Mississippi Court Rejects Request for Injunction Against Police Harassment of Christians

SOR JacksonJACKSON, Miss. — A federal judge in Mississippi has denied a request for a preliminary injunction against a local police department accused of harassing and intimidating Christians who conduct pro-life outreach outside of the state’s last remaining abortion facility.

“[Our] request that pro-life advocates receive injunctive relief from harassment by the City of Jackson, Mississippi Police Department was denied by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Jackson Division,” wrote Tom Ciesielka of the Life Legal Defense Foundation in an update yesterday. “Despite hours of supportive testimony and a long and well documented history of police misconduct, Judge Carlton Reeves denied a preliminary injunction prohibiting the city police from further persecution of peaceful pro-life protesters.”

As previously reported, the Foundation filed suit in July against the Jackson Police Department on behalf of the organization Pro-Life Mississippi and eight Christians for what has been described as a “blatant and ongoing violation of free speech rights of pro-life advocates.”

The civil rights action “challenges specific police misconduct as well as policies, customs and practices of the City of Jackson, whereby it continually infringed, and continues to infringe, upon the free speech rights of citizens by unlawfully arresting, citing and threatening to arrest such citizens for conduct that is protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as the Constitution of the State of Mississippi.”

“The Jackson Police Department has routinely harassed pro-life citizens, who have been peacefully exercising their legal right to oppose abortion in the public square and offer information about life-affirming alternatives to women seeking abortion,” stated foundation President Dana Cody.

The case centers on threats and arrests over the past year at Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last remaining abortion facility in the state. As previously reported, Cal Zastrow, one of the Christians named in the suit, told Christian News Network last year that he believed the Jackson Police Department has been trying every avenue possible to force Christians who conduct outreach at the facility to leave.

“[B]asically, the police have gone overly aggressive with arresting people in trying to intimidate us to get off the streets,” he said.

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Zastrow was arrested twice in 2013 for allowing his pro-life sign to touch the ground and was charged with obstructing a public sidewalk. He states that there is no law prohibiting people from allowing hand-held signs from being on the ground.

Ester Mann, a pro-life grandmother, was likewise arrested last year for letting her sign rest on the public sidewalk, as well as John Breeken, who was taken into custody for the same alleged offense. Mann and Ron Nederhoed were again arrested later that year for sitting in a lawn chair on the sidewalk while holding pro-life signs.

Earlier this year, Doug Lane was detained by Jackson police after being accused of preaching too loudly, and Roy McMillan was ordered to remain in his vehicle when he was found to be distributing pro-life literature on the public sidewalk.

The Ohio-based group Created Equal also conducted an awareness campaign outside of Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and when a nearby business owner began stealing the signs and placing them in his basement, the Jackson Police Department did not act.

“The judge prevented us from entering the city ordinances for the record and then ruled that he couldn’t decide in our favor because the ordinances weren’t entered as evidence,” Zastrow said about the hearings that took place over the lawsuit. “Unattended, big, ugly sculptures, sandwich boards, and political signs are permitted to block entire sidewalks, but pro-life Christians are arrested if a hand-held sign touches the ground.”

“We are very concerned about the potential for police mistreatment of our clients as this case awaits its day in court,” added Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director and President Dana Cody in response to the court’s denial of a preliminary injunction.”It is very disappointing that the district court did not acknowledge that a police department that is already behaving with impunity might perceive this as an opportunity to continue illegal harassment of private citizens exercising their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

The case will now move to discovery stage and will go to trial in the spring.

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  • Frank

    Southern hospitality.
    Southern Police hospitality.
    Southern Justice.
    Tried and true.

  • Richard French

    Still having civil rights issues in the delta? My oh my, they would have to take me to jail if my church was involved in that.

  • I hate abortion. 55 million babies murdered in the womb is what is going to bring this nation to it’s knees. Judgement begins in the house of God.
    what’s interesting is that there is no explanation or rebuttal from the police. Since that is not here, nor even a reference to an attempt to contact that police department, this story is completely one sided and gets placed in the “click-bait” file.

