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Global Impact Ministries v. City of Greensboro

Description:  Greensboro, N.C. police arrested several Christians for engaging in peaceful prayer outside an abortion facility, claiming that they were in violation of a Guilford County emergency proclamation related to the coronavirus crisis. Police arrested members of the Christian ministry Love Life because they traveled by car and not by foot and because they traveled from outside the county—prohibitions found nowhere in the proclamation or in any law. The city also claimed that the proclamation gives the city authority to prohibit all First Amendment activity, which is also untrue. Love Life members intentionally and carefully engaged in their activities to comply with the proclamation.

Monday, Oct 10, 2022

GREENSBORO, N.C. – In settlement of a lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed on behalf of several pro-life citizens who were arrested for engaging in peaceful prayer and sidewalk counseling outside an abortion facility, Greensboro city officials admitted that the pro-life citizens were cited for their “exercise of constitutionally protected First Amendment rights.”

As part of the settlement, the city agreed that the First Amendment protects engaging in pro-life advocacy on public sidewalks and further agreed to uphold citizens’ First Amendment rights in any future proclamation order related to a public-health emergency like COVID-19. Based on the city’s admission of wrongdoing and guarantees of future protections, the pro-life advocates—members of the Christian, pro-life ministry Love Life—agreed to forgo seeking damages from the city. The Love Life members include Justin Reeder, Carl Ubinas, Jason Oesterreich, Isaiah Burner, Andre Gonzalez, Leroy Stokes, Jr., Richard Whittier, and Jon McAtee. In light of the settlement, ADF attorneys filed a joint stipulation of dismissal Friday in the case, Global Impact Ministries v. City of Greensboro. Guilford County settled its portion of the lawsuit in February.

“According to Greensboro officials, praying while walking was not allowed because of COVID-19. Clearly, this case was never about public health and safety; it was about the government silencing people because it didn’t like what they had to say,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life. “That said, we commend the city for finally agreeing to respect the free speech rights of Love Life members and acknowledge their freedom to pray and speak in the public square, just like every other citizen’s.”

Law enforcement officials for the city of Greensboro and Guilford County originally claimed the arrests of the Love Life members in March and April of 2020 were warranted because they violated the county’s emergency proclamation related to COVID-19. However, Love Life members had carefully adhered to all provisions of the proclamation, only engaging in activities that complied with the county’s order. Through the advocacy of ADF, the city finally admitted that “the City of Greensboro issued citations for [Love Life members’] exercise of constitutionally protected First Amendment rights and thereafter arrested [them].”

Scott Gaylord, one of more than 4,600 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, served as local counsel in the case on behalf of Love Life, which is the name under which Global Impact Ministries operates.

  • Pronunciation guide: Harle (HAR’-lee)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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ABOUT Denise Harle

Denise Harle serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is the director of the Center for Life. Prior to joining ADF, Harle served as deputy solicitor general in the Office of the Florida Attorney General, where she drafted appellate briefs and presented oral arguments on behalf of the state in a wide variety of constitutional cases, including defending the constitutionality of pro-life laws. In 2017, she participated in the prestigious Supreme Court Fellow program, sponsored by the National Association of Attorneys General. She clerked for Justice Ricky L. Polston on the Florida Supreme Court and worked for several years as an appellate litigator at a large firm in California. Harle earned bachelor’s degrees, summa cum laude, in psychology and interdisciplinary social science from Florida State University, a master’s degree in political science from Stanford University, and a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law. At Duke, she served as the executive editor of Law & Contemporary Problems. A member of the state bars of California, Florida, and Georgia, she is admitted to multiple federal district and appellate courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

ABOUT Kevin Theriot

Kevin Theriot serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where he is a key member of the Center for Life Team working to defend pro-life laws and speech and protect medical rights of conscience. He has litigated cases in the areas of religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family. Theriot is admitted to the bar in eight states, the U.S. Supreme Court, and numerous other federal courts of appeal and district courts. Theriot received his law degree from Vanderbilt University and has been litigating First Amendment issues since 1993.