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It even happens when Muslims aren't around

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

Comments (44)

So much for peace and quiet. So if I am on the line using the time to read and catch up with the interesting posts from Whatswrongwiththeworld I should submit to this guy's "preaching"? While I am not a fan of the policeman's tactics, I also find it hard to accept the fact that anyone has the right to disrupt another citizen's peace. Looks like Senor Bible Thumper never learned basic manners, or those norms of behavior which arose primarily as recognition that others exist.

Which of course means that he deserves to be arrested. Um, no, Mr. Puzzled. When you are waiting in line at the DMV you are in a public place. You savvy "public place"? And in the United States of America, there is no "right not to hear someone reading the Bible" when you are in a parking lot. Sorry to have to break it to you.

See, this has nothing to do with "the policeman's tactics." This has to do with a small concept called the rule of law. Which seems to be going down the drain these days and must be vigorously defended. Policemen aren't just supposed to make up reasons for arresting people as they go along.

One wonders if the group would have gotten arrested had the man been reading the Constitution outloud, instead.
Does the office know the meaning of the word, impede, by the way? With the proliferration of frivolous
arrests followed by law suits, I see, potentially, a way for many out-of-work people to make money :) Perhaps if enough municipalities
were sued, they might finally get the message.

The Chicken

Yes, or perhaps reading some PC-approved book. I dunno. Perhaps _The Color Purple_.

So next time someone starts bellowing aloud from the Koran I will just put down my reading material, smile, and enjoy his outburst. Thanks for the clarification Lydia. Looks like we can start the Revolution now. Let's just hope the "public readers" use a text most of us buy into.

Puzzled, first of all, I wouldn't call what he did "bellowing." Second of all, yes, if someone were reading from the Koran in exactly the same circumstances and in exactly the same way as this man was doing, it would be legal. I don't know if you expected me to say something different or not. Perhaps you are a European and don't understand freedom of speech in America?

Sorry to disappoint you Lydia, I am American. Nice try with the sneaky ad hominem attack though. The freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment does not trump the natural civil order which precedes it. So, like the example you cite, I, against the wisdom of the almighty Supreme Court, do not agree that that wacky church from Kansas, which protests at American military funerals, is acting justly when it exercises its First Amendement "rights." Positive law does not trump morality or ethics. If you disagree with that then enjoy your "right" to choose while the rest of us mourn the genocide of the unborn. We must always weigh positive laws against their costs. And the "right" of free speech is less than absolute, despite what we hear from those paragons of legal wisdom Ginsburg or Sotomayor.

I also find it hard to accept the fact that anyone has the right to disrupt another citizen's peace.

Good manners are not compelled by law. And while the freedom of speech that the Framers understood probably would not include the right to disrupt military funerals or distribute hardcore pornography, it certainly included the right to stand on a street corner and "harangue the masses." Haranguing the masses may be in poor taste sometimes. It may annoy the masses. The masses may, perhaps, be able to abate some haranguing as a nuisance. But simply haranguing in a public place is certainly not criminal. It is difficult to see how it would even be immoral. One certainly need not be a frothing leftist or a foolish libertarian to maintain as much. Even St. Thomas---no anarchist he---tells us that matters of good taste and manners are not the appropriate subject of the criminal law. A lot of space separates the libertine and the despot.

people in America are starting to think that Christianity must be practiced only quietly, in private

Starting? Just now? Where have you been for the last few decades?

Nice try with the sneaky ad hominem attack though

No, Troll. I answered you straightforwardly. There was nothing wrong about conjecturing on top of my repeated straightforward answer about why you don't seem to get the issue here. Some Europeans don't.

The issue of Westboro Baptist was very specific to the fact that they were attacking individuals personally in what they were publicly saying. There was indeed a common law tort that applied to this and that had stringent requirements surrounding this. I discussed this in some detail when Bill Luse put up a post about it. Judge Alito discussed it in his dissent. These nuances appear to be beyond you. Merely "doing something in public that some people find annoying" doesn't cut it as far as overcoming 1st amendment protections.

Now, stop trolling my thread. My patience is wearing thin.

There should be a law against proselytizing and 'entertaining' involuntarily captive audiences. What do you supporters of parking lot bible studies suggest for those of us who wish to shuiffle our vehicles around in peace? Better the police decide who's disturbing the peace than my subway rides turn into hostage situations half the time.

Dear John,

Get an Ipod and some really good Bose headphones. Problem solved.

Titus - thank you sincerely for your reasoned response.

