Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Liberty Bell rangers halt minister's speech:Center honoring U.S. freedoms restricts message against abortion

A street preacher whose annual fall campaign often includes a stop in Philadelphia, the self-described "Birthplace of Liberty," has been arrested for speaking against abortion on public property outside the building housing the Liberty Bell.The arrest of Michael Marcavage, chief of the Repent America ministry, was documented on video now available on YouTube. Marcavage told WND he's awaiting information from the National Park Service authorities who arrested him on an appearance date in federal court.The video shows Marcavage preaching to a crowd outside the Liberty Bell Center, which houses the Liberty Bell, the artifact from American history that rang to announce the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence and is inscribed with "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof," a biblical quotation from Leviticus 25:10."This is where we have been on a number of other occasions," Marcavage told WND. "This time we were ministering to people waiting in line to see the Liberty Bell, speaking on the message on the Bell, which has 'Proclaim liberty throughout the Land.'" "We were speaking on the issue of abortion being tolerated in this nation, generally how abortion is simply a representation of how wicked our nation has become, and the need to repent for sin in our own lives," he said. He referenced the loss of liberty by the unborn who are aborted, he said.While he was speaking, National Park Service rangers ordered him and others in his group to the other side of the building, where they said they had set up a "free speech zone," which was far away from any pedestrian traffic entering or leaving the building.Calls to the National Park Service by WND seeking a comment on the issue were not returned."The Rangers told us no one is permitted to be [speaking] on the public sidewalk outside the entrance or exit, to speak about issues that are important to them," Marcavage said.The minister, who previously has challenged Philadelphia city regulations limiting free speech by preaching the Bible at homosexual festivals there, said the stop was part of his regular fall tour."Every year in October we go on a pro-life evangelism tour. This year it runs from Oct. 3-11," he said. "We travel throughout Pennsylvania, visit a number of high school and college campuses, and talk about the reality of abortion. Since we were in Philadelphia we thought it would be a good opportunity to stop [in the area] of Independence Hall. We've been there before."But he said in the birthplace of freedom in the United States, where Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell exist as representations of the highest ideals of freedom, speech now is restricted.The rangers approached Marcavage several times, to say that the rules had been changed and he was not allowed to preach on the sidewalk. Then one ranger consulted a supