Court declares German city’s restrictions on pro-life prayer vigil unlawful

40dayforlifegermanyimg_199.jpg A 40 Days for Life event in Pforzheim, Germany. | ADF International.

A court has declared a German city’s restrictions on a pro-life prayer vigil in front of a pre-abortion advisory center unlawful.

In a Dec. 16 judgment, the Frankfurt am Main Administrative Court ruled that limits on when and where members of the 40 Days for Life prayer group could meet were incompatible with the right to free assembly.

The group had registered in 2020 to hold a 40-day prayer vigil outside the Pro Familia advice center in Frankfurt am Main, in the German state of Hesse, from noon to 4 p.m.

But city authorities ruled that the group could only gather in the immediate vicinity of the center outside of opening hours.

The group was told to hold the prayer gatherings further away during office hours and forbidden to make conversation with people visiting the center or hand them flyers.

The court found that the order contravened the right to freedom of assembly set out in Article 8 of Germany’s Basic Law, CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, reported.

“This guarantees the holders of fundamental rights to determine the place, time, type, and content of the assembly themselves,” said a Dec. 16 court press statement.

“The restrictions ordered by the city encroached on this right. The court could not see any justification for this.”

The statement added that there was “no protection against confrontation with other opinions.”

The ruling was welcomed by Pavica Vojnović, a pro-life leader currently appealing against a ban on prayer vigils outside the Pro Familia advice center in Pforzheim, a city in the state of Baden-Württemberg.

Felix Böllmann, legal counsel for ADF International, a Christian legal group supporting Vojnović’s legal challenge, said: “We welcome the court’s ruling in Frankfurt which protects the fundamental freedoms of speech, expression, and assembly.”

“The people making an effort to protect the right to life should not have been prohibited from peacefully exercising these freedoms in the first place.”

“We are hopeful that this ruling will set a positive example for cases such as Ms. Vojnović’s.”

CNA Deutsch reported earlier this month that the Pforzheim appeal was granted in the same week that Germany’s new federal government announced plans to target “pavement harassment by anti-abortion activists.”

The incoming government is a three-party coalition formed by the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), with the pro-business Free Democrats and the environmentalist Greens as its partners. It is nicknamed “the traffic light coalition” because the parties’ colors are red, yellow, and green respectively.

The coalition agreement contains a chapter entitled “Reproductive Self-Determination” that promises to strengthen the “right of women to self-determination.” It also describes free abortions as part of “reliable health care,” CNA Deutsch reported.

40 Days for Life was founded in 2004 by David Bereit 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.

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Over 40 days, participants hold a 24/7 prayer vigil outside of a single abortion facility in the community. The organization also engages in community outreach, through partnerships with churches and door-to-door petitions.

The Frankfurt am Main Administrative Court’s judgment is not final and may be appealed.

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