PORTLAND, Maine — A jury deciding a civil case in Maine has ruled that a church elder broke the law in 2015 when, after a police warning, his voice could still be heard inside of a Planned Parenthood facility as he pleaded with mothers not to have their unborn children murdered.
According to the Portland Press Herald, a jury of eight men and one woman voted 6-3 that Brian Ingalls of the church Cell 53 in Lewison had violated the state’s Civil Rights Act in that his preaching and pro-life pleas could allegedly be heard inside the “counseling” rooms and waiting area of Portland Planned Parenthood in October 2015.
As previously reported, then-Attorney General Janet Mills sued Ingalls a month following the incident, alleging that he spoke too loudly about “murdering babies, aborted babies’ blood and Jesus” while preaching outside of the location.
She asserted that Ingalls didn’t lower his voice enough that particular day after being approached by police and contended that his passionate preaching “demonstrate[d] his intent to interfere with the safe and effective delivery of health services at Planned Parenthood.”
“All patients have the right to receive medical services free of ‘the cacophony of political protests,’ in the words of the United States Supreme Court,” she wrote in a statement. “While protesters have every right to say anything they want in a public area in the vicinity of a medical facility, they are not permitted to disrupt another citizen’s health care services.”
Ingalls obtained legal representation from the Thomas More Law Center, a pro-life organization headquartered in Illinois.
“For reasons that can only be described as politically motivated, the attorney general has transformed an unverified noise complaint by Planned Parenthood into a civil rights complaint against a young Christian pro-life advocate,” it said in a statement. “The attorney general’s actions in this case are a blatant abuse of her powers to aid the pro-abortion political establishment dominating the City of Portland.”
Mills, a Democrat who has since been elected governor of Maine, proposed that Ingalls should be prohibited from standing within 50 feet of the Monument Square Planned Parenthood facility — or any Planned Parenthood location in Maine. She also recommended that he be fined $5,000 for the violation.
The Maine Civil Rights Act itself was challenged in court by Ingalls’ pastor, Andrew March, who likewise preaches outside of the Portland Planned Parenthood. The law says that after receiving a warning, it is illegal for a person to intentionally interfere with a medical procedure at an abortion facility.
According to March and the Thomas More Law Center, police have confronted March and others to advise that their voices could be heard by staff and clients inside of the facility, and told them to keep it down. But officers reportedly did nothing when those in favor of Planned Parenthood could likewise be heard inside of the building.
In May 2016, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, sided with March, opining that the “intent to interfere” portion of the law would pertain to the content of the speech, and would therefore only relate to pro-life speech, which would consequently be an unconstitutional content-based restriction.
“Continued enforcement of a content-based restriction on speech would result in irreparable harm to the Plaintiff,” Torreson ruled.
She said that there are other ways to keep order on the public sidewalk, as police “can further their interests of maintaining order and protecting individual patients through the criminal code, most obviously the disorderly conduct and harassment statutes.”
However, in August 2017, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Torreson’s ruling, stating that they rather found the law to be content-neutral and that it does not ban abortion opponents from conversing with others, as opposed to lifting up one’s voice to preach — if in doing so the person’s voice can be heard inside the building.
The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to take up the matter. The high court accepts only a small fraction of appeals that it receives.
Following the Andrew March ruling, Ingalls’ case proceeded to court, with a jury voting on the matter on Wednesday.
According to the Portland Press Herald, Judge MaryGay Kennedy must hear another legal challenge to the Civil Rights Act brought by Ingalls’ attorneys before she can issue any orders pursuant to the Mills lawsuit.
An undated video posted online shows an example of Ingalls’ gospel-centered speech. In the footage, Ingalls calls out to a woman who appeared in a window, urging her to come down and talk to those who want to help her.
“Don’t continue in your sin,” he exhorted. “Look to Jesus for forgiveness. Look to Jesus for reconciling you to the Father. That way, the Father will actually wrap you in His embrace. Jesus left the embrace of the Father so that He would save you; that way, you could actually experience true forgiveness. All that you’re doing is running continuously toward self, toward self-satisfaction …”
As previously reported, in early America, Christians were staunchly against abortion, seeing the shedding of innocent blood (Proverbs 6:16-17) and the discontinuance of a life created and given by God as murder.
In his 1869 sermon entitled “Ante-Natal Infanticide,” E. Frank Howe, the pastor of the Congregational Church of Terre Haute, Indiana, said, “[I]t makes no matter that the victim cannot stretch out its hands in defense. … It matters not that it … can utter no cry of pain or reproach. The sacred gift of human life is taken — is deliberately taken, and this constitutes the crime, and that crime is murder.”
He lamented that “men and women place their own ease and pleasure above God’s law” and that “public opinion is so corrupted there is no voice of reproach,” forthrightly declaring, “Put what face upon it the community will, disguise it under whatever name you please, you can make no more or less of it than simple murder.”