On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

Watch this video and ask yourself whether this street preacher was a trouble-maker or merely exercising his right to freedom of speech.

You’ll watch him being arrested for reading aloud from Romans 1 outside of the Department of Motor Vehicles in Hemet, California.

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Attorney Jennifer Monk, associate general counsel with a group called Advocates for Faith and Freedom, filed the suit April 25 in U.S. District Court, alleging free speech violations and unlawful arrest. She’s representing the man who was arrested — Mark Mackey, a member of Calvary Chapel in Hemet.

The other two plaintiffs, assistant Pastor Brett Coronado and Ed Flores Jr., were later arrested after asking what laws were broken to merit Mackey’s arrest.

According to the 13-page complaint, the trio began sharing the gospel at 8:10 a.m. nearly an hour before the DMV opened. The audience was people waiting in line for the office to open.

All three were taken to the CHP offices where they were handcuffed to a table for about 90 minutes. They were cited for “impeding an open business,” although the facility was not open and the men were never closer than 50 feet of any entrance. A spokesman for the Hemet office told a local newspaper that the church members had been warned in the past that they needed a permit to preach on state property.

“This is an abuse of power on the part of the CHP,” Monk said. “The arresting officer could find no appropriate penal code to use when arresting these men. The purpose of the arrests appears to have been to censor them.”

At the time of the lawsuit’s filing, the district attorney’s office had yet to pursue any charges against the men.

“It’s unbelievable that something like this could happen in America today,” says Coronado.

“Whether this was an intentional violation of our clients’ constitutional liberty or whether this was an act of ignorance on the part of the CHP, this lawsuit is important in order to preserve the liberty to read the Bible aloud on public property without fear of criminal prosecution,” said Jennifer Monk.

So, the question is: If the U.S. Supreme Court says that the obnoxious Westboro Baptist Church has the right to defile the funerals of America’s fallen soldiers, how can a little church in southern California be denied their right to read aloud from Romans 1 to Department of Motor Vehicles customers waiting for bureaucrats to open their office?

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