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Court upholds German municipality’s pro-life prayer vigil ban

Pavica Vojnović, leader of the pro-life prayer vigils in Pforzheim, Germany Pavica Vojnović, leader of the pro-life prayer vigils in Pforzheim, Germany./ ADF International.

A German court dismissed on Friday a challenge to a municipality’s ban on a prayer vigil in front of a pre-abortion advisory center.

CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported that the Karlsruhe Administrative Court handed down the judgment on May 14.

The challenge was spearheaded by Pavica Vojnović, who led the prayer vigils outside the Pro Familia advice center in Pforzheim, southwest Germany, organized by the group 40 Days for Life.

Pro Familia is a member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Reacting to the court’s decision, Vojnović said: “Every life is precious and deserves protection. I am saddened that we are prevented from supporting vulnerable women and their unborn children in prayer.”

“It saddens me that the court has dismissed our lawsuit, thus indirectly approving the ban on our silent prayer vigils near the abortion counseling center.”

In 2019, the local municipality in Pforzheim, in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, denied the prayer group permission to hold vigils near the center.

Twice a year, around 20 people had gathered to pray for 40 days for women facing abortion and their unborn children. Vigil participants did not prevent anybody from entering the building or block the pavement in the surrounding area.

Pavica Vojnović takes part in a 40 Days for Life event in Pforzheim, Germany. Credit: ADF International.
Pavica Vojnović takes part in a 40 Days for Life event in Pforzheim, Germany. Credit: ADF International.

When the advisory center asked police to monitor the activists, they found no violations. But the center’s management asked that the vigil be moved some distance away or banned altogether.

The organization 40 Days for Life was founded by David Bereit in 2004 as a local pro-life advocacy group in Bryan-College Station, Texas. The group has grown into an international organization, holding Christian campaigns of prayer and activism to end abortion.

Felix Böllmann, legal counsel for ADF International, a Christian legal group that supported Vojnović’s legal challenge, said: “We regret the court’s decision, which restricts freedom of expression, assembly, and religion.”

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“We are still awaiting the reasons for the verdict, but the dismissal of the case obviously fails to recognize that freedom of expression is the foundation of any free and fair democracy. What kind of society denies prayer to women and children in need?”

Pavica Vojnović, who had led pro-life vigils in Pforzheim, southwest Germany. / ADF International.
Pavica Vojnović, who had led pro-life vigils in Pforzheim, southwest Germany. / ADF International.

He continued: “The fact that the Pforzheim authorities had banned even silent prayer near the abortion counseling center is not proportionate. Having a belief is a fundamental right, as is the right to express that belief through peaceful assembly or to pray silently in public.”

“Regardless of whether one shares their views in substance or not, there should be agreement that the fundamental rights to freedom of expression, religion, and assembly enjoy the protection of the Basic Law.”

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Vojnović added: “Our society needs to provide better support to mothers in difficult situations. This issue touches me deeply because I have accompanied many women through this pain.”

“This is about more than our group in Pforzheim, namely also about whether prayer-free zones are allowed to exist, or whether one is allowed to hold different opinions in public space. That’s why we want to continue.”

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