Washington, D.C. – City officials in Washington D.C. have backed off their threats to arrest Christians praying on a sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic after they determined that the sidewalk is indeed a public one.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition, was arrested for peacefully praying and reading the Bible on the disputed sidewalk on June 8, 2010, after Planned Parenthood erected a fence and posted "no trespassing signs" and their company logo on it earlier this year.
In 1999, when Operation Rescue was involved in litigation with the Justice Department, it was discovered that the property in front of the Planned Parenthood building, including the sidewalk leading up to the door, was public. Since then, for over a decade, pro-lifers have peacefully offered help to abortion bound women on the public sidewalk leading to the door of the abortion clinic.
The illegal fence on public property interfered with the ability of sidewalk counselors to reach abortion-bound women with offers of practical help, and prevented the free exercise of First Amendment rights such as praying and picketing.
The City's decision acknowledging that the property is public came on the eve of a project called "A Time to Stand," in which pro-life activists from around the country were coming to challenge the ban on free speech and were willing to risk arrest for public prayer.
Activists will still gather in front of Planned Parenthood on Saturday, August 14, at 10:00 A.M. to pray, worship and counsel on the public sidewalk and embrace the First Amendment and religious freedom.
Planned Parenthood is located at 1108 16th Street NW in Washington D.C.
"This episode shows the lack of integrity and commitment that Planned Parenthood has to the First Amendment and the truth. They constantly lied about the nature of that sidewalk saying it was 'private' when they knew it was public. It should remind every American if an organization has no respect for the dignity and sanctity of life why would they respect the dignity of free speech?" said Rev. Mahoney.
"Now that Planned Parenthood's lie has been exposed, it is time for the City to demand that the signs that falsely claim the public land as private property be removed and that the illegal fence be torn down," said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.
"We encourage everyone that can to attend tomorrow's gathering in front of the Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C. to exercise their legal right to pray and offer help to abortion-bound women there. If we ignore our rights, you can bet that Planned Parenthood will be more than happy to try to take them away again so that they can continue the unabated abortion innocent babies. We must assert our rights not for ourselves, but on behalf of the babies that would surly perish if we were not allowed to make a public stand against the killing."
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