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Wichita pastor seeks dismissal of stalking petition filed by clinic’s founder

Updated: 2013-04-12T11:41:40Z

By Deb Gruver

The Wichita Eagle

The lawyer for a Wichita pastor accused of threatening Trust Women’s founder has asked that a stalking petition against his client be dismissed.

Julie Burkhart, the founder of Trust Women, was earlier granted a temporary stalking order against Mark Holick. The Trust Women Foundation raised money to recently open South Wind Women’s Center, which will offer abortions up to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Burkhart wrote in her petition that Holick had pointed a sign toward her house Feb. 15 that said, “Where’s your church?’

“My former boss was murdered in his church,” Burkhart said in the petition filed in Sedgwick County District Court.

Burkhart said in an interview with The Eagle that she interpreted the sign to be a threat against her. She had worked for George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who was shot and killed in his church by an anti-abortion activist May 31, 2009. Scott Roeder was convicted of murder in the case and is serving a 50-year sentence.

Holick’s lawyer, Don McKinney, said that “religious speech, political speech, pamphlets, flyers, protest signs and sidewalk picketing on issues of public concern are all legitimate Constitutionally protected activities within the protection of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States as well as the Constitution of the State of Kansas.”

Burkhart said in her hand-written complaint that Holick was “engaging in behavior meant to scare and intimidate me. He also uses violent language, which I take very seriously.”

She also wrote that Holick picketed at her house Nov. 17 and handed out a “wanted-style” flier about her. The flier has the phone number of Spirit One Christian Ministries at the bottom of it. It identifies Burkhart as an “abortion-homicide leader” and gives her address. The flier urges people to “do a public outreach” at her home and “adopt” her and “pray for her repentance and salvation.”

Burkhart also wrote that Holick visited her at her place of business, South Wind, in January, walking the perimeter of the building and “scoping it out.”

McKinney said in court documents that the flier is religious and political speech.

“There is no ‘wanted poster’ language and no language urging or inciting violence,” he said.

He noted that South Wind is situated in the “former abortion clinic of George Tiller. The sidewalk around Tiller’s clinic has been an established public forum for years and has been the site of dozens, if not hundreds, of acts of picketing, protests and other activities of lawful political and religious speech protected by the First Amendment.

McKinney called Burkhart’s petition “clearly an effort to use the anti-stalking statute to restrict abortion protest activities.”

McKinney served as a special prosecutor in charges against Tiller that were dismissed. South Wind opened last week. Burkhart has said it will offer comprehensive women’s health care services, including abortion.

Burkhart and Holick are scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. April 18.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com.

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