    I wonder what the back story is to this fiasco. How often have the police had run-ins with these folk yelling scripture at people from the street? Why do they already have a legal spokesperson when there hasn’t even been a lawsuit filed? A county clerk will help you file an injunction request.

    Sounds like ambulance-chasers to me.

    • KenS

      “Zastrow said about the hearings that took place over the lawsuit.”

      You clearly need some reading comprehension skills, The lawsuit has already been filed and they are trying to get the injunction to keep the police from acting further before their day in court.

      • Thanks for the advice. So the xtians are suing the police, or the state, I’m sure you can correct it. Sounds like the set up that happened in hemet, Ca a couple years ago. What is the police side of the lawsuit? Permits not aqcuired? Preaching to an audience without option of moving (from the govt perspective)? It sounds as if they are tiptoeing along the boundaries of acceptable public outreach. I bet there are certain instances where the group has been coached on how and which laws to break. In Hemet it basically came down to harassment.Why the biased coverage?

  • Joar Ensomulv Paulsen

    I hate Christians, who belive that they can decide what other people can do!

    • Jim Cortez

      Its not the Christians who are deciding what other people can do moron!! Its God deciding whether one person can take the innocent life of another… Dont worry,,, you will have an opportunity soon to discuss it with Him.. Good luck fool….

    • Chrissy Vee

      Do you also hate homosexuals who force their lifestyle on people, especially Christians? They not only BELIEVE they can, they CAN decide… they have made the decision for Christian businesses to participate in homosexual marriages against their will and their God or be harrassed, fined, jailed and “reeducated”. Do you hate them too? Just wondering.
      Christians are trying to prevent these people from commiting murder. Someone has to speak up for the babies.

    • James Grimes

      I dislike idiots too. Why are you here?

  • Larry Thedishguy Blake

    Yep, another bunch of headcases playing the persecution card.

    • Chrissy Vee

      If someone was about to murder you and you couldn’t speak for yourself, would you want people to force that person to shut up? I think you would appreciate if someone was fighting for YOUR life. Christians fight for lives and souls. People are taking away their RIGHT to freedom of speech and calling it a hate crime while defending the “right” to murder babies and calling that love. Does that really make sense to you? Really? Good grief!

      • Larry Thedishguy Blake

        Except that these same “Christians” only seem to care about them while they’re still in their mothers’ bodies. If those children turn out to be gay or choose to become atheists, would you still care about them enough to fight for their lives (and by “care about,” I mean accepting them for who they are and/or leaving them alone, NOT poking your nose into their affairs by trying to convert them or “curing” their sexuality)? Do you think the “Christians” trying to bring this case to the courts would care about them that much? If you’re that reverent about protecting a child when it’s in someone else’s womb, but refuse to support it after it’s born, you are nothing more than a hypocrite.

        • Chrissy Vee

          Absolutely. I care enough about ANY sinner enough to fight for their lives if they are helpless and being murdered… and their souls if they are filled with sins that will kill them. I don’t know if there are cures for someones sexuality, just like there is no cure for any other sin. But there is Jesus who died that we may be saved from our sins and repent (stop and turn from) them. God is so wise, He knows that sins harm us. He teaches us His way because it is perfect. We are not.
          There are other ways than KILLING a baby if a mother can not support it. I will not be part of the crowd that says “Yes! Kill the child right in the place where it should be the most safe!” I do pray for these women. So many regret their decision because one day it hits them like a ton of bricks. It haunts them for the rest of their lives. How much good do you REALLY think comes from this? Christians It’s called mercy. I praise God when a mother is merciful and her child is born!
          The media has made Christians look like we hate. Not a surprise. The truth is, so much hatred spews out of the words and actions toward Christians who are trying to reach them before they do this to an innocent child, God’s creation and to themselves. THEIR hypocrisy speaks for themselves.
          You must really hate your life or life in general to be okay if your mother aborted you… or anyone else you love.
          I pray for every sinner, gay, atheist, murderers, liars, fornicators, Christian haters…people are who they are for what ever reason… I just hope more find Jesus and see they need Him because of it. He will show them the truth, the life and the way. Just like he did for me. May God open your eyes of understanding. Peace.

