Student Arrested for Praying the Rosary

by | Aug 3, 2010 | First Amendment, Life

While praying the rosary outside a downtown Chicago Planned Parenthood facility, Joseph Holland, a graduate student, was arrested for disorderly conduct and violating a controversial new city “Bubble Zone” ordinance, that even the ACLU was against before enacted.

The law, passed in October, states that a person cannot approach within 8 feet of another person without consent “for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling” within 50 feet from any health care facility.

The video of Mr. Holland on the day in question clearly shows him quietly standing next to the building praying.  It does not show him approaching anyone or engaging anyone in discussion.  He denies approaching or speaking to anyone while outside the facility as prohibited by this new ordinance. Surprisingly, even though the ordinance does not have a jail penalty and is a fine only offense, this young man was arrested and held for four hours until he posted bail.  In fact, since the ordinance was passed in October 2009, Mr. Holland is the first arrest for violation of the “Bubble Zone.” A second man was arrested for similar conduct outside the same Chicago Planned Parenthood later in the same week.
Joseph Holland, in blue, praying the rosary outside a Chicago Planned Parenthood facility.
Attorneys for Mr. Holland have issued subpoenas for the Planned Parenthood security footage that allegedly show the purported misconduct and for the 911 call from a Planned Parenthood employee.  Mr. Holland has requested a jury trial on the issue to resolve his innocence.  You can view an interview with Joseph Holland and his attorney Peter Breen on Fox & Friends this morning.  
The confusion over this new law and its application has abortion clinics, pro-life prayer warriors and city police at odds as to its true effect and manner of enforcement.   This will be an interesting case to keep an eye on, both for its First Amendment implications and from a pro-life standpoint.

*Update* – The City of Chicago dismissed the charged pending against Mr. Holland today after the case received national press.