Just 15 months after launching a mobile pregnancy medical clinic ministry, Pastor Scott Scharpen is facing the reality of having to shut it down after Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the “Reproductive FACT Act,” which requires all such clinics to post a notice on site promoting free and low-cost abortions. The notice must be at least 22-point size and posted in the waiting area. It must also include a telephone number for abortion referrals. Clinics may opt to distribute the notice to each patient in 14 point type. “I will not post that notice in our clinic,” said Scharpen, founder of the Go Mobile for Lifeministry clinic in Riverside County. “I would rather close the clinic than post that notice. This is outrageous!”
Scharpen launched his mobile clinic in August 2014 with a 31-foot RV. The clinic provides free services, including ultrasounds. The unit parks in conspicuous locations in Riverside County, acting as a mobile billboard. “It’s not just a clinic,” he said. “It’s a ministry. We share the gospel with them. Our slogan is ‘GO serve women, GO save lives and GO share Jesus.’”
Before going to the extreme of shutting down the mobile clinic and disenfranchising hundreds of clients who receive free services through their non-profit community clinic, Scharpen chose to seek out the services of Advocates for Faith & Freedom and Tyler & Burch, LLP.
We have decided to file a lawsuit in Riverside County Superior Court with the hope of finding justice in a neutral forum. In fact, the free speech clause under the California Constitution has been interpreted by courts to provide even greater protection to speech than does the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (See Press Release, complaint and preliminary injunction below)
Bringing a free speech case in state superior court is not the normal course of action for most religious liberty legal organizations because federal court has typically been the favored forum. However, we decided to bring this case in state court in order to take an alternative strategic approach to another case we already filed in federal court in San Francisco. Along with our co-counsel, the ACLJ, we filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of Living Well Medical Clinic, Inc., Pregnancy Care Center of the North Coast, Inc., and Confidence Pregnancy Center, Inc.
We believe it is important to protect pro-life clinics because they typically provide safe options to pregnant women with resources to support a mother through pregnancy, parenthood and/or adoption. However, if the Reproductive Fact Act is allowed to remain the law of California, these important clinics promoting life will also be forced to promote abortions.
By enacting this law, Scharpen said, “the state is overstepping its authority by requiring privately funded ministries to act as agents of the state by promoting a state-mandated message promoting abortion.”
“We as clinics shouldn’t be required to provide information about services that we don’t offer and that women have the ability to find through other means,” he said.
Scharpen said he has always been prolife but never advocated on behalf of the unborn until he was preparing a sermon in early 2013. The Lord, he said, directed him to preach on abortion.
Later that year he purchased a clinic RV from an Ohio non-profit organization that provides similar RVs to ministries throughout the country. The clinic was officially launched in August 2014 after securing a medical license from the California Department of Public Health.
“As a pastor and as a businessman I did not think I would be involved in running a clinic,” he said. Now he’s fighting for the right to operate the privately held clinic in a manner that reflects the clinic’s religious beliefs.
Scharpen added, “This lawsuit has even broader implications. If the California state government gets away with telling pregnancy clinics what to say and even how to say it, then ALL faith-based businesses are at risk of being bullied into delivering the government’s mandated speech. We must stand up and fight this unconstitutional law for the benefit of all people!”
We are excited about the opportunity to advocate for the life of the unborn. We will be faced with challenging the unlimited resources of the State of California, who will be represented by the State’s Attorney General. Numerous nongovernmental advocacy organizations will likely come join the defense of the State providing a well-funded defense and numerous attorneys.
We anticipate that we will provide over $200,000 worth of free legal services and will incur thousands of dollars in court costs and other expenses on this case alone. We would greatly appreciate any financial support you can provide to help us win this case. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support!
Read Press Release here.