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Challenging a prayer ban in Pforzheim, Germany


Topic | Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Religion

Silent prayer gatherings in the vicinity of an abortion counseling facility are lawful and cannot be prohibited – so ruled a German court on 31 August 2022. This follows a previous ruling in which a lower court upheld prohibitions on prayer vigils on the public street near a Pro Familia abortion counseling facility. Pavica Vojnovi, the leader of the 40 Days for Life group in Pforzheim, Germany, had challenged the ban on the grounds of the group’s right to freedom of religion, assembly, and speech. Prohibited from coming together to pray by the facility since 2019, the court has reaffirmed their right to gather peacefully to pray in the place of their choosing.

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, was shocked in 2019 to hear that the local municipality had suddenly denied permission for her 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 banned them from praying near the facility. 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 were found; and yet, the centre requested that the vigil be moved some distance away, or banned altogether.

“We welcome the court’s judgment, which reaffirms freedom of assembly and other fundamental freedoms as the foundation of a free democracy. This is a clear victory not just for 40 Days for Life, but also for all concerned with the protection of fundamental human rights. The German people have the right to peaceful assembly and expression, including silent prayer, on their public streets,” said Lidia Rieder, legal officer for ADF International.

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