Pro-Life Pastor Sentenced to Jail for Violating Buffer Zone Law

A pro-life African-American pastor was sentenced to 30 days in jail on Thursday for sharing abortion alternatives with women outside an abortion clinic.

Walter Hoye, a pastor in Berkeley, Calif., was found guilty in January of violating an Oakland ordinance that bars protesters from approaching within eight feet of women or staff outside of abortion clinics without their consent.

He was sentenced by Judge Stuart Hing of Alameda County Superior Court to three years of probation and 30 days in the county jail. The court is allowing Hoye to serve his time by an alternative method such as community service.

The judge also imposed fines of $1,130 and an order for Hoye to stay at least 100 yards away from the clinic.

During the sentencing, Hoye refused the term of probation and his stay-away order but the judge had an order drawn up anyway.

According to the ordinance, Hoye could have faced up to two years in prison and/or $4,000 in fines.

Hoye is the first person to be charged with violating the ordinance, which his supporters say was unconstitutional to begin with since it limited rights to free speech.

Dozens of supporters in the African-American community attended the sentencing hearing in support of Hoye. Several pro-life African American leaders had also flown in from other states to stand with Hoye, who raises awareness on how abortion disproportionately affects black women through his Issues4Life Foundation.

Allison Aranda of Life Legal Defense Foundation, which is representing Hoye, said an appeal is forthcoming.

"It is absolutely incredible that in America an individual can be sentenced to jail for engaging in peaceful free speech activity on a public sidewalk," said Aranda following the court decision.

Hoye of Progressive Missionary Baptist Church was arrested May 13, 2008, outside an Oakland abortion clinic. He was handing out leaflets on abortion alternatives and carrying a sign reading, "Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help." He also asked women entering the clinic, "Can I talk to you for a minute about abortion alternatives?"

Attorneys with LLDF are also representing the Berkeley pastor in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance. They hope the ordinance can be struck down and Hoye can be vindicated.

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