I have just learned of a very disturbing video of an incident that took place in Hemet, California, in February.
The full story is here.
Several things are notable: First, the charge against them was "impeding an open business." However, according to the policeman's pretty obviously ad libbed rationale for arresting Mark, the first man, the reason for the arrest was that the audience was "captive"--meaning that they were waiting in line for the DMV to open. By this reasoning, the arrest would not have been made had the DMV actually been open and had there been no line! So Mark was arrested for "impeding an open business" because he was reading to people outside the business when the business was not open. Second, of course, no one was "impeding" a business at all, so the charge was completely frivolous. Third, the other two men were arrested on the same charge when they had done absolutely nothing but accompany the first man and, of course, have the chutzpah to ask the policeman what law Mark had broken by reading the Bible aloud to the crowd at the DMV. This was about as obvious a harassment arrest as it's possible to get. Finally, it seems to me a little ominous that the policeman, who is acting like a complete jerk, starts by telling Mark that he can preach on his private property and even repeats this before finding it in his heart to say that he can preach on a "street corner." Well, yes, he can, can't he? Yet actually, the entire manner both of the security guard and of the policeman gives the impression that they think it pretty outrageous for someone to be preaching in public at all.
The story says that the prosecutor decided to drop the whole thing. Good for the prosecutor, and probably smart, as the charges were completely frivolous. And good for the pro bono group that has brought a suit for first amendment violations. Let's hope they do a good job.
Is it just me, or is there a distinct sense that people in America are starting to think that Christianity must be practiced only quietly, in private? Whether it's Muslims or secularists, there's a definite movement against those pesky fundamentalist types or (in the Dearborn case) missionary types who actually go out and engage people whom they don't previously know. Whether or not that's your style of Christianity, the trend should disturb you.
HT: Facebook friend Letitia Wong