A California pastor was sentenced Thursday to 30 days in jail, three years probation and fined $1,130 after being convicted under an Oakland ordinance barring protestors from coming within eight feet of anyone entering an abortion clinic.
Walter Hoye, 52, could have faced up to two years in jail after a jury convicted him last month of approaching patients at a local clinic. He plans to appeal the conviction.
"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 Allison Aranda, Staff Counsel for Life Legal Defense Foundation. "We will appeal."
Many in the African American community were outraged by the sentence.
"This is a deliberate attempt to silence the Church and its prophetic role in protecting the innocent lives in our community and especially Black babies," said Pastor Stephen Broden of Dallas, Texas.
"Pastor Hoye represents a legacy of resistance by Black preachers to injustices perpetrated on the beloved community," he said.
Arrested in May 2008
Hoye is an executive elder at the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in south Berkeley, Calif. He was arrested on May 13, 2008, for standing outside the Family Planning Specialists clinic in Oakland, Calif.
Hoye was carrying a sign on a public sidewalk that read, "Jesus loves you and your baby. Let us help," and asking, "Can I talk to you for a minute about abortion alternatives?"
"He never laid hands on anyone," supporter Levon Yuille told the judge Thursday. Yuille, who National Black Pro-Life Congress, is a nondenominational minister from Michigan who flew in for the sentencing.
Before he was sentenced, Hoye told the judge, "I believe that an unjust law is no law at all."
When the judge asked him if he would abide by the court's order to stay 100 yards away from the clinic, Hoye told him "no."
The judge imposed the order anyway, fined Hoye, and imposed the 30-day sentence. Hoye has the choice of serving his time by either working with a sheriff's work detail or volunteering.
LLDF Challenging Oakland Ordinance
LLDF attorney Mike Millen, who defended Hoye, said there was a "conspicuous absence" of patients at the trial who said they felt threatened by him.
The LLDF is currently challenging the constitutionality of the Oakland's ordinance on Hoye's behalf in federal court. A hearing on the matter will be held next month.
Sources: CBN News, Life Legal Defense Foundation, San Francisco Chronicle