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« on: October 13, 2004, 02:52:34 PM »

Attorneys Say Christians Unjustly Arrested at Philly Homosexual Event

by Jenni Parker
October 13, 2004

(AgapePress) - Police arrested 11 Christians last Sunday in Pennsylvania for exercising their First Amendment rights at a homosexual pride celebration. The six men and five women from Repent America were jailed and charged under hate crimes legislation after attempting to do evangelistic outreach at "Outfest," a homosexual event that was being held on the public streets and sidewalks of Philadelphia.

Among the Christians taken into custody was Michael Marcavage, founder of Repent America. Just two days before the October 10 arrests, the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Marcavage, alleging that the City of Philadelphia has a policy and practice of continually denying him his constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.

The lawsuit also claims the City has repeatedly threatened, intimidated, and arrested the Christian activist for merely proclaiming the gospel on the public ways. Sunday's events at Outfest would seem to substantiate these allegations.

Marcavage and the other Repent America representatives approached the Outfest site on the first day of the group's "Life and Liberty Tour," carrying banners with biblical messages and gospel literature, and they were immediately confronted with unlawful opposition from homosexual activists. A militant group called the "Pink Angels," whose main objective is to silence outspoken Christians, formed a human chain to block the Repent America members' access to the sidewalk.

The police eventually escorted the Christians past the blockade, and they began to preach and distribute gospel tracts on the public sidewalk and street inside the event. However, homosexual activists continued to harass the open-air evangelists, screaming obscenities, hooting and whistling to drown out their message. Some of Pink Angels carried large signs alongside the Christians to block their message and prevent them from speaking with other Outfest attendees.

A Miscarriage of Justice
In the spirit of cooperation, the Repent America group was careful to obey all laws and even the unlawful requests of city Civil Affairs police to relocate. Nevertheless, without warning the head of the Civil Affairs Unit ordered the Christians arrested and hauled off to jail. After 21 hours behind bars, ten of the Christians were charged with eight crimes -- including three felonies and five misdemeanors -- and released. A teenager in the group was charged with a misdemeanor.

"We are clearly not guilty of these crimes," Marcavage says, "and with the help of our video footage, we shall be vindicated of these trumped-up charges." The Repent America founder calls the incident "one of the most remarkable and unlawful actions by police" that he has ever witnessed.

Furthermore, Marcavage says, this "blatant disregard of the law," in which the civil authorities allowed the pro-homosexual hecklers to impede Repent America's access and block their message, then arrested the law-abiding Christians rather than the hecklers, is simply "inexcusable, especially by police officers who are specially trained to protect civil rights."

Attorneys at the AFA Center for Law & Policy (CLP) are likewise outraged by the incident. "Philadelphia has only proven the very allegations spelled out in Marcavage's suit," notes Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the CLP. Apparently, based on what happened to the Christian demonstrators, he points out, "if you are a Christian on the streets of Philadelphia and dare to publicly express a biblical viewpoint, a jail cell awaits you."

CLP staff attorney Joseph Murray says Philadelphia officials have for too long operated under the false belief that they can "write their own rules and force Michael Marcavage to live by them." He adds, "It is high time the City of Brotherly Love learned that the Liberty Bell rings for Christians, too."

The Repent America representatives have been charged with criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct, and obstructing highways. The Christian group members are scheduled to be arraigned on October 18, 2004 at 8:00 a.m. in the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center.

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