Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thomas More Society and City of Wilmington Affirm Pro-Lifers’ First Amendment Rights

40 Days for Life to continue peaceful prayer vigil
(October 10, 2014 – Wilmington, DE) – Yesterday evening, Thomas More Society secured assurances from the city of Wilmington, DE, that the participants of 40 Days for Life Wilmington are lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights by conducting a peaceful prayer vigil on public property and need not obtain any permits to do so. In the first ten days of 40 Days for Life’s Fall Campaign, peaceful pro-lifers in front of the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Wilmington, DE, had received several threats of citation from city officials and police. In response, Thomas More Society attorneys had demanded that the city of Wilmington respect the pro-lifers’ First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly would be respected by the city.
“We are grateful that we have been able to resolve this issue with the city of Wilmington in a swift and amicable fashion,” said Jocelyn Floyd, associate counsel for the Thomas More Society. “Pro-lifers should not be forced to apply for a permit or otherwise fear being threatened simply for carrying out their First Amendment rights on public property. The response we have received is an affirmation both for the pro-lifers in Wilmington and for all who are conducting 40 Days for Life vigils around the country.”
On Wednesday, September 24th, as 40 Days for Life Wilmington participants were conducting their kick-off event with music and prayer on public property in front of Planned Parenthood, a “business compliance/license inspection” officer approached them and claimed that they could not be on the public sidewalks without a permit. Wilmington police officers also instructed 40 Days for Life coordinators that they were not allowed to have musicians playing live music as part of the prayer vigil. Officers repeated that admonition when a small group of acoustic musicians attempted to play in front of the abortion clinic over a week later.
Thomas More Society and special counsel James Haley of Ferrara and Haley in Wilmington clarified to the city that the 40 Days for Life peaceful activities should not require a permit. The city’s response letter acknowledged that the pro-lifers had not violated any city ordinances and assured that their peaceful prayer vigil, music, and sidewalk counseling on the public property outside Planned Parenthood do not require a permit, contrary to what officers had previously told the group.
“When the city official told us we couldn’t be on the sidewalks without a permit, we thought at first that we might have to leave,” said Julie Easter, 40 Days for Life Wilmington coordinator. “But I am extremely grateful that Thomas More Society has provided legal counsel and that the city of Wilmington has affirmed our rights to conduct the 40 Days for Life prayer vigil. In the last week alone, we have been blessed to save two babies from abortion and to share pregnancy resources with their mothers.”

Thomas More Society provides legal counsel for 40 Days for Life across the country, to uphold the pro-lifers’ expression of free speech and free assembly through peaceful prayer vigils and sidewalk counseling.
Thomas More Society demand letter here.
City of Wilmington response letter here.