We were peacefully protesting an abortion clinic with signs. An officer arrested us. Does this violate our religious freedoms?

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Question:

Members of my church and I recently picketed across the street from an abortion clinic.    Shortly after we arrived, a young policeman came along and told us we had to go home. We had obtained the necessary permits and were just peacefully picketing with our signs when this happened. Did this officer violate our religious freedom rights?

Answer:

Based on the facts you’ve shared and assuming your group did not (1) behave in a disorderly fashion or (2) seriously compromise the clinic’s entrances or exits, it sounds like your rights to religious freedom of expression and to peaceably assemble may have both been violated.

If you want to pursue this religious freedom issue in the courts, possibly to guarantee your right to do the same thing in the future without interruption, you should seriously consider hiring a civil rights attorney. Furthermore, the First Amendment forbids the government from taking away “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

Should you want or need to avoid the expense of hiring an attorney, you might want to consider picketing on your church’s own property. If you’re trying to get your message across to the general public and not just those with immediate abortion clinic appointments, that might work out just as well. Your other alternative might be to contact the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain their legal opinion of your situation.

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