Religious liberty is once again under attack in the Golden State. In October of this year, an Anglican pastor was arrested while praying outside of an abortion facility. If convicted, the priest may be be fined and spend up to 90 days in jail simply for exercising his First Amendment rights.
On Friday, October 7, 2016, Fr. James Linton was arrested while standing on a public easement, talking to a mother outside of the San Bernardino Planned Parenthood facility, which has erected a wall to hinder sidewalk counselors from speaking to abortion-vulnerable women and families. Inspired by the videos released last year by the Center For Medical Progress, documenting Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby body parts, Fr. Linton has spent time outside the abortion facility every Friday for over a year now, attempting to save the lives of the preborn by praying for people going to the facility, and by offering them alternatives to abortion.
Police held Fr. Linton for six hours and cited him for interfering with a business, and the San Bernardino County District Attorney General formally charged him with violating Penal Code section 602.1 (a) (interfering with a business).
The arrest of Fr. Linton is outrageous. Fr. Linton certainly did not interfere with Planned Parenthood’s ability to conduct its business. Rather, he simply offered assistance and alternatives to its patrons that could save the lives of their precious babies. In fact, the code section under which Fr. Linton was charged, specifically exempts from criminal liability, those who are engaging in activities that are protected by the California and the United States Constitution.
There appears to be zero basis for prosecuting Father Linton. Though charged with interfering with a business under state law, he does not appear to have interfered with the abortion facility in any way. Moreover, the state statute explicitly exempts activity (like Father Linton’s public prayers) which is protected by the federal and state constitutions. There’s no reason why this prosecution should have occurred at all–whether due to animosity, ignorance, or something else.
The Life Legal Defense Foundation intends to defend Fr. Linton, and stated a readiness to defend other sidewalk counselors in similar circumstances in the future.