“I deeply respect the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly,” Miyares wrote. “But no one has the right to interfere with the fundamental and natural right of all Virginians to practice their religion in peace.”
I deeply respect the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly. But no one has the right to interfere with the fundamental and natural right of all Virginians to practice their religion in peace. pic.twitter.com/LgNrhpPhdD
— Jason Miyares (@JasonMiyaresVA) May 7, 2022
Miyares also promised to “bring civil suits” against protesters who “intimidate, interfere with, or obstruct any person who is seeking to exercise his or her First Amendment right of religious freedom.” The state’s top law enforcement agent cited Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which is featured in Virginia’s constitution, as his precedent for “protecting this sacred right for all Virginians.”
Threats of protest come days after the draft of a majority opinion penned by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was leaked, revealing the potential plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. Protests have taken place on the steps of the court and outside of state capitols nationwide. Churches that espouse anti-abortion views, such as the Catholic Church, have also come under increasing scrutiny and threats of protest from pro-abortion rights groups.
The Catholic Church has been adamant in its anti-abortion position for centuries, condemning abortion and opting to excommunicate automatically women who receive one outside of a life-threatening circumstance. The church has said that those who have gone through with an abortion, however, can be forgiven.
Miyares’s office will be monitoring protests at churches for criminal violations, according to the statement.