Christian legal group: Slovenian court ruling against pro-lifers a ‘blow’ to free expression

The advertising campaign by pro-life NGO Zavod ŽIV!M in Slovenia The advertising campaign by pro-life NGO Zavod ŽIV!M in Slovenia. | ADF International.

A court ruling against a pro-life group in Slovenia delivered “a blow” to the right to free expression, a Christian legal group said Thursday.

Adina Portaru, senior counsel for ADF International, criticized the judgment by the country’s Administrative Court against the pro-life NGO Zavod ŽIV!M.

The court held that municipal authorities did not discriminate against the group when they ordered the removal of a pro-life advertising campaign from buses belonging to a state-owned company in 2018.

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of every free and democratic society. These innocuous statements and pictures of a happy family, a grieving mother, and a woman holding a pregnancy test should not have been censored,” Portaru said on Dec. 9.

Slovenia is a central European country bordering Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia with a population of 2.1 million people, around 72% of whom are Catholics.

The Advocate of the Principle of Equality, the country’s national equality body, had previously ruled that Zavod ŽIV!M suffered discrimination when the authorities ordered the bus company to remove the ads just over a week into a months-long campaign.

The ads featured images of parents kissing a baby, a weeping mother, and a woman holding a pregnancy test, with the phrases “We love life,” “You are not alone,” and “I mourn my child.”

ADF International.
ADF International.

After the ruling, the bus company sued the Advocate of the Principle of Equality.

The Administrative Court criticized the equality body’s judgment and asked it to reconsider the case.

Portaru said: “We hope, that on reexamination, the Slovenian Advocate of the Principle of Equality will reaffirm that removing the bus ads amounted to discrimination and infringed on Zavod ŽIV!M’s right to freedom of expression.”

Tomaž Pisk, the lead lawyer representing Zavod ŽIV!M, said that the group should be allowed to share its messages without censorship.

“In sharing their convictions and affirming the inherent dignity of life, Zavod ŽIV!M were exercising this fundamental right. They believe that every life is valuable, and this message should not be discriminated against or censored,” he commented.

Darja Pečnik, the director of Zavod ŽIV!M, said: “Every life is valuable. We want to stand by women in crisis, especially those facing unplanned pregnancies or the loss of a child. Our bus ads were meant to show them that they are not alone.”

“We are disappointed that the court agreed with the bus company that removed the ads. Our message, which celebrates life, should be celebrated, and instead we have faced discrimination for it.”

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