Lydia - Sorry to hear that your "patience is wearing thin." But thanks to you too for warning those of us who disagree with your imperfect logic to "stop trolling my thread." I fear that you might take it upon yourself to throw manners to the wind, as you have already done, and read some of your previous screeds aloud in front of our homes. Now THAT would be unbearable. It might even turn the ACLU against the First Amendment! And great petty name calling by the way. The other bloggers on this site are quite a bit better. Those of us looking for intelligent, Christian discussion can stick to them and avoid your impetuous outbursts.

There should be a law against proselytizing and 'entertaining' involuntarily captive audiences.

I hope John will not mind if I inquire whether he makes this comment seriously, or in jest. I'm afraid I've never been good at distinguishing.

If the comment is serious, it must simply be said that the common law has never recognized any manner of right to be free from mere annoyance. Nor has there ever been any right not to be talked to or at in non-threatening and non-obscene terms. Even rigorous police states do no maintain laws generally prohibiting public speaking. There is, for one thing, the very real problem of scope: when does the conversation of the fellow next to you on the train cease to be a loud but inherently private discussion and become "performance" or proselytizing?

I'll be honest: I dislike most street preachers and performers. I find their methods generally ineffective and their takes on Christianity (or, as applicable, art) humorously misguided. And if I thought that what they were doing was actually immoral, rather than merely mildly irritating, I wouldn't take the time to defend them. No one, after all, has a right to sin, and there is no vice that the state may not proscribe. But there are sins that it is not wise for the state to proscribe, and there are irritants that are not sins. The American experiment has its substantial flaws: but the general proscription of public speech is not one of the better calls for its reform.

You were welcome to read what I said about Westboro Baptist, Puzzled, and to see the differences in the situations for yourself. I referred you to the discussion and explained the differences briefly; you could easily have found further discussion with a little searching of our site and also reading Alito's opinion. You apparently do not wish to see reasons and answers that are given to you when the person giving them doesn't happen to sound "nice" enough to you. What I originally said in response to you was quite clearly referring to the same points that Titus made.

You are starting to define "troll." The next contentless and merely personally insulting comment you put up will be deleted.

John means it seriously, Titus, I'll wager.

What do you supporters of parking lot bible studies suggest for those of us who wish to shuffle our vehicles around in peace?

Growing up?

Titus's comments about street preachers and the un-wisdom of proscribing them cannot be bettered.

By the way, do I really need to add that all of this has been _extensively hashed out_ in First Amendment jurisprudence? The points that Titus makes have been expressly affirmed in First Amendment precedents concerning, e.g., the Moonies and their like passing out literature in public, which some people might consider annoying and a disturbance of personal "peace."

Let me get this straight, according to your logic Puzzled "I also find it hard to accept the fact that anyone has the right to disrupt another citizen's peace", I have the right to have anyone arrested for annoying me? I can silence anyone I want whenever I want, because I deserve peace wherever I go? Good grief! Just because there are people in the world who don't exercise good judgment when it comes to freedom of speech, I'm not willing to forfeit my freedoms because you can't handle a little annoyance.

Interesting and valuable point made at this blog:

http://lisagraas.com/2011/04/27/christian-arrested-for-reading-bible-in-public/

When advertisements are displayed via blimps to large audiences at sports games, they are "captive" in pretty much exactly the same sense as the "captive audience" here: They have chosen to go to a public place and, for their own legitimate purposes, to remain in that place for a fairly long, set period of time. A message is then displayed or read out within the region which they can hear or see which message they did not request but must put up with because they are in that particular place at that time.

If I'd known I had the right not to be annoyed in public places, I'd have been calling the cops long ago on all the people whose private phone calls I keep being subjected to as I try to go about my life . . . :)

I actually find it much harder to tune out one-half of a loud phone call than someone speaking an entire discourse . . . I learned how to read or sleep just fine while being bombarded with evolutionary Christian-hating philosophy back in one of my college science courses . . . :)

Just sayin' -- the definition of "annoyance" is way too broad and relative to be used for determining what should and should not be allowed in public spaces. As others have pointed out, the lines have been drawn, clearly, long ago and they are reasonable and just.

Puzzled, the essay you linked raises interesting points. It also points to difficult developments in first-amendment law over the last many decades. I will admit to not having read the Westboro Baptist decision: I ought to have. But what the decision entails, as can be seen from nothing beyond the outcome, is the logical conclusion of the narrowing of the traditional limits of free speech that has gone on now for some time. When those limits were viable legal doctrines, as they were at the time of the framing, I believe they would have formed a legitimate basis for preventing, e.g., the Westboro group's acts, but not those of an average street preacher. Both obscenity and the fighting-words doctrine would have been reasonable grounds on which to proscribe the Westboro protests; neither of course would cover the preacher.

