The story of a Christian group that scored a permit to gather in a coveted spot next to Madison Square Garden proves a semi-biblical point: God may help those who help themselves, but having a federal judge on your side ain’t bad either.
The NYPD and the city Parks Department recently accorded the Christian Defense Coalition the right to hold its anti-abortion prayer vigil of around 1,500 people on August 28, right across Seventh Avenue from the convention venue. The group had filed suit against the city, Mayor Bloomberg, and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly in June, claiming that the delays in permitting were impinging on its free-speech rights. And behold, shortly after Judge Deborah A. Batts—an out lesbian, to the chagrin of some Christian groups—ordered the city to appear and explain itself, NYPD officials coughed up 10 more permits, including the coalition’s.
In challenging the city’s foot-dragging, the abortion foes found themselves in a bizarre alliance with such progressive groups as United for Peace and Justice and the National Organization for Women, neither of whom have received permits yet. And they were even fighting for the First Amendment rights of rivals like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, which both got permits in the same batch as the coalition—though the pro-choicers will gather much farther downtown.
The Christian Defense Coalition has found itself with strange bedfellows (wait, is that a sin?) before: Besides a similar suit involving the city of Boston and the Democratic convention, in June the group joined the ACLU in threatening to sue a Virginia public park to allow churches to baptize their members in a river there. Moral: Sue first, pray later.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 13, 2004