Charlotte Uses Noise Ordinance to Suppress Pro-Lifers’ First-Amendment Rights

‘This is a wicked attempt to block pro-lifers from walking and praying…’

(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Pro-lifers in Charlotte, NC, are fighting the city’s attempt to shut down protests outside abortion clinics.

The Charlotte City Council’s Neighborhood Development Committee approved an update to the city’s noise ordinance policy on Wednesday that would create a 200-foot buffer around medical facilities—including abortion clinics—churches, and schools.

This buffer would prevent pro-life groups from speaking to women seeking abortions.

The policy must be approved by the full City Council and will be voted on June 24.

During public testimony on Monday, a local pastor, Gabe Rogers, addressed the city council and urged them to uphold the rights to free speech and association.

“We all know this is not about decimals at all,” Rogers said, citing the ordinance’s restriction of amplified sound and “unreasonably loud noise.”

“This is a wicked attempt to block pro-lifers from walking and praying,” Rogers continued. “We’re not asking for resources, we don’t need government resources. Just let us walk and pray.”

Rogers, who is African-American, also appealed to the sense of racial justice from the council, which includes nine Democrats and two Republicans.

“I know some of you believe black lives matter. Well I’m wondering if you believe black-baby lives matter,” Rogers told the council. “There are 9,000 babies killed in Charlotte. Seventy-two percent of those babies that are killed are black babies.

He noted that one of the country’s largest abortion providers, Planned Parenthood, was founded by a controversial figure who vocally advocated for eugenics and the racist beliefs, viewing abortion as the means to reduce the black population.

“We are told to stand down via the wicked agenda of Margaret Sanger,” Rogers continued. “I look at you and say, ‘How could you champion the cause of a lady who said she would use the educated preacher to keep the black negroes quiet?’ Well, we will not be quiet. We stand for white babies, Asian babies, black babies, and I want to let you know that however you vote on the 24th, know that the council of the Lord will stand.”

Democratic council member Justin Harlow denied that the ordinance sought to restrict speech.

“This goes so much more beyond … the elephant in the room here, around the politically charged conversation around abortion,” he said at the meeting, according to the Charlotte Observer. “We want to make sure that people have a reasonable expectation to noise while not limiting any speech.”

Pro-life activists, however, have vowed to take the city to court if they approve the ordinance.

Council member Ed Driggs, a Republican, said he plans to vote against the ordinance and questioned the motivations behind the proposed change.

“The question really is whether this is a routine municipal action or an action that is being taken and is directly aimed at a group with political overtones,” he said at the meeting. “And I’m very concerned about that distinction.”