Update: Christian Group Plans to Sue Secret Service

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:21pm EDT

(CNSNews.com) - On the day the Democratic National Convention opens in Boston, a pro-life group will be in federal court suing the U.S. Secret Service for the restrictions imposed on its planned protests.

The Christian Defense Coalition will file its lawsuit Monday in response to the Secret Service barring the coalition from demonstrating in front of the residence of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Boston's Beacon Hill. The pro-life group was told it could not demonstrate even after it had already obtained a permit from the city of Boston.

Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, told CNSNews.com that the group had planned to hold a prayer vigil at Kerry's home Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. He said the group also planned to leave behind one dozen roses each night "to encourage him [Kerry] to remember to protect America's greatest natural resource: her children." Kerry supports abortion rights.

Mahoney called the protest restrictions "very troubling."

"The city of Boston ... promised us the world," he said, referring to the settlement the city offered when threatened with a lawsuit. The Coalition filed a lawsuit against Boston claiming the city's permit process for the convention restricted free speech. The city settled before the case went to court.

He claims his attorneys were told this week that the city knew of no plans for the area to be shut down. But Mahoney said he's skeptical.

"They knew, I think, all along that the Secret Service would shut the area down. So in a way, Boston wants to have their cake and eat it too," Mahoney said. He added that the city doesn't want to appear as if it's infringing on free speech, but is willing to let the Secret Service restrict access.

Still, Mahoney said he hopes the Secret Service will relent and allow his group to demonstrate starting Sunday night. "We've already got the city to settle with us once," he said. "They already saw we're not bluffing."

But if the Secret Service holds firm, he said, "we'll be ready to go first thing Monday morning. We'll ask for a temporary restraining order against the United States Secret Service."

Mahoney said he would be willing to limit the size of the prayer vigils, but "it's a public sidewalk and we're the only group that has a permit," he added.

Lisa Pollack of the Boston mayor's office said the issue would have to be decided between the Secret Service and the protesters.

"We give permits in good faith," Pollack said. "Unfortunately the hard security zones are the purview of the Secret Service. And they do have ultimate authority in that case."

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