The federal 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on August 26 affirmed the right of pro-life protesters to peacefully assemble outside of an abortion provider in Queens, New York.
The New York attorney general’s office had placed unsubstantiated charges of making threats and harassment against members of the Church at The Rock, located in Brooklyn, related to peaceful protests outside the abortion facility.
The accused church members, including pastor Kenneth Griepp, are represented by The Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Senior counsel Stephen Crampton said that the decision was a “great win, to be sure.”
Crampton said that the case was always about politics and that the attorney general has wasted public funding pursuing invalid claims and persecuting Christians who were obeying the law.
The opinion from a three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld an earlier ruling by federal District Judge Carol Amon. Judge Amon, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, had denied New York’s motion for an injunction against the pro-life activists.
The Court of Appeals initially ruled in favor of the attorney general, granting the injunction against the church members prohibiting their sidewalk assembly. In an unusual decision this May, the court granted the church members’ request for a rehearing and allowed the parties to file additional legal briefs. That rehearing led to last week’s order now affirming Judge Amon’s decision to deny the injunction.
The case now returns to Judge Amon’s court for a full trial on the case’s merits. The constitutionality of New York City’s Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act is one of the topics expected to be addressed.
Attorneys for the Thomas More Society have argued that the state’s case must fail because the law in question violates the First Amendment rights of sidewalk counselors who have been coming to the Queens abortion facility since 2012 to peacefully speak to women entering the building and offering materials describing abortion alternatives.