by Jack Minor
In a scene reminiscent of the former Soviet Union, three Christians in California were arrested for simply reading the Bible on a public sidewalk.
An assistant pastor, and two elders from Calvary Chapel in Hemet, California were at a local Department of Motor Vehicles office prior to its opening for the day. Pastor Brett Coronado, Mark Mackey and Ed Flores were standing on a sidewalk when Mackay began reading the Bible. Within seconds a security guard appeared and told Mackay he would need to go someplace else.
A video posted on YouTube shows that the Christians were not shouting at any time and were not being confrontational in any way. Several minutes later a police officer appeared, and without warning, told Mackay, “You give him the book, you’re under arrest.”
When Macky asked what he had done wrong, the officer said, “You’ve been asked to leave and you didn’t.” The officer said Mackay would be allowed to preach on his own property but could not “preach here because that was a captive audience.” He went on to say, “They’re standing in line and they want to do business.”
The video makes clear the men were not preaching to anyone, they were simply reading from a book; the Bible. At no time did Mackey resist the officer as he was being handcuffed and led away. Pastor Coronado and Flores were then told by the officer to leave, despite the fact that, like Mackay, they were not preaching. Shortly after, both Pastor Coronado and Flores were arrested as well.
The three men were held for approximately 90 minutes and released after being cited for “impeding an open business.” Advocates for Faith and Freedom are representing the Christians. Attorney Jennifer Monk, told the Gazette the video clearly shows the men were not breaking the law as cited. “The law they were charged with breaking, they clearly didn’t. They were not impeding an open business because it wasn’t open yet.”
She went on to say, “Their proximity to the door isn’t close enough, they are not stopping anyone from going in or out of the DMV. Even if it had been open they clearly did not impede a business.”
Monk also said that at this point the district attorney has declined to prosecute. AFF has filed for a motion to dismiss the charges.
Monk said, “It is important to understand the case is not about the method these men took about engaging in speech, but that they have a right to speak in public about religion, a religious or political viewpoint or anything else.”
The case appears to be part of a trend attempting to prevent Christians from discussing their faith in public.
In Wichita, Kansas, Pastor Mark Holick, of the Spirit One Christian Center, was arrested for simply passing out packets containing copies of the gospel of John and Romans outside of a local mosque. Holick said they offered the packets to individuals as they exited services at the mosque. When offering the packets, members of Holick’s group said, “We have a free gift for you.”
A police captain showed up and told Holick he could not stop and pass out the packets, but would need to be continually walking. Holick was subsequently arrested for loitering.
Holick was arrested for trespassing another time when he and members of his church were passing out gospel tracts on a sidewalk during a gay pride event at a local park. Holick was confronted by eight to 10 officers who told him the sidewalk was closed to the public.
Christians were arrested for disturbing the peace while attempting to engage Muslims in a polite dialogue about their faith at an Arab Festival open to the public in Dearborn, Michigan.
David Wood, Nabeel Qureshi, Paul Rezkalla and 18-year-old Negeen Mayel were arrested for disturbing the peace. Wood says they did not pass out any kind of pamphlet but were only talking to people who engaged them in a conversation.
Mayel, who was not talking to anyone, but was simply recording the events from about 100 feet away, had her camera confiscated and was arrested.