Pro-life members of a Christian church in Brooklyn are celebrating after winning a years-long legal battle with the state of New York, which accused them of committing violence and making threats outside a Queens abortion clinic.
The state leveled the allegations against Rev. Kenneth Griepp and ten members of his Church At The Rock in Brooklyn’s southeastern Canarsie neighborhood.
The pro-life advocates fought a legal battle for four and half years after former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a federal lawsuit against them in June 2017.
The Thomas More Society, which represented the pastor and the members of his church, argued that the case was an “assault” on their First Amendment rights.
The group of pro-life sidewalk counselors has been coming to Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens, on Saturday mornings to peacefully offer information and alternatives to abortion since 2012, their attorneys said. Schneiderman accused the group of harassing women who were entering the abortion facility.
On Tuesday, the state filed a dismissal of the charges in federal district court.
“We are pleased to see the state of New York has finally come to its senses and dismissed these baseless charges,” said Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Stephen Crampton in a statement.
“Justice has finally prevailed,” the attorney said.
Crampton said the state aggressively pursued the case, “using hidden cameras, undercover investigators, and even a fake Facebook account posing as the page of a pro-life advocate” in an attempt to uncover evidence of wrongdoing.
“They came up with absolutely nothing, but that didn’t stop them from continuing to persecute these gentle Christians,” Crampton said.
In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unexpectedly reversed its decision and affirmed a lower court ruling that favored the pro-life church members.
“The case should never have been brought in the first place,” Crampton said. “But the pro-abortion lobby is powerful in New York, and classless politicians like former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and current Attorney General Letitia James are only too happy to waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars prosecuting – or persecuting – Christians seeking to exercise fundamental First Amendment rights on the public sidewalks. Our clients’ only ‘crime’ was speaking out for the unborn, an unpopular and dangerous viewpoint in New York City.”
Church At The Rock describes itself on its website as a “non-denominational Christian Church” whose pastors are “committed to presenting the truth each week without compromise through preaching and teaching based upon the Word of God.”
While the litigation was still ongoing, Rev. Griepp described what the pro-life sidewalk counselors aim to accomplish when they go to the abortion clinic.
“For the past nine years, members of our church have gone out on Saturday mornings to one of the largest abortion clinics in New York City and lawfully pleaded with moms and dads to protect the lives of their unborn children. We offer information and tangible help for any needs they may have,” Griepp said.
“Our clients are peaceful, law-abiding Christians who care deeply for the innocent children in the womb being ruthlessly slaughtered in this huge abortion clinic,” said Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Martin Cannon, who also worked on the case. “They also care for the women, many of whom have been bullied and lied to in order to coerce them into aborting their own children.”
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