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Waco Christians Vindicated

Waco Christians Vindicated

Dear Champion of the Lord and the Unborn,

The Lord richly bless you! The God of all justice came to the aid of his people who have stood upon His word in the face of tyranny in the city of Waco . Yesterday, 18 Christian Pro-lifer's were finally vindicated by a local court here in Waco . My wife, due to her illness, was dismissed from the case. However, the seventeen that remained were cleared of all charges against them. We see once again that those who persevere in this battle will be vindicated al last.

The federal lawsuit against our city was struck down by an "enemy of the cross" judge in Austin . Our AFA attornies read some portions of his ruling. They were disturbed by his utter contempt, ridicule, mockery, and scorn against Christians who stood for righteousness, liberty, and the gospel in our city. We are working on getting a copy so concerned Christians and citizens can see first hand the desperate need to impeach judges who, under the color of law, mock and seek to destroy our liberties.

I'm calling our attorney today, Rick Nelson, from Orlando to file another federal lawsuit against the city of Waco and Planned Parenthood on the behalf of Elijah Ministries. We have documented evidence that for the last ten years, on four seperate occasions, our city formed an unholy alliance with Planned Parenthood to censure the gospel and deny us our constitutional rights. Prayerfully, between the victory yesterday, the AFA federal lawsuit that will be appealed, and our separate lawsuit the stronghold of Planned Parenthood and our city will be broken once and for all. Keep storming the gates and continue your prayers for my wife and this ongoing struggle in our city.



Charges against abortion protesters dismissed

By TERRI JO RYAN Tribune-Herald staff writer

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

McLennan County Court-at-Law Judge Tom Ragland dismissed the charges Monday against 18 defendants in a case that pitted preachers and other abortion opponents against a year-old city ordinance regulating the time, place and manner of demonstrations in school zones.

Ragland deliberated less than one hour after a daylong retrial of the case before dismissing the charges against three preachers, their followers and other community activists opposed to Planned Parenthood's Columbus Avenue clinic, where abortions are performed each Wednesday morning.

Ragland did not explain his ruling, which did not kill the city ordinance.

"This is such a mark of liberty in our city again," said the Rev. Ronnie Holmes, senior pastor of Church of the Open Door. "The voice of freedom is not muzzled. The voice of the voiceless will be heard in Waco."

"We appreciate Judge Ragland's conduct of the trial and how he abided by the law," said Stephen Crampton, chief counsel with the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy. The Tupelo, Miss.-based organization affiliated with the Rev. Don Wildmon has represented the protesters since midsummer, taking over from the original counsel, Christian Law Association of Seminole, Fla.

About two dozen anti-abortion demonstrators regularly offer "sidewalk counseling" as area women head into the clinic Wednesday mornings, the only day the Planned Parenthood facility on Columbus Avenue offers abortions.

Activists sing hymns, pray, preach the Gospel and often hand out written materials to dissuade women from going through with the procedure. Holmes said that people have been making this weekly vigil for more than a decade, "as a last voice to help a woman in a crisis time in her pregnancy."

Even with the compromise worked out with city officials to avoid further citations, using a "wing-span" standard of keeping demonstrators at least an arm's length apart to avoid the definition of "group" in the ordinance, Holmes reported that the activists have been periodically successful in persuading an abortion client to change her mind. The pastors and others were cited by the city in March 2004 for violating an ordinance adopted a month earlier that prohibits "street activity and parades," including demonstrations, in school zones during certain hours. They had refused to disperse when ordered by Waco police.

Planned Parenthood's Audre Rapoport Women's Health Center on Columbus Avenue is located across the street from Waco Montessori School. In November 2003, a group of anti-abortion activists from Wisconsin created a public outcry for displaying large photographs of dismembered fetuses on the sidewalks surrounding the school. That event was cited by many as the impetus for the city ordinance.

Waco Police Chief Alberto Melis, called by the defense, said that the Missionaries to the Pre-Born's Texas road trip, which they also called "The Gates of Hell" tour, "may have" led to the development of the ordinance. He added that he was not consulted on its wording, just its enforcement. He admitted the ordinance was "not easy to interpret," so that is why he hand-picked the patrol officers he wanted to handle the citations.

'Emotionally charged'

"It was an emotionally-charged subject and I wanted level-headed officers," Melis said. Violation of the city ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500 but no jail time.

Chris Taylor, the assistant city attorney, said during the trial that "ample evidence" was provided that the defendants knew they would be cited if they did not leave the scene. The U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that sometimes the greater good requires restrictions of time, place and manner in the exercise of free speech, Taylor added. "It doesn't matter to the regulation what comes out of your mouth or is on your sign or T-shirt."

Monday's dismissal of city charges against local anti-abortion forces comes three weeks after a federal judge in Austin sided with the city of Waco on its right to pass an ordinance to protect children in school zones during certain hours. Attorneys for anti-abortion activists say they are appealing the latter judgment.

The federal lawsuit was filed in June 2004 by three plaintiffs alleging their civil rights had been violated because the ordinance was an unconstitutional restriction on their rights of free speech and peaceable assembly.

The ordinance was needed to reduce traffic hazards and didn't target any particular school or group, according to City Attorney Art Pertile. The curtailment of some rights for a short period of time, he said, was reasonable and in the best interests of public safety and the welfare of children.

But plaintiffs Carolyn Knowles, Joe Rodriguez Jr. and Brenda Telles said the ordinance was too vague and overreaching in its definitions, giving rise to arbitrary enforcement and censorship.

In response to the federal lawsuit, Doel Garcia, leader of Waco Right-to-Life, said, "This is what happens when you have un-elected, unaccountable judges."

Garcia was one of the defendants who won the case Monday.

Terri Jo Ryan can be reached at 757- 5746 or tjryan@wacotrib.com.