          • Larry Thedishguy Blake

            For all you know, the woman you want to “help” could be there because she was raped, her life or health are on the line, or because the fetus has a birth defect that would prevent it from surviving outside its mother’s womb. Do you really think they’re there because they want to kill a child or that they decided to get pregnant just to put themselves in that situation? I don’t.

            What if I’d been aborted, you ask? I wouldn’t have existed, that’s what. In which case, I probably wouldn’t even notice or care one way or another. You probably wouldn’t notice or care had you been aborted either.

            “I just hope more find Jesus and see they need Him because of it. He will show them the truth, the life and the way. Just like he did for me.”
            Whoa, watch your step there, Chrissy.

            [Luke 18:10] “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people – greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’ [13] But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn your wrath from me – a sinner!’ [14] I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other, because he who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

            The truth is many gays and atheists actually grew up in the church, but the judgmental, self-righteous, and just downright unpleasant actions of the others in those churches are what turned them away. And before you say otherwise, no, trying to sugarcoat those actions by claiming you “pray for” and “love” them is nothing more than condescending. You might as well just tell them, “I may look unprofessional if I judge you here and now, but I secretly want you to burn in hell because there’s something about you that makes me squeamish.” So unless you want them doing the same to you for your supposed sins, I’d advise shutting up about everyone else’s.

          • Chrissy Vee

            You’re so angry. I actually can’t recall lifting myself up above anybody. I simply stated that Jesus showed me I was a sinner and showed me the way to Salvation and I hope that for others.
            Saying I pray for and love people (which I do…including ISIS) is condescending? Wow. That’s not what Jesus says..hmmm do I heed to Jesus or Larry, gee, tough one. I think I will stick to praying for and loving them whether Larry believes that I do or not. And are you judging my motive behind what I say and telling me what I am really thinking? THAT is the judging Christ speaks against. Maybe it is you who should ‘watch your step there’, Larry.
            I do have people who pray for me and I am sure they are not secretly hoping I burn in Hell. I have never even heard of such a thing… is that something you practice? I know anybody who does that has no fear of God or love for people. By your responses and anxiety, I fear you may be one of them. Are you going to pray for me tonight and secretly hope I burn in Hell as if God can not hear your thoughts? Really, that’s incredibly evil. I know God would never honor a prayer like that, I fear for anyone who would commit such a sin.
            BTW Who taught you how to speak to a woman? You need manners. I will not shut up nor back down from standing up for what is right and for my faith. Deal.

          • Larry Thedishguy Blake

            Okay, I admit that quote about secretly wanting others to burn in Hell was nastier than I intended, but the point was that if you so much as bring up the subject of their “sins”, especially those of someone you’ve never even met before, you are treating them as objects to convert rather than as people to love. If you want to be regarded as someone who treats them like the latter instead, don’t bring their sins up at all. Otherwise, you are giving them permission to do the same to you.

            If we can agree on that, I have nothing else to say to you. Peace.

          • Chrissy Vee

            I understand, we all can get nasty when we are speaking from anger. (me included of course)
            I do agree on that last statement. I give ANYONE permission to tell me I am sinning. I always ask my brothers and sisters to point out ANY sin in my life that I may repent of it. If God calls it sin, I am in full agreement with Him.
            If someone didn’t tell me I was a sinner, how would I know? How would I have found my Saviour?
            Anyway, I really hope you click the link I posted in one of these comments. You will see why Christians and others are fighting for the lives of these babies and their mothers. It was very eye opening and heartbreaking for me. Maybe it will give you a little more understanding.
            Thank you for your softer response. Peace to you too.

  • Oilfart1

    Maybe Mississippi is not the free speech, free enterprise, retirement haven that it is claiming. If this is what is happening in the State Capital city, I can’t imagine what goes on in the boonies where cops pretty much write their own laws and enforce them according to their own interpretation.

  • Phil Williams

    call the alcj they will stop this crime