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Ohio Judge Rules Abortion Protests Outside Evangelical Church Must Move

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Anti-choice protesters in Ohio have targeted Vineyard Columbus, one of the largest churches in the state, arguing the church has not done enough in the fight against abortion.

Anti-choice activists are taking their protests to an unlikely place, targeting churches and worshipers leaving Sunday services. So far, courts have disapproved.

First was the case in Colorado, where anti-choice protesters targeted families leaving Easter services, scaring the young children there so badly the state supreme court intervened. Now comes this case from Ohio, where members of the national hard-right Christian group Minutemen United have targeted Vineyard Columbus, one of Ohio’s largest churches, arguing the church has not done enough in the fight against abortion. According to reports, the group targeted the orthodox, evangelical church and the church’s practice of helping patients recover from abortions and accepting gay members into its 8,500-member congregation. The protests included leaflets and large signs calling the church “pagan” with graphic images of purported aborted fetuses.

The church sued, claiming the protesters were trespassing, and on Wednesday Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Charles Schneider agreed, ruling the group had crossed into private property and off a public right-of-way and shut the protests down. “Due to the absence of a sidewalk, a berm or a shoulder on Vineyard’s property, the city has a prescriptive easement only to the edge of the pavement,” Schneider wrote. “The right of way can be no larger.”

Last month, the judge issued a temporary restraining order against Minutemen United while he considered the case. His order on Wednesday made it clear the protesters are not allowed to place “signs or any other object of any type” on Vineyard’s property. The decision is not likely to end protests, simply move them to where the court determined the public right of way on the road to the church ends, which is effectively across the street from the church.

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A member of the Minutemen United, who represents himself in the case, told reporters for the Columbus Dispatch he expected the ruling would be appealed.

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