GOOD NEWS: German Court upholds freedom of assembly: prayer group can pray near abortion facility
On the 20th of June, the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig ruled that blanket bans against peaceful prayer gatherings near abortion organisations were impermissible. With this ruling, the legal issues end for a local prayer group in Pforzheim, which are challenging the bans since 2019. Germany’s highest administrative court has protected freedom of assembly, but Federal minister for Family Affairs Lisa Paus is planning to introduce censorship zones around abortion organisations.
While the Federal Administrative Court’s decision has upheld the Freedom of Assembly, the federal government still has stated plans to ban prayer vigils.
The prayer group in Pforzheim had already won the ruling at a regional court, which had confirmed the group’s right to peaceful assembly in August 2022. That ruling was appealed by the city of Pforzheim, but the new ruling confirms that the city has no appeal.
“I’m truly relieved. Our prayers really help, as affected women have told us over and over. I am grateful that we can continue our prayer vigils. Every human life is precious and deserves protection,” said Pavica Vojnović, leader of the prayer group, after the decision was handed down.
In 2019, the city of Pforzheim prohibited the group from praying within "eye and earshot" of the abortion organisation Pro Familia. Vojnović, the group’s leader, challenged the prohibition at court, arguing that it violated their right to freedom of assembly.
“Freedom of assembly and expression are cornerstones of democracy and the rule of law. That is why blanket bans on prayer assemblies based on mere allegations are contrary to fundamental rights. The courts have recognised this. Standing up for unborn children and peacefully expressing this opinion in front of abortion facilities cannot be banned by powerful lobby groups like pro familia,” said Tomislav Cunovic, Pavica Vojnovic’s lawyer.
In the 2022 ruling, the Mannheim Administrative Court ruled that: “freedom of assembly … is constitutive for a free democratic state order.”
In the Federal Administrative Court’s decision, the judges affirmed: “It follows from the fundamental right to freedom of assembly that the holders of this right, in particular the organiser, may determine the place, time, type and content of the assembly.” The court firmly rejected prohibiting free expression: “Prohibitions for the purpose of preventing certain expressions of opinion because of their content are all the more excluded.”
Picture: Courtesy of ADF International