The captive-audience thing is bogus: there's no first-amendment rule that says anything about limiting private speech on captive-audience grounds. The captive-audience analysis comes into play when deciding whether certain forms of government speech are appropriate, but I'm completely unaware of any basis for invoking the concept in the face of unmistakably private speech.

Here was my layman's reaction to Alito's dissent in Snyder v. Phelps, Titus. I haven't read the majority opinion yet.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2011/03/thanking_god_for_free_speech_and_dead_soldiers.html#comment-159610

No one, after all, has a right to sin, and there is no vice that the state may not proscribe.

I'm not sure I agree with you there, Titus. What if my vice is thinking too much about how much I dislike my neighbor? Even when it comes to external vices, I really don't think we want the state to proscribe fingernail biting or calling your friend a fool unjustly or a million other things that we could agree are wrong. I don't claim either that I have a formula for working this out nor that constitutional jurisprudence defines the boundaries, but it does seem that it's actually a _good_ thing for there to be some space between what is wrong from a God's-eye view and what is proscribed.

Better the police decide who's disturbing the peace than my subway rides turn into hostage situations half the time.

What is peace? Has it ever been defined in law? It has in theology, but by that definition, what the Scripture Reader was doing was preserving the peace, since peace is the tranquility that flows from God's right order and certainly it is a part of that good order to read Scripture. If the country is pagan, it might cause consternation, but that is a function of the moral defect in the country, not in the reading of Scripture.

I also find it hard to accept the fact that anyone has the right to disrupt another citizen's peace.

The problem is that with mass communication this becomes a complicated matter. Suppose I like the person reading Scripture while I am standing in line. Suppose everyone else standing in line does, as well. Does he get to be arrested because a single person objects? Does the line get to take a vote? Suppose the business owner came out and applauded the man reading Scripture?

Essentially, the police officer is deciding for everyone and making many unwarranted assumptions in the process.

The Chicken

Even when it comes to external vices, I really don't think we want the state to proscribe fingernail biting or calling your friend a fool unjustly or a million other things that we could agree are wrong.

It is certainly not the case that we want the state to proscribe every sin. It is even less the case that a state instituted on the principles of limited government according to a written constitution may do so lawfully.

But, mutatis mutandis, it would be possible for there to be a law that proscribed any vice or prescribed any virtue. See S.T. I:II, 96 A2. It is well accepted that the law ought not to do so and does not, in fact, do so. But it could.

Here was my layman's reaction to Alito's dissent in Snyder v. Phelps, Titus. I haven't read the majority opinion yet.

The law of torts has a rather muddled relationship with the First Amendment, to say the least.

If causing an annoyance to a captive audience were grounds for arrest, I could have the police haul away some certain of my customers.

I like an idea I heard today in this connection: Arrest the ice cream guy. He goes up and down the neighborhood playing that dumb tune where people can sometimes even hear him indoors.

Turkey In the Straw over and over and over and....

So, to be clear, are there really no constitutional grounds for this "captive audience" charge? The following is the only *somewhat* pertinent remark I've heard from those saying that the arrest was legal (taken from YouTube):

"They went to a place where people are required to be and imposed their reading on the crowd. The people were not “free to leave” because doing so would cause them to have to come back another time, possibly lose their place in line, take off work again, etc. This was damaging to the message Jesus brought. He taught in places where people went out to meet him. He didn’t exploit opportunities where they didn’t have any real choice to opt out. This guerilla Christianity isn’t effective."


But if there truly are no legal grounds for this "captive audience" charge, then it's clear that this incident was unlawful and amounted to nothing more than an arrest from personal annoyance. And it's just another example confirming the obvious - that many people in the "progressive" regions of Western societies suffer from a deep-seated hatred of Christianity.

Personally, I think the Bible-readers were supremely rude. Suppose I was reading my own Bible while waiting for the DMV to open? Or thinking about something that really needed thinking about? Or engaging in a profitable, perhaps even evangelistic conversation? Bad manners. Very bad manners.

That said, there's no law against bad manners in a public space, and their arrest was simply outrageous and un-American. Ironically, the CHP officer strikes me as precisely the sort of person mentioned in Romans 1:26-28. If I may be so bold. I think Lydia is right that "the people in America are starting to think that Christianity must be practiced only quietly, in private". And I would add that Christianity is singled out in that regard.

