Charlotte Defends Denial of Permit for Pro-Life Rally
Special Report - January 9, 2009
A U.S. District Court heard arguments January 8 in a case filed by Charlotte residents arguing that the city violated their First Amendment rights when it denied an application for a permit to hold an abortion protest. The city filed a motion in July 2008 for summary judgment, which would have the court decide the case without a trial. Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) allied attorney Frederick Nelson, who is representing the plaintiff in Benham v. City of Charlotte, countered with a request to dismiss that motion. The summary judgment was the topic of yesterday’s hearing by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina.
The lawsuit was filed September 20, 2007, after Reverend Philip Benham’s application to the city of Charlotte for a permit for a Roe v. Wade anniversary event was denied. On the permit, the event’s activities included “Evangelical, Gospel proclamation, praise and worship band, local Christian pastors speaking, post-abortive mothers give testimony, call to repentance.” The city, which only allows permits for “festivals” and not for “demonstrations,” argued that the event was a “demonstration” and therefore denied a permit. The lawsuit argues that the city’s designation of the event as such was “purely subjective,” based on its religious nature and therefore violated the First Amendment rights of the applicants.
“Christian groups shouldn’t be prohibited from publicly celebrating their beliefs. The government has no right to increase bureaucracy and discriminate against Christian groups simply because they are religious,” stated Mr. Nelson. “A ruling against Benham would hand government officials the authority to unconstitutionally squelch Christian free speech using arbitrary standards. This would give the city the unbridled power to prohibit public celebrations based on their religious content.”
In related news, the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, which seeks to raise public awareness of the emotional and physical pain that results from abortion through personal stories of men and women who have been involved in abortions, will hold an event at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on Wednesday, January 14. North Carolina Right to Life will sponsor its 10th Annual Prayer Breakfast on Saturday, January 17 in Raleigh followed by a rally and March for Life in Nash Square to protest the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. The 36th Annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. will take place on January 22.
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.