A preliminary injunction has been granted to allow a pro-life group to pray outside of a doctor's office in Eastern Carolina that performs abortions.
The Thomas More Society says its attorneys and those for the city of Jacksonville agreed to a preliminary injunction that will allow prayer and demonstration to resume at the entrance to the clinic. The agreement, which will be in effect until the city amends its ordinances, was reached on the eve of a hearing on the matter before U.S. District Judge Terance W. Boyle.
Attorneys for the city and the Thomas More Society have pledged to collaboratively work towards an amicable resolution to the lawsuit.
"We are pleased the city of Jacksonville has agreed to allow the demonstrators to continue their ministry during the lawsuit. This is a big victory for the First Amendment rights of pro-life people everywhere," said Peter Breen executive director and legal counsel for the Thomas More Society. "We are hopeful for a successful resolution of this lawsuit that will protect First Amendment rights for the long term."
The dispute arose when lead plaintiff, Dr. Bartolo Spano, along with other local residents were forbidden from praying and picketing outside the front entrance of the Crist Clinic for Women.
The Thomas More Society's suit argues that the First Amendment protects these pro-life advocates' right to peacefully protest outside the Clinic.
According to the suit, city authorities had denied the plaintiffs a permit to demonstrate, citing "public safety concerns," including that vehicles may leave the roadway and strike the demonstrators. This city has conceded that its Parade and Public Assembly Ordinance will need to be amended.
You can read the entire injunction by clicking on the related link.
Anti-abortion protesters say Jacksonville's ordinance violates their free-speech rights by giving police too much leeway in deciding where and when demonstrations are permissible.
Police Chief Michael Yaniero said Thursday safety reasons dictated that demonstrators had to gather on sidewalks away from their desired spot in front of a women's clinic that performs abortions. He says the site is on a tight road curve and unsafe for picketing.
The federal court case filed this week alleges Jacksonville's public assembly ordinance unconstitutionally restricts free speech by requiring a police permit for protests that involve three or more people. The case filed on behalf of seven residents of Craven County and the Craven-Pamlico Christian Coalition complains the ordinance virtually ensures that public speech isn't possible free of government regulation.