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Challenging a prayer ban in Pforzheim, Germany


Topic | Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Religion

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. Pavica Vojnovi, 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. Pavica now plans to appeal the decision. 

Pavica Vojnović

Germany, Verwaltungsgerichts Karlsruhe

Advocacy Team:
Felix Böllmann, Lidia Rieder

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"Whether or not they agree with Pavica’s views, everyone can support free speech, peaceful assembly and freedom of religion."

Case Summary

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.

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