A North Carolina county has agreed to pay a pro-life ministry $15,000 in attorneys' fees as part of a settlement involving arrests of several citizens outside an abortion clinic, according to a legal group that represents the ministry.
The settlement between Guilford County and the pro-life ministry Love Life ends part of a controversy that began on March 28 and 30, 2020, during the early weeks of the pandemic. On those days, police arrested Love Life members for allegedly violating COVID-19 restrictions outside A Woman’s Choice abortion clinic in Greensboro. The members were praying and conducting sidewalk counseling, although they insisted they were following CDC recommendations for social distancing.
Alliance Defending Freedom sued the county and the city of Greensboro on behalf of the ministry and the members, asserting that the police’s actions violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and religious liberty.
As part of the settlement, Guilford County agreed that the ministry’s actions are protected by the First Amendment. The county also will pay $15,000 in attorneys’ fees. ADF agreed to file a dismissal of the case, while the ministry’s members agreed not to seek damages.
ADF’s lawsuit against Greensboro is still active.
“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. “From the beginning, this case has been about government silencing people because it didn’t like what they had to say. 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,” Harle added.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Caspar Benson
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.