Germany’s top court for disputes between citizens and the state has ruled in favour of a pro-life group that had been banned from praying near an abortion clinic.
In their decision, the Leipzig-based Federal Administrative Court determined that blanket bans against peaceful prayer gatherings near abortion organisations are impermissible.
“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 leader of 40 Days for Life, Pavica Vojnović.
A regional court had already confirmed the group’s right to peaceful assembly in August 2022, but it was appealed by the city of Pforzheim. The new ruling means that the city has no appeal.
Vojnović’s legal defense was supported by ADF International. According to the legal group, the Federal Administrative Court’s decision stands in contrast to the federal government’s stated plans to ban prayer vigils near German abortion organisations.
ADF says federal minister for family affairs Lisa Paus is planning to introduce censorship zones and had announced a nationwide ban on prayer vigils and offers of support to pregnant women. Paus also plans to abolish section 218 of the German criminal code, which regulates abortions.
“The court in Leipzig has once again made clear that peaceful prayer vigils cannot be banned. In view of the clear findings of the court, the federal government would be well advised to abandon its plans to massively restrict fundamental rights in the vicinity of abortion organisations,” stated Dr. Felix Böllmann, German lawyer and director of European advocacy for ADF International.
The 40 Days for Life group had met twice a year to hold silent prayer vigils in front of a Pro Familia abortion counselling facility—the German arm of Planned Parenthood. They may now lawfully do so, backed by the rulings of the court that the “freedom of assembly … is constitutive for a free democratic state order.”