Spencer, I don't think "constitutional grounds" is quite the phrase you want, but I think I know what you mean, and as far as I can tell, no, that whole "captive audience" thing is completely bogus and has _not_ been carved out as an exception to the first amendment. Notice too that the charge that was brought--"impeding an open business"--does not support the so-called "captive audience" charge either. First, the "impeding an open business" charge would apply to _any_ business, not just a gov. business where (the youtube commentators claim) people "have to be." Second, the charge depends on the business's having been _open_ when in fact the formation of a line occurred only because the DMV was _not open_.

Commentator Titus appears to be a lawyer and claims above that the exception was bogus. It looks like it was entirely made up on the spot and like no such charge could actually be brought even based on any law on the books.

Jeff C., I had the very same thought. Very hostile, nasty police officer to the Christians, and there seemed to be possibly a reason for that. It really strikes me the way that he can hardly bring himself to say that they have a right to preach in public at all, and then he obviously searches his mind and makes up this bogus "captive audience" thing to negate that immediately. And his bullying manner to the other two men, "You wanna go with him? Were you preaching? You can be arrested or leave" is outrageous. I agree with you too that what they were doing was not a good idea strategically and was plausibly rude.

He (Jesus) taught in places where people went out to meet him.

Like the synagogue??

The Chicken

Has anyone else noted that no Miranda rights were recited to the man being arrested? This is an important procedural step!

"First, the "impeding an open business" charge would apply to _any_ business, not just a gov. business where (the youtube commentators claim) people "have to be." Second, the charge depends on the business's having been _open_ when in fact the formation of a line occurred only because the DMV was _not open_."

The law reads, "602.1. (a) (b) Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business carried on by the employees of a public agency open to the public, by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business, or those persons there to transact business with the public agency, and who refuses to leave the premises of the public agency after being requested to leave by the office manager or a supervisor
of the public agency, or by a peace officer acting at the request of the office manager or a supervisor of the public agency"

"Open to the public" is not a temporal descriptor. "Captive audience" is a valid legal concept although likely not applicable in this situation (IMHO).

Quite a few decisions here,

"In sum, Trammell Crow's parking lot ban is a reasonable restriction on the time, place or manner of activities protected by the First Amendment and the liberty of speech clause. The ban is content neutral, narrowly drawn to protect the center's legitimate interests and provides an adequate alternative forum for expression. Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Savage's application for a preliminary injunction permitting him to distribute his gospel tracts in the parking lot."

Savage v. Trammell Crow, also Costco, Pruneyard, HareKrishna, etc.

The California Constitution is broader than the U. S. Constitution but time, place, and manner still applies. The parking lot and sidewalks on DMV property are probably not public forums and hence may have reasonable, content free restrictions applied.

Given the nature of DMV parking lots, allowing any activities except the coming and going of patrons would be unwise. Likewise, sidewalk room at DMV offices varies and, in any case, is limited making uncontrolled access impractical.

Some accounts mention that the DMV issues permits for groups wishing to disseminate their views and had recently issued one to a different church. Also I seem to recall tables for this or that matter on the sidewalks at the Culver City DMV awhile back so they do issue permits. The CC folks need to do like their coreligionists and get a permit although I surmise the parking lot preaching won't fly regardless (and shouldn't).

The officer conducted himself in a professional manner. He had no backup, so get in, get out, and let the courts sort it out seems like a good strategy (the pastors also conducted themselves well).

Kevin, Miranda rights don't have to be read at the time of arrest; they do have to be read before questioning if the state wishes to use any statements made as evidence. This was a misdemeanor arrest so no big deal.

Volokh has a somewhat orthogonal discussion,

http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/harass/substanc.htm

Only they weren't obstructing or intimidating anyone. And no one has even cited a putative ban on the treatment of the parking lot as a public forum. And it wasn't at all professional for the officer to a) refuse to tell them any actual, applicable charges and b) make up out of the back of his head a "captive audience" phrase which, as even you are forced to admit, Al, and as everyone who knows beans about legal matters seems to agree, does not apply here. A police officer isn't supposed to arrest people because he thinks they might be doing something that might be chargeable when he really is clueless as to any actual crime they are committing. In this case, the officer's hostility in his body language is evident to all but the willfully blind, and that doubtless influenced his willingness to make up a legally ridiculous pretense that he had grounds for arresting them. But thanks for the clarification on "open."

"Only they weren't obstructing or intimidating anyone..."

Category error and some DMV employees have peace officer status in some situations. If the DMV folks determine that obstruction or intimidation has occurred, that is sufficient to effect an arrest. The actual fact of such obstruction or intimidation is a matter to be determined by a jury/judge. The officer using an irrelevant term in the course of a 602 arrest is, well, irrelevant. The 602 violation occurred when they blew off the DMV security officer; the CHP was merely taking out the trash - so to speak.

