The Claim: Christians were arrested for peacefully sharing the gospel
What happened per Christian resources…?
Usually the tale is told of 11 peaceful protesters who peacefully were carrying signs and singing hymns at a Philadelphia Outfest event. (Outfest is a gay pride festival) They were confronted by the “Pink Angels” They were eventually arrested by the police for “preaching the gospel”. This has also been listed as ‘grandma got run over by a hate crimes law’ which refers to the fact that one of those arrested was a 75 year old grandmother.
What really happened? Were they peacefully sharing the gospel?
To see what really happened you will need to view the video at youtube.com of them and their confrontation with the crowd and the police. Make special note of the bullhorn they were using. Apparently the bullhorn is a tool that they use for peacefully singing hymns and sharing the gospel. Observe the video carefully at the end and you will see them begin to be carried off by the police physically because they refused police instruction and refused to move. (So much for the claim that they complied with police instruction)
Also quoting from the official court documents: “Prior to his arrest, Marcavage lay on the ground in a form of civil disobedience. . .”
In the following video we see an entirely new method of peacefully sharing the gospel. It’s called: 'Insult the appearance of the people you are witnessing to'. References are made to an individual, apparently transgender, who needs a shave.
The exact quote from court documents is here: "At this point in time, plaintiff Diener engaged a transgendered attendee in conversation,calling the individual a “she-man” and saying “The mirror lied to you this morning. Your shadow is showing.” . The individual argued back with Diener and the conversation ended by Diener warning the transgendered individual that “You won’t be preaching like this in hell, she-man.” (from Event Video.)
Who was the group that was arrested?
The group that was arrested is not just some group of private citizens. They are part of a group called Repent America. They have a web site. A brief review of their organization as well as a link to their web page is available here.
What were they arrested for?
This incident happened on Oct 10 of 2004.
They were charged with...
1. “ethnic intimidation” (2nd-degree felony “hate crime”). 2. “criminal conspiracy” (1st-degree felony). 3. “possession of instruments of crime” (1st-degree misdemeanor). 4. “reckless endangerment of another person” (2nd-degree felony). 5. “riot” (3rd-degree felony). 6. “failure to disperse” (2nd-degree misdemeanor). 7. “disorderly conduct” (2nd-degree misdemeanor). 8. “obstructing a highway” (3rd-degree misdemeanor).,
As can be seen from the above list and from the videos they were arrested for much more than their speech.
Did they win their case or did they go to jail?
They spent 21 hours in jail. This happened when they refused police instruction (see below) Later that fall charges were dismissed against seven of the group. In February of 2005 charges were dismissed against the remaining 4 with the judge citing free speech rights as guaranteed by the constitution.
What exactly happened at Outfest according to court documents?
Here are excerpts from the above mentioned document..
Plaintiffs entered OutFest at 13th Street and began to “convey their message” about 20 yards from the main stage at 13th and Locust Streets. Pls’ Summ. Uncontested Facts ¶19; Fisher Dep. pp. 67-68.
The Philly Pride volunteers surrounded the plaintiffs holding ten- foot high pink Styrofoam boards shaped like angels at the top and blowing whistles. Pls’ Summ. Uncontested Facts ¶¶ 20-21.
Captain Fisher instructed the plaintiffs to move down the street so they would not block the stage once the musical program began and the plaintiffs complied. Id. ¶¶ 24-25.
Captain Fisher escorted the plaintiffs further north on 13th Street toward Walnut Street. Id. ¶ 25. The Philly Pride volunteers followed with their Pink Angel signs and continued to surround the plaintiffs. Municipal Defs’ Statement Undisputed Facts ¶ 9.
At this point in time, plaintiff Diener engaged a transgendered attendee in conversation, calling the individual a “she-man” and saying “The mirror lied to you this morning. Your shadow is showing.” Id. ¶ 16. The individual argued back with Diener and the conversation ended by Diener warning the transgendered individual that “You won’t be preaching like this in hell, she-man.” Event Video.
Thousands of people were present at the event and at this point, Captain Fisher characterized the crowd as volatile and irate. Fisher Dep. pp.85-87.
The Police and defendant Simmons told plaintiffs they had to move because they were blocking attendees’ access to the vendors’ booths. Pls’ Summ. Uncontested Facts ¶ 28. Simmons Dep. pp. 72-76; Fisher Dep. p. 88, Tiano Dep. pp. 76-77.
Chief Inspector 7 James Tiano ordered plaintiffs to relocate to 13th and Walnut Street, an area on the perimeter of OutFest near a large gay bar named “Woody’s,” a popular event location. Pls’ Summ. Uncontested Facts ¶ 34; Tiano Dep. pp.78-80.
Plaintiff Marcavage responded that the group was not leaving the event. Municipal Defs’ Statement Undisputed Facts ¶ 22.
