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German court upholds ban on prayer vigil near abortion organization

  • German court fails to protect rights to freedom of religion, assembly and speech
  • Leader of “40 Days for Life”- initiative plans to appeal decision

PFORZHEIM/KARLSRUHE (17 May 2021) – Prohibitions on silent prayer gatherings in the proximity of an abortion organization may remain – so indicates a German court’s ruling on 12 May, which dismissed the challenge of the leader of a prayer initiative to have restrictions on their prayer vigils lifted. The leader of the “40 Days for Life”- group in Pforzheim, Germany, had challenged the ban on the grounds of their right to freedom of religion, assembly and speech. The group is prohibited from gathering to peacefully pray in the proximity of a Pro Familia abortion organization, the German affiliate of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a global multi-billion pro-abortion lobby group.

“Every life is valuable and deserves protection. I am shocked that we are being prevented from supporting vulnerable women and their unborn children in prayer. It’s discouraging to hear that silent prayer vigils in a public place are restricted by local authorities. Our society must offer better support to mothers in difficult situations. This topic really touches my heart, because I’ve stood by many women who have suffered the pain of losing a child. This is about more than our group in Pforzheim. It’s about whether prayer-free zones are lawful, or whether one is allowed to represent different opinions in the public square. That is why we want to continue fighting for this freedom,” said Pavica Vojnović, who, with the support of the human rights organization ADF International, will continue to seek justice in court to restore her fundamental rights to freedom of religion, assembly and speech.

Prayer vigils for the vulnerable prohibited in certain public spaces

Pavica Vojnović, the leader of the prayer group, had been shocked in 2019 to hear that the local municipality had suddenly denied permission for their group to hold vigils near the pre-abortion advisory centre. Twice a year, around 20 people had gathered to pray for the women facing abortion, and the lives of their unborn children. The vigils took place for 40 days– silently and peacefully. Despite Pavica applying for and being granted all the necessary permissions for their previous vigils, the municipality has banned them from praying near the facility for the past two years. Pavica and her group were not preventing anybody from entering the building, nor were they blocking the pavement in the surrounding area.

The prayer vigils were peaceful throughout. When monitored by the police at the request of “Pro Familia”, no violations of any law were found; and yet, the management of the centre requested that the vigil be moved some distance away, or banned altogether.

“We regret the court’s decision, which restricts freedom of expression, assembly and religion. We are still awaiting the reasoning for the verdict, but it is obvious the dismissal of the case fails to affirm freedom of expression, which is the foundation of every free and fair democracy. What kind of society restricts prayer for vulnerable women and children? By prohibiting even silent prayer near an abortion organization, the Pforzheim authorities have gone beyond what could be considered reasonable or proportionate. Whether or not people agree with Pavica’s views on the sanctity of life, everyone can support the importance of the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion, and assembly,” said Felix Böllmann, legal counsel for ADF International.

Censorship growing across Europe

Silencing of the “pro-life” message has been a recurring issue across Europe – from censorship zones around abortion facilities to the exclusion of “pro-life” student voices on university campuses. Find out more. ADF International is advocating to protect the work of pro-life volunteers and prayer groups like Pavica’s.

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