Victory: Street Evangelists Exonerated, Free Speech Protected | American Center for Law and Justice
  Search  |  Login  |  Register

Victory: Street Evangelists Exonerated

By Carly F. Gammill1412032418000

While they could be enjoying a sporting event, taking in a movie, or just relaxing after a long week, three residents of McDonald County, Missouri, have instead chosen to spend their summer weekend evenings sharing the good news of Jesus Christ along Main Street in the City of Noel. And although the Founding Fathers may have recognized the importance of protecting such religious speech when they ratified the First Amendment, Noel city officials took a different approach, issuing the men criminal citations and even arresting one when he had the audacity to assert his constitutional rights upon being ordered to move from the public right-of-way.

When the ministers contacted us about this gross injustice, we immediately offered our assistance and connected them with local defense counsel at the Law Offices of Dee Wampler and Joseph Passanise, who represented the men pro bono on the criminal charges and succeeded in obtaining dismissal of all the charges at a bench trial on August 6.

It seems the City of Noel was more concerned with appeasing its private business owners than protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, as two officers testified at trial that the arrest was made not because the men were trespassing on private property (they were clearly standing on a public right-of-way), and not because they were blocking any traffic (they were located out of the way of both vehicles and pedestrians), but because they were standing in front of a concession stand sign (which, incidentally, had been strategically placed in the public easement in an attempt to prevent the men from ministering there).

Perhaps recognizing the difficulty of persuading the court that peacefully offering the opportunity to hear the Gospel somehow constitutes the creation of a hostile environment, the city prosecutor dismissed the harassment charges at the outset of the trial, and the judge rightly dismissed the arrest conviction after hearing the officers’ testimony.

This victory serves as a reminder that while economic interests may be important, they do not justify governmental interference with the peaceful exercise of precious constitutional rights. The government may not intimidate evangelists into silence because it believes their message is “bad for business.”


Latest in
Free Speech

Angry Atheists Try to Ban Gideon Bibles

By Jay Sekulow1447350056745

The virulently anti-Christian Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is at it once again. What are these atheists so angry about this time? Apparently, Gideon Bibles resting in hotel table drawers are just too much to bear for the self-proclaimed freethinkers, atheists, and agnostics at FFRF.

read more

Why We Need a Special Counsel Now

By Jay Sekulow1445956969389

When I heard the news that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was closing its investigation into former top IRS official Lois Lerner – who’s at the heart of the unlawful targeting scandal of conservative and Tea Party groups – two thoughts came to mind. First, the decision not to bring any criminal...

read more

Obama DOJ Closes Faux Investigation of IRS Targeting Scandal – No Criminal Charges

By Jay Sekulow1445631194865

President Obama’s Justice Department has just announced that it is closing the investigation into the IRS targeting scandal and that Lois Lerner will not face any criminal charges for her actions. What investigation? This faux investigation, conducted by one of President Obama’s top donors , was...

read more

Blatant Moral Injustice: Bergdahl vs. Martland

By Matthew Clark1444752065213

It’s a moral contradiction like no other. Bowe Bergdahl stands accused of deserting his post to cavort with the enemy. Sergeant Charles Martland stands accused of forcefully removing a child rapist from a U.S. military base in order to defend a child. Bergdahl was treated as a hero by the Obama...

read more