City of Columbus Aims to Restrict Pro-life Prayer
City Council Considers Ordinance that Targets Pro-life Activity
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Katherine Franklin
DATE: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 PHONE: 614-547-0099 ext. 304
COLUMBUS, Ohio—This week, the Columbus City Council considered a municipal ordinance that targets pro-life activity outside of abortion facilities. The ordinance prohibits assault around abortion facilities, activity which is already prohibited under city, state and federal laws. Unique to this ordinance is the inclusion of a prohibition on speech that “annoys” or “inconveniences” another, jeopardizing the right to peacefully pray and counsel outside of abortion facilities.
“As if stealing from the playbook of a junior high school clique, the Columbus City Council is decreeing that our right to free speech ends where someone else’s annoyance begins,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life. “Columbus’s grassroots pro-life volunteers repeatedly show love and compassion to all those surrounding abortion facilities without incident. They know the law, and they are well-versed in having prayerful, civil dialogue with their neighbors, especially in times of disagreement.”
The ordinance would criminalize pro-life activity that another perceives as annoying or inconvenient with sanctions up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. This ordinance is based on House Bill 408, legislation which was introduced in the Ohio General Assembly in the last several months.
“’Annoyance’ is not grounds for denying a constitutional right,” said Gonidakis. “The Columbus City Council needs to immediately reconsider whether it wants to fight for such a blatantly unconstitutional law. Free speech–the free exchange of ideas–is the bedrock of civil society. Though this ordinance targets the activity of the pro-life grassroots community, all groups should object to a proposal that could just as easily be turned around on them.”
Greater Columbus Right to Life holds a regular, prayerful presence outside of the abortion facilities of central Ohio. They are inviting supporters to sign their petition in opposition to Municipal Ordinance 1458-2016. To sign their petition, click here. The next city council meeting is scheduled for June 20.
Founded in 1967, Ohio Right to Life, with more than 45 chapters and local affiliates, is Ohio’s oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization. Recognized as the flagship of the pro-life movement in Ohio, ORTL works through legislation and education to promote and defend innocent human life from conception to natural death.