Liberal activists protesting at Catholic churches on Mother’s Day could run into some legal trouble, according to a lawyer and Catholic consultant.
The progressive group Ruth Sent Us plans to protest at conservative Supreme Court justices’ homes after a draft opinion leaked earlier this week suggesting the high court was poised to turn over the 1973 landmark case Roe v Wade that gave women a national right to an abortion.
But the group has also called for disruptions outside — and inside — Catholic churches this Mother’s Day during mass services.
“Whether you’re a “Catholic for Choice,” ex-Catholic, of other or no faith, recognize that six extremist Catholics set out to overturn Roe. Stand at or in a local Catholic Church Sun May 8,” the group posted on Twitter, calling for disrupters.
While several of the Republican-appointed justices are Catholic, not all six practice the faith. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch attends an Episcopal church, according to media reports.
Pro-choice activists have already posted graffiti on a Catholic church in Colorado in the days since the draft opinion was published.
The call to disrupt Catholic church services could be considered a hate crime by targeting a protected group on the basis of their religion, according to one faith and legal expert.
“Attacking Supreme Court justices specifically because of their personal religious affiliation or singling out Catholic churches for mass infiltration and subversion this weekend is evil and wrong. It will lead to more hate crimes against members of the American Catholic community, within which every race and national origin are represented. I pray for and call for those pursuing these tactics to stop immediately,” said John Matthew Knowles, a Catholic attorney and co-founder of Milvian Bridge Consulting.
He said the conduct being encouraged shows deeply rooted “anti-Catholic bigotry” reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan’s anti-Catholic campaigns.
“In the past two years, law enforcement agencies have reported a sharp uptick in vandalism of Catholic property and assaults against Catholic priests and laity. Now is not the time to call for more,” Mr. Knowles added.
Similarly, some legal scholars have suggested protesting at the justices’ homes could also present legal trouble for the activists.
Former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, also an attorney, said on Twitter they could be arrested for breaking state law against picketing outside a residence and also for attempting to obstruct justice.
“Why won’t Press Secretary Jen Psaki condemn protesting at a Justice’s private residence? After all, it is a crime!” she tweeted.
Why won’t Press Secretary Jen Psaki condemn protesting at a Justice’s private residence? After all, it is a crime! (18 U.S.C. Section 1507, Code of Virginia Section 18.2-419) 🧵 pic.twitter.com/PgQ34l3hyQ
— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) May 6, 2022
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, has refused to condemn the leak.
“Our view here is that peaceful protests — there’s a long history in the United States in the country of that. And we’ve certainly encouraged people to keep it peaceful and not resort to any level of violence,” she said earlier this week..
A spokesperson from Ruth Sent Us did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Court watchers were aghast Monday night when news broke that a draft opinion indicates the high court would overrule the 1973 Roe decision, which gave women a national right to an abortion until fetal viability.
It is the first time a full draft opinion has been leaked in the Supreme Court’s 233-year history, according to former law clerks.
In the 98-page draft opinion obtained by Politico, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said abortion should return to the state legislatures.
“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion,” he wrote. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”
“It’s time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” reads the opinion, dated from February.
An official ruling in the case is expected by the end of June.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the draft opinion — dated from February — was authentic but noted it did not represent a final ruling. He has called for an investigation to uncover who leaked the document to the press.
The court is weighing a Mississippi ban on abortion at 15 weeks in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Mississippi officials argue that Roe should be overturned because it’s outdated. The state contends the viability standard set out in Roe is unclear, and Mississippi has an interest in banning abortions after 15 weeks to protect women’s health and that of unborn children.
The legal battle was brought by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s only abortion clinic, and a doctor who provides abortions. According to court papers, the clinic provides abortions up to 16 weeks of gestation.
They challenged the state’s Gestational Age Act, enacted in 2018. The law bans abortions after 15 weeks unless there is a medical emergency or severe abnormality within the fetus.
The abortion providers told the court in their filing that the state’s interest in the woman’s health and children doesn’t begin until viability, which occurs “months” after the 15-week marker set in the law.
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