Marcavage, the leader of the group, instructed plaintiffs to move in a different direction than the one the police requested. Id. ¶ 37- 41; Marcavage Dep. pp. 354-55.
Chief Tiano ordered that the police place the plaintiffs under arrest for disorderly conduct, disobeying the order of a police officer, and related charges. Municipal Defs’ Statement Undisputed Facts ¶
29. Prior to his arrest, Marcavage lay on the ground in a form of civil disobedience. Id. ¶ 30. The police arrested plaintiffs at approximately 1:30 p.m. after they had been at OutFest for less than 30 minutes. Id. ¶¶ 43, 45. Plaintiffs were incarcerated for 21 hours; all criminal charges were ultimately dismissed.5 Id. ¶¶ 44, 46.
Portions of the courts response is as follows.. A. Plaintiffs’ First Amendment Claim.
The right to speak and assemble in public places is not without limits. “The rights of free speech and assembly, while fundamental in our democratic society, still do not mean that everyone with opinions or beliefs to express may address a group at any public place and at any time. The constitutional guarantee of liberty implies the existence of an organized society maintaining public order, without which liberty itself would be lost in the excesses of anarchy.” Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 554 (1965)…..
C. Plaintiffs’ Equal Protection Claim
….. Plaintiffs contend that they were similarly situated to the Philly Pride volunteers, yet treated differently. Pls’ Resp. Municipal Defs’ Mot. Summ. J. pp. 16-17. According to plaintiffs, the municipal defendants permitted the Philly Pride volunteers “unfettered access to the public ways at Outfest” while denying plaintiffs access. Id. p. 16. The record does not support this assertion of selective treatment. The municipal defendants restricted the actions of both groups. The “distinction” between the groups is that the Philly Pride volunteers complied with police directives while the plaintiffs did not. The police directed the Philly Pride volunteers to break their human barricade and allow plaintiffs into the event or they would be arrested. The Philly Pride volunteers complied. In contrast, the plaintiffs disobeyed direct police orders concerning their movements at OutFest. They were confrontational to the police and to certain OutFest participants. Plaintiffs cannot show “selective treatment” at the hands of the police. ……
D. Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment Claims
Plaintiffs raise Fourth Amendment claims of unreasonable seizure, false arrest, and malicious prosecution stemming from plaintiffs’ arrest12 on October 10, 2004. municipal defendants contend, in this summary judgment motion, they had probable cause to arrest plaintiffs for disorderly conduct, failure to disperse, and obstructing a highway and therefore plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment claims must fail.13
For the rest of the courts response you can read the full document. Here is the reference again.
My take on this…
As can be seen easily by viewing youtube videos there are street preachers everywhere that preach at gay pride events. (see link)
They are not arrested for what they preach though they may get in trouble for some of their actions. Additionally I recommend you do a youtube search for Fred Phelps. Again, no arrests have been made of Fred Phelps.
So what was this group doing that got them arrested? From the court documents we see that they willfully refused police instruction by deliberately going in the opposite direction. They were arrested for a variety of charges not just the hate crime law. If you check out their web site you will find that getting arrested seems to be a distinctive characteristic of this group.
Let’s reverse the situation for a moment. Let’s assume that Christian groups decided to hold a Billy Graham crusade on the streets of Philadelphia. Let’s assume they obtained a permit to do so. But in the middle of their crusades, Gay activists invaded the crusade armed with bullhorns and signs that condemned Christians for homophobia. Would we be applauding their free speech? I don’t think so. In fact I can hear now all the complaints that would be raised about the so called homosexual agenda and their desire to attack churches.
So what we have here is Christians behaving badly and then crying about free speech rights. Somehow I can’t see Jesus in any of these actions. Jesus attracted sinners. He did not repel them. Jesus treated sinners graciously, he did not get into verbal arguments with them and tell them they were going to hell. Jesus taught and the Apostle Paul also taught that we should seek to live at peace with the civil authorities. That was not demonstrated by this group.
An even bigger concern..
We get so lost in the legals we forget our mission….
What kind of witness is this group to..
the outfest participants
In light of the facts I would have to say that their witness is a terrible one .. an affront to Christ and to His gospel.
Various resources are listed here so you can read for yourself what is being said
--Prr news sources and books and videos..
http://www.oneby1.org/summer2007.pdf (no longer active)
--peacefully carried signs and sang hymns….
http://www.cultureandfamily.org/articledisplay.asp? id=6522&department=CFI&categoryid=family (no longer active)
--showed up to sing hymns and carry signs peacefully…..
http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/news/050210a.aspx NEW LINK
--calls it “the Criminalization of Christianity”
DVD: Hate Crimes Laws – Censoring the Church and Silencing Christians DVD by Family Research Council
above video raises concern that one of those arrested was an elderly senior. By title of video makes claim that the church is censored by listing actions of private citizens.
--Grandma got run over by a Hate Crimes law...
http://www.citizenlink.org/content/A000005251.cfm NEW LINK