By Meredith Raney
Published December 9, 1999
MELBOURNE, FL – Today, Project Grace is announced as a ministry for providing pro-life reproductive health services [sidewalk counseling] at facilities as defined and protected by the federal law, Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE), 18 USC 248.
The abortion industry claims to be pro-choice. However, the only choice that they offer their clients is to kill their unborn children. People utilizing this industry have somehow become so desperate and have degraded themselves to the point where they are willing to pay someone to kill their own children as the solution to their undesirable circumstances-of-the-moment. These people need to know that there are other choices. They need to know the dangers of abortion, both physical and mental.
It is the goal of Project Grace to lovingly offer to provide help and referral information to educate people approaching and leaving the entrance to FACE-protected reproductive health facilities. This ministry has for years been commonly been referred to as “sidewalk counseling.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized and defined this sidewalk counseling ministry as “. . . a conversation of a non-threatening nature by not more than two people with each person or group of persons they are seeking to counsel. . .” Schenck, 519 U.S. 357.
Abortion clinics know the effectiveness of sidewalk counseling. That is why they try to stop it every way they can.
Project Grace is named after Grace Marsh, the plaintiff in a U.S. Supreme Court case called Marsh v. Alabama. This case involved a “company town,” Chickasaw, Alabama. The town was wholly owned by the Gulf Shipbuilding Corp., yet it had all of the characteristics of any other American town. Gulf Shipbuilding held title to all the land in the town, including that covered by streets and sidewalks. Gulf Shipbuilding also provided municipal services, such as sewerage service and police protection, to the residents of the town. Grace Marsh, a Jehovah’s Witness, undertook to distribute religious literature on a sidewalk near the post office in the “business block” of the town, and was arrested on a trespassing charge. She was subsequently convicted of the crime of trespassing, and the Alabama courts upheld the conviction on appeal. This U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that Alabama could not permit a corporation to assume the functions of a municipal government and at the same time deny First Amendment rights through the application of the State’s criminal trespass law.
The Schenck and Marsh cases among others gives the legal right for two peaceful, loving, FACE-protected, pro-life reproductive health service providers (sidewalk counselors) to be right up by the door of an abortion clinic that is open to the public even if (like Chickasaw, AL) it is privately owned.
What is the legal definition of public property? Legally, “public” property is primarily determined by the function or use of real estate – not ownership. Parts of interstate commerce routes may be owned by private interests and other parts by government entities. However, it is all open to the public. A sidewalk which is part of the interstate commerce system is a public sidewalk. The only way congress was able to pass the federal Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances (FACE) law was to determine that the abortion industry is interstate commerce. Since it has been determined to be interstate commerce, then the interstate routes for that commerce are accessible to the public right up to the door of the abortion clinic, no matter who holds title to those routes (sidewalks).
The same concept applies to what is “private.” If the state of Florida owns the house in which you live, the public has no right to walk in – the building “functions” and is “used” as a home. That the title is held by a government entity does not establish any right by the public to use the land. “Function” or “use” of the land is the key legal indicator.
Attorney Chris Sapp, Esq. is spearheading Project Grace. The law of the land supports the Project Grace concept right now. The problem is that not many people understand it yet. There are several court battles going on right now over this issue. CLICK HERE to read about these cases.
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