Can a local authority ban silent prayer on the streets? This is the question asked by the ‘40 Days for Life’ group in Pforzheim, Germany, who were prohibited from gathering to peacefully pray near a pre-abortion advisory centre. The case will be heard in national court.
“I want to be there to pray, not for myself, but for the vulnerable women contemplating abortion, and for their unborn children,” said Pavica Vojnović.
“This topic really touches my heart, as I know the pain of losing a child. Our society must offer better to mothers in difficult situations. Every life is valuable and deserves protection. Surely a simple prayer for the vulnerable cannot be banned?”
Ms Vojnović, with the support of human rights organisation ADF International, is seeking justice in court to restore her fundamental rights to freedom of religion, assembly and speech.
Ms Vojnović, the leader of the prayer group, had been shocked in 2019 to hear that the local municipality had suddenly denied permission for their group to hold vigils near the centre.
Twice a year, around 20 people had gathered to pray for the women facing abortion, and the lives of their unborn children. The vigils took place every day for 40 days – silently and peacefully. Despite Ms Vojnović applying for and being granted all of the necessary permissions for their previous vigils, the municipality has prevented them from praying near the facility for the past two years.
Ms Vojnović and her group were not preventing anybody from entering the building, nor were they blocking the pavement in the surrounding area.
The prayer vigils were peaceful throughout. When monitored by the police at the request of ‘Pro Familia’, no violations were found; and yet, the management of the pre-abortion counselling centre requested that the vigil be moved some distance away, or banned altogether.
Silencing of the pro-life message has been a reoccurring issue across Europe – from censorship zones around abortion facilities to the exclusion of “pro-life” student voices on university campuses.
ADF International is advocating to protect the work of pro-life volunteers and prayer groups like Ms Vojnović’s. The human rights organisation hope that the outcomes will restore freedom of speech, assembly and religion, as well as enable prayer and support for vulnerable women and their children.
“What kind of society withholds prayer for vulnerable women and children? By prohibiting even silent prayer near a pre-abortion counselling centre, the Pforzheim authorities have gone beyond what could be considered reasonable or proportionate,” said Dr Felix Böllmann, legal counsel for ADF International.
“Freedom of speech is the foundation of every free and fair democracy. Pavica and her group have a deeply-held belief on abortion. To hold this belief is a fundamental right, as is the right to express this through peaceful assembly. Whether or not they agree with Pavica’s views, everyone can support the importance of these foundational protections.”
Picture: Ms Vojnović prays with other pro-lifers in Pforzheim, Germany. (ADF International).