"In this case, the officer's hostility in his body language is evident to all but the willfully blind..."

OK, I went back to the video and viewed it again. What struck me on a closer viewing was the preachers' arrogance and general attitude beginning with them blowing off the DMV security officer like he was a lawn jockey (understandable, I guess, given the general political and social orientation common in that part of our state) and ending with them trying to provoke the CHP into arresting all of them (note how the officer, recognizing their attempt to provoke him, deftly defused matters).

Question: Are Christians not supposed to do the salt and light thing when they witness and isn't being puffed up with pride a sin?

Hostility, of course, is going to be in the eye of the beholder but if this is hostility to you, you need to get out more. Perhaps it's the way I choose to interact with others but my encounters with the law enforcement in California and always with the CHP has been generally positive ( I did have an officer from one of our smaller cities pull his gun on me once and I've been in a riot or two but those are other stories). Many years ago I ran out of gas in the middle of the desert, at night and on a side road, and a couple of CHP happened by and drove me about 20 miles out of their way and back - these are generally good guys. Anyway the officer, alone, confronted three adult males and a crowd of bystanders, made an arrest, skillfully deflected obvious provocation, and left without anyone getting hurt. Seems like a good day and a good cop to me.

Had the preachers had the courtesy to actually communicate with the security officer (who, after all, was just doing his job) they would have likely found out that they needed a permit to professionally witness on DMV property. Even public forums in California are subject to content neutral time, place, and manner regulation. As any part of the DMV (and similar public agencies) aren't public forums (read the case law), the standard that must be met in regulating free speech use is less strict than in areas that are public forums.

That folks believe that they are entitled to obstruct a parking lot used by the general public at their whim strikes me as strange.

A rainy day so a little goggling as it seems we may have a character issue here. In the introduction to the video Pastor Coronado refers to more than once driving by the DMV office in question prior to its opening and seeing the line. Going to Google Maps we see that the sidewalk in front of the DMV office is about 450 feet from the street and appears to be at least partially blocked by the parking lot and landscaping. It seems more reasonable to assume that they drove to the office not by it.

http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=port+douglas+australia&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wl

Which is important when it is coupled with the statement by a CHP official quoted in the Riverside Press-Enterprise,

"Lt. Mike Soubirous, the acting commander of the San Gorgonio CHP office, said officers had previously told church members they were not allowed to preach on the DMV premises without a permit. Church members said they were not told they needed a permit, Monk said."

It seems that the good reverends knew they needed a permit and had cased the DMV office prior to the morning of the arrest. Likely they were engaged in an act of civil disobedience but for some reason lack the courage to be up front with that.

Those who go to the map will see that the office isn't set up as a public forum and anyone preaching in the parking lot would obstruct traffic. There is no public sidewalk close to the office. It appears the office couldn't handle more than one group at a time making a content free permit process reasonable under both the California and United States Supreme Court standards.

The video, of course, has been edited and one would hope that after Acorn, Planned Parenthood, NPR, and Shirley Sherrod discriminating folks would take any video purporting to make a political point with a grain of salt.

ending with them trying to provoke the CHP into arresting all of them (note how the officer, recognizing their attempt to provoke him, deftly defused matters).

Actually, not. He threatened them with arrest right off the bat for nothing at all, merely for asking what law their friend had broken. He acted like a bully. This "do you want to go with him" stuff is junk. It is unprofessional, bullying behavior and should not be allowed. It is not against the law to ask what law one's friend has broken when a policeman is arresting one's friend. And in the end apparently they _were_ arrested, which was about as clearly a false arrest, merely for harassment purposes, as can be imagined.

Your references to no one's "getting hurt" are ludicrous. Anyone who thinks these guys were behaving threateningly is an ideologue or a fool or both.

As for allowing the other security guy to make a judgement that they were "obstructing or intimidating," and after that just "taking out the trash," that's really rich. Sweet. So if I walk up and am having a conversation with a friend who is waiting in line at the DMV and the security officer doesn't like the political or religious content (let's say) of what I say, he gets simply to define me as "obstructing or intimidating," and I get dragged off by the CHP. That's an example. But no, it should not be wide open, without recourse, for the security guard to define "obstructing or intimidating" in whatever way he pleases and get people arrested on the strength of that alone. The obvious First Amendment violations and false arrest possibilities of such power are simply huge.

Your playing the race card is kind of odious, too, Al.

