Charges Dropped Against Man Arrested While Praying Outside Chicago Abortion Clinic

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Published August 04, 2010

| FoxNews.com

The city of Chicago has dropped its case against a man who was charged with disorderly conduct for praying outside an abortion clinic. 

A clerk at the Cook County Court confirmed Wednesday that the case against Joe Holland -- a 25-year-old graduate student arrested while praying the rosary outside a Planned Parenthood facility -- had been dropped. The case gained widespread attention after it was reported by FoxNews.com on Monday.

“We are pleased that the City of Chicago has dismissed these false and baseless charges against Joe Holland,” his attorney, Thomas More Society Executive Director Peter Breen, told FoxNews.com. “The First Amendment protects prayer on a public sidewalk in Chicago the same as in any other city in the country."

The Chicago Police Department had no comment on Holland's dismissal.  Earlier it had contended that Holland violated the city's new "Bubble Zone" ordinance, which prevents people near a health clinic from approaching within eight feet of another person with the intent to speak to them or hand them a leaflet without their consent. It also prevents people from interfering with another person's ability to enter or exit the building.

"According to the report the offender stood within an inch of the victim, prayed out loud at a high volume for over 10 minutes,"  Chicago police spokesman Roderick Drew told FoxNews.com. 

Ultimately, Drew said, Holland was arrested because he "continued to block customer access to the establishment."

Holland denied the allegations, telling FoxNews.com he never stood in front of the door and never moved from where he was seen standing in a YouTube video of the incidentand that if Planned Parenthood had released its security tapes, they would have proven that. 

Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Lara Philipps would not comment directly on the dismissal of Holland's case, but she said she hopes patients' "bubble zones" will continue to be protected.

“The Bubble Zone Ordinance is critical to ensuring that those giving and seeking health care can safely enter and leave medical facilities without harassment and intimidation," Philipps told FoxNews.com. "We look forward to continued full enforcement of the Bubble Zone Ordinance for the protection of patients and staff."

The Thomas More Society is also representing David Avignone, another person charged under the new "bubble zone" ordinance, who was arrested a few days after Holland.

Breen said that he hoped the city of Chicago "will cease the suppression of pro-life speech" and called for the dismissal of that case. Avignone is due to appear in court on Aug. 30. 

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http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/08/04/chicago-drops-charges-man-prayed-outside-abortion-clinic/