On Tuesday, June 8, I was arrested on a public sidewalk leading up to Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C. This marked the first time that First Amendment activities, which include prayer, had been banned and prohibited on the public sidewalk in the nation’s capitol.
I have read with great interest much of the conversations and discussions about my arrest on blogs, Facebook and social network sites. Vigorous and passionate debate is always a good and positive thing. Of course, they must be tempered with civility and respect.
Another key ingredient is the facts. No discussion can move forward in a positive direction without a strong understanding of the facts. In this blog, I will try to “set the record” straight concerning my arrest at Planned Parenthood and attempt to clear up some of the misinformation and inaccuracies about the events on June 8.
I have been involved in prayerful and prophetic witness at the Planned Parenthood clinic on 16th Street in Washington, D.C. since the 80′s. Big hair, big shoulder pads and Culture Club were in style. Can anyone say Boy George?
At the time, Planned Parenthood told everyone that the land surrounding their building was “private property.” That property included a concrete sidewalk about 50 ft. long and two grassy areas on either side of the walkway. We had no reason to doubt that Planned Parenthood was not telling the truth.
Fast forward to the late 90′s. During that time, myself and several other pro-life leaders were charged with a federal law called “The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act” under President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno.
That law is commonly called FACE.
During the course of our federal trial, our legal team discovered something amazing. The property surrounding Planned parenthood was not “private” as they asserted but it was “public.”
I know that sounds hard to believe but Planned Parenthood was not telling the truth about the nature of the property surrounding their building. Hmmm. Sounds familiar but I am not quite there yet.
So, after I won a federal injunction case against the Department of Justice that land around Planned Parenthood was opened up for people to exercise their First Amendment rights. They could sidewalk counsel. Pray. Hold peaceful pro-life witnesses.
Over the past years, thousands in the pro-life community exercised their constitutional rights to free speech, worship and prayer.
All of that changed, however, several weeks ago.
Planned Parenthood applied for a public permit to put up a metal fence along the property on 16th Street. It is important to notice they had to get the permit because it was “public property.” Many commercial and residential owners put up “decorative” things around their building all the time.
Washington, D.C. has a unique zoning system. Even though the City owns the property around your home or business (public property) you still have to maintain it. Such a deal for the City, huh.
This is the exact situation concerning the land around Planned Parenthood. The City owns it but Planned Parenthood has to maintain it. And, very important. The land behind the fence at Planned Parenthood still remained public!
It is critical to understand this. Putting up the fence did not change the nature of the land. Only a change of zoning could do that and that would require months and perhaps years of public hearings, City Council meetings, etc.
None of that every happened. But, we had to be sure. So our legal team, the American Center for Law and Justice, did extensive and diligent research on the nature of that property. After many conversations, discussions and meetings the city told us the land was still public.
In fact, there is not one piece of documentation, paper or record from the City of Washington , D.C. showing that property has changed from public to private.
By the way, after winning a dozen Supreme Court cases I think the American Center for Law and Justice know their stuff. Don’t you?
Many of you have commented about the signs of the fence saying “Private Property” and “No Trespassing.” Those signs were put up by Planned Parenthood. Not the City of Washington, D.C.
That sign is just as offensive as the signs that were displayed all across the south in the 50′s and 60′s which said, “Whites Only.”
And if just putting up a sign makes something “legal,” I am going to put a sign in front of my house saying, “Everyone who passes by must contribute $100 to the Mahoney’s.”
Remember, this is the same Planned Parenthood that said years earlier the land was private property even though it wasn’t.
Oh, one other thing about those “Private Property” signs. Planned Parenthood has put them up without legal permission and we are now working to have them removed.
Now here is where the troubling and disturbing part really kicks in. For some unknown reason, Washington, D.C. police officers began threatening to arrest sidewalk counselors and persons praying on the public sidewalk leading up to Planned Parenthood. The land behind the fence.
Many of those people have been praying and sharing Christ on that sidewalk for years.
When we found out about this, we knew something had to be done. We could not allow free speech and prayer to be banned on the public sidewalk in our nation’s capital.
We have been working diligently for weeks. Praying. Seeking God. Developing a legal strategy. We felt the best way was to challenge it in court if I was arrested. In this way, we could subpoena Planned Parenthood and District City officials to get the truth of what is really happening.
Just a few points about my arrest. When I first got there, the Police Commander had no idea if the sidewalk leading to Planned Parenthood was public or private. In fact, he asked me to wait several minutes to check in with DC officials.
The Commander also asked Planned Parenthood “not” to arrest me because they were not sure of the exact nature of the land. Now don’t you think after weeks of discussion and negotiations, the City of Washington, D.C. would have known the nature of that property on the day I was coming.
Sadly after much discussion, City attorneys decided that I should be arrested. It has to be stressed again, neither Planned Parenthood, the Washington, D.C. Police Department or City officials could produce one piece of evidence or documentation that the land has indeed now become private property.
Before I was arrested, I told the Commander that if he could show any official information that the land was private I would stay outside of the fence.
He could not.
Ok, I see I am already over 1,ooo words so I have to stop soon. But many were concerned when the Police Commander told me to leave that I should have obeyed. It is important to remember that as citizens and Christians were are only obligated to obey “lawful orders.”
For example, you would not stop reading your Bible if a police officer told you to. Or, if a law enforcement official told you to sell drugs you would not obey. The same principle applies with my arrest.
I have not yet addressed the “spiritual reasons” for the arrest but I will get to that in my next blog. If you have any questions, please ask me and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Blessings and Jesus Christ is King!