As we live to serve and are ever patient I will post the link to the county courthouse in Hemet,

http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&biw=1066&bih=966&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=hemet,+ca+courthouse&fb=1&gl=us&hq=courthouse&hnear=0x80db6437859615a9:0x693c76f668b570c2,Hemet,+CA&ei=UabSTeq4C6TB0AHV9_zcCw&sa=X&oi=local_group&ct=image&resnum=2&sqi=2&ved=0CBQQtgMwAQ&iwloc=14948728567725082403

Now, compare that with the satellite view of the DMV office I posted above and apply the standards the courts used in Pruneyard, Trammell Crow, Costco, Krishna, etc. to evaluate the actions of the parties involved here.

I maintain that under current law the DMV property is clearly not a public form while even a cursory inspection shows the local courthouse abounds with areas that may be so classified. As such, the procedures the DMV uses to regulate free speech are perfectly legal under current law as long as they remain content neutral.

Now, as to the latter, it has been stated, and not contradicted in either the Chapel's video or complaint that the DMV does allow Christian groups to witness at the office if they get a permit. Based on other comments it is reasonable to assume that the CC folks knew this and chose to break the law.

Rather than focus on the scary, scary CHP perhaps you would like to account for the failure of the pastors to forthrightly state that they know they are breaking the law and they are submitting to arrest in order to challenge that law. Why the deceptive video and statements?

Further, you might want to explain why you believe, under current law, that the DMV is being unreasonable in requiring a permit in order to use their space for non-business purposes.

"So if I walk up and am having a conversation with a friend who is waiting in line at the DMV and the security officer doesn't like the political or religious content (let's say) of what I say, he gets simply to define me as "obstructing or intimidating," and I get dragged off by the CHP."

This, of course, bears no relation to what actually happened. That you feel compelled to drag in something so irrelevant shows how weak your case is. Look, it's perfectly legitimate for them to engage in civil disobedience to challenge what they seem to believe is an improper restriction on their rights. My beef is with the dishonest way in which they have presented their situation. Instead of going off into fantasy situations, how about dealing with what we have before us?

"Your references to no one's "getting hurt" are ludicrous. Anyone who thinks these guys were behaving threateningly is an ideologue or a fool or both."

I notice you leave out the "obstructing". I assume you went and looked at the parking lot so you have to realize that obstructing is an issue. That is a judgment call and they chose to get in the faces of the folks who are legally empowered to make that call.

No permit, stand and preach in the parking lot - go to jail; seems simple to me.

BTW, pondering this further, it seems to me that the actions of the security officer and the CHP have a certain, "oh boy, these guys again," flavor to them.

"Your playing the race card is kind of odious, too, Al."

All I know is that they chose to at least talk to the white peace officer while they totally dissed the African American one. You got a better explanation - let's hear it.?

Rather than focus on the scary, scary CHP perhaps you would like to account for the failure of the pastors to forthrightly state that they know they are breaking the law and they are submitting to arrest in order to challenge that law. Why the deceptive video and statements?

It's your story that they are being deceptive. Why should I agree with it? So far in support of that we have conflicting testimony. It appears that no one told them that on the spot in this incident, and the CHP guy was clueless and arrested them because he believed they were "preaching to a captive audience," which is, in fact, not a crime. The idiot didn't even know what he was allowed to arrest them for and said nothing about a permit and about its not being legally a public forum. What is very clear is his hatred of "preaching." I note: Had they obtained a permit, they could have "preached" to the people in line, which he believes to be a "captive audience," so he's clueless twice over. As to why the other two guys were arrested, even you, Al, don't have a good story to tell about that. They just annoyed the CHP guy by having the gall to ask him what law their friend broke, to which he gave no good answer, presumably because he didn't know one.

"It's your story that they are being deceptive. Why should I agree with it?"

Because it's the explanation that best fits the available information.

"It appears that no one told them that on the spot in this incident..."

Oops, my bad (but it makes my case). I listened again and it seems the pastor does speak to the DMV security officer. He tells the security officer after the officer tells him he can't preach that he is going to continue and the officer is going to do what he is going to do. That seems like pretty clear evidence that he knew an arrest was likely and reinforces my assumption about prior contact (which would also back up the statement of the CHP lieutenant).

I do retract the racial conjectures though and you should acknowledge that the body of evidence clearly demonstrates that the pastors knew they were violating the DMV regulations and had planned to get arrested.

Here is the statement of the CHP lieutenant,

"Lt. Mike Soubirous, the acting commander of the San Gorgonio CHP office, said officers had previously told church members they were not allowed to preach on the DMV premises without a permit. Church members said they were not told they needed a permit, Monk said,"

so someone is lying - notice how attorney Monk is careful to phrase her statement so as to not implicate herself in any such lie.

