40 Days for Life was founded by David Bereit in 2004 as a local pro-life advocacy group in Bryan-College Station, Texas. The group has grown into an international organization, holding Christian campaigns of prayer and activism to end abortion.
The court decision in Germany follows a recent victory for UK grandmother, Rosa Lalor. She was arrested while walking and silently praying near an abortion facility in Liverpool during the COVID lockdown. The prosecution dropped all charges after a protracted legal ordeal.
“The silencing of pro-life expression, including prayer, is a reoccurring issue across Europe. When the government starts prohibiting silent prayer in certain places, we enter the business of policing thought crimes — a frightening proposition for all. It is imperative that we diligently uphold our fundamental freedoms in public spaces, standing against attempts to undermine peaceful assembly and the expression of one’s convictions,” said Felix Böllmann, senior counsel for ADF International.