Again I have to note that you can't seem to get past the arrest. If you are on state property in a manner that requires a permit and you don't have that permit and you refuse to leave, you are going to get arrested. What is your problem here? The DMV officer approached them and asked them to leave so they were from that point on on notice that they were in violation of the law - something we now have evidence that they also knew.

As anyone arrested for a misdemeanor has to be transported to a holding facility and the DMV is a state agency that brings in the CHP. As it seems there had been previous contact with the CC folks the law went straight to the arrest. Recall that I surmised in my comment above that the officers demeanor had a "here we go again" air to it. Well, suprise, suprise, I just found this story in the The Valley Chronicle, a local Hemet/San Jacinto paper,

"Not so, says Mike Soubirous, acting commander of the CHP’s Pass area office in Banning."

"The issue was interference with the DMV’s business under laws that prohibit anyone from attempting to block entrances or intimidate those attempting to use the business, he said."

"Soubirous said the same church representatives have been warned in the past about their activities, and told they could preach and distribute materials if they obtained a permit and followed the rules."

“We have met with them on at least two prior occasions,” he said."

"In each case, the Calvary Chapel Hemet representatives were shouting at people and “getting in their faces,” said Soubirous and were told they could not continue."

"No arrests were made on the earlier occasions, he said."

"Another church, Praise Chapel of San Jacinto, got just the permit that officers said Calvary Chapel Hemet should get and conducted their activities without generating complaints from those waiting outside the DMV building."

"A group from Calvary Chapel Hemet acted similarly during the Hemet Christmas parade in December by walking along the parade route with an amplified speaker."

"When some people along the route objected, at least one member of the group broke away to loudly confront the objector and warn him that he was in danger of going to hell if he did not accept the church representatives’ message."

"Several attempts were made to contact the three plaintiffs in the case and their attorneys."

"A woman who answered the phone at the church said the men would not answer questions regarding the incident, and attorneys from Advocates for Faith & Freedom did not keep appointments for telephone interviews."

Hummm??? Oh, and here are the comments from the Chronical story,

"Reader Comments
The following are comments from the readers. In no way do they represent the view of thevalleychronicle.com.

TheaS wrote on May 6, 2011 11:21 AM:
" This behavior is ridiculous and does more to alienate people from the church than deliver a positive message. "

Report Abuse

phuh knees wrote on May 6, 2011 7:36 PM:
" Can't you just imagine the uproar that would commence if fair-minded citizens - annoyed by pushy out-of-place proselytizers - were to band together and appear at the doors of the Calvary Chapel Hemet Sunday mornings and aggressively read selected passages from the DMV's Driver Handbook?

I'd PAY to see that on YouTube... "

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RealtorGary wrote on May 7, 2011 6:44 PM:
" Love is NOT telling people that you have not earned the right to minister to that they are wrong in their actions. It did not work for the Pharisees and it won't work today. Sadness for the Kingdom of God today. "

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pauln44 wrote on May 9, 2011 10:57 AM:
" If you are the soil and your faith is the water, your message should be a flower. Unfortunately these individuals lay it on way too think and make themselves into muddy puddles I want to avoid. "

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ValleyGirl wrote on May 9, 2011 5:12 PM:
" I haven't been to the courthouse or the DMV. but I have seen this group in the past at Valley-Wide on the 4th of July screaming at people who disagree with them on a bullhorn, while greatly disturbing people who are trying to relax with their families and enjoy the day. Jerks for Jesus, Bullies with Bibles. From what I could tell most of what they said was filled with half-truths from the Bible, which is another way of saying "lies."

Great impression these guys are making for the Lord, no?

Another point here; while the pastors were well behaved on the video, the CHP official alleges that they had previously gotten in folks' faces and been more obnoxious. Note now in the Chronicle comments we have two other allegations of similar intrusive and obnoxious behavior.

I still have to note that you have yet to even attempt to make the legal case for these guys being able to go on DMV property and preach without a permit. Instead you can't seem to get past the irrelevant details of the arrest. No permit, won't leave - go to jail - rule of law and all that.

"...Al, don't have a good story to tell about that."

Nor do you unless it it on the tape and I missed it or you have seen the full, unedited tape (if that is the case, please share).

"The issue was interference with the DMV’s business under laws that prohibit anyone from attempting to block entrances or intimidate those attempting to use the business, he said."

What is my problem? Well, that they weren't blocking entrances or intimidating people. See, Al, I don't hold a Lewis Carroll view on words like "intimidating" or phrases like "blocking entrances." I take it that they mean something and can't arbitrarily be made to mean something else, and I have a quaint American notion that I'm allowed to make up my own mind about whether they apply. They weren't blocking entrances, and they weren't intimidating people attempting to use the building. Indeed, it seems pretty evident that the law with which they were charged was written for a very different type of activity--something like chaining oneself to doors or something. And though I don't have time to look it up now, when I first put up this post I did read that that was the legislative history of the ordinance--some sort of activists attempting actively to _disrupt_ a business as a protest, which these guys were not doing.

For some reason, you keep talking about the permit, but the very people you're trying to defend keep trying to make the actual charge fit, when the charge is _not_ "talking to people in front of the DMV without a permit" but rather, as your very quotation shows, _intimidating_ and _blocking a business_, _interfering_ with the business, which they were not doing. It seems as though people on your side of the issue are having trouble getting their story straight.

Again I have to note that you can't seem to get past the arrest. If you are on state property in a manner that requires a permit and you don't have that permit and you refuse to leave, you are going to get arrested. What is your problem here? The DMV officer approached them and asked them to leave so they were from that point on on notice that they were in violation of the law - something we now have evidence that they also knew.

I can't get past the arrest? That's rich. You mean I'm supposed to take the fact that this legally clueless police officer arrested the first guy and evidently cued the arrest of the other guys who did _nothing_ as evidence that they must have actually done something wrong? Well, no. The police officer _told_ them why he was arresting them, and it was totally wrong. So the fact that he arrested them is not evidence of guilt.

The fact that the DMV guy told them to leave was not putting them on notice that they were in violation of the law. It was putting them on notice that he wanted them to leave.

Al, perhaps I used to have your touching faith that policemen and security officers never tell people to stop doing things if those things aren't illegal, but I've had plenty of recent evidence that has disabused me of any such notion I might have held.

It may turn out in fact that there was a legal requirement for a permit, but as of now I remain completely unconvinced that these guys from the church had good reason to believe they were breaking such a requirement. As you say, someone is lying. I'm sorry to have to say that I no longer faith to believe that it isn't the police. (In the Dearborn case, parts of the police report appear to have been completely faked. I'm afraid that sort of thing does happen where there is bias and a desire to justify an unjustified arrest after the fact.)

This is interesting. Recall that one story in a local paper included this,

""A group from Calvary Chapel Hemet acted similarly during the Hemet Christmas parade in December by walking along the parade route with an amplified speaker."

"When some people along the route objected, at least one member of the group broke away to loudly confront the objector and warn him that he was in danger of going to hell if he did not accept the church representatives’ message."

and in the comments to that article reader Valley Girl related her experiences with the Calvery Chapel folks,

" I haven't been to the courthouse or the DMV. but I have seen this group in the past at Valley-Wide on the 4th of July screaming at people who disagree with them on a bullhorn, while greatly disturbing people who are trying to relax with their families and enjoy the day. Jerks for Jesus, Bullies with Bibles. From what I could tell most of what they said was filled with half-truths from the Bible, which is another way of saying "lies."

Now, in the comments to this video on another site, one Chris testifies,

"May 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm"

"I was there that day!! Brett and his group are pushy bible bullies who shove their twisted version of faith down everyone's throats. The officer hasn't been called once to deal with this problem they have been called over and over to deal with Brett. You are only seeing the edited version of the video you didn't see the beginning of the day where they were preaching to all of us that we are going to hell because we are sinners. The security guards asked them to leave and he said "arrest me". So they did. They then proceeded to taunt the CHP officer. Your only seeing the edited version of this event. Brett antagonized the officer until they took him also. They edited the heck out of this video. They don't even show the crowd clapping when Brett was hauled off. You can't even trust a pastor to be honest any more."

http://www.goddiscussion.com/59981/assistant-pastor-and-aides-arrested-for-reading-bible-out-loud-at-ca-dmv/

I guess we could add Shirley Sherrod's experience as testimony as to what conservatives can do with video but I digress.

Anyway we will never agree on this one but I would remind to you of my comments on Rifqa Bary and Prof. Gates. I look at the evidence and take a position regardless of the theology or ideology of the actors and I never give the man the benefit of the doubt. Your reaction would lead one to believe that the reverends were going to be thrown to the lions instead of arrested for trespass (I am beginning to see how the ancient Romans may have had a point:-)); I guess you've never been arrested or detained that may explain things. Get arrested, get released, go to court, appeal, rinse, repeat, whatever; us folks on the left are more used to the ways that lead to social justice I guess.

And speaking of justice, what should be the eternal reward for those whose style of witnessing seems to confirm the unbelief of unbelievers more than anything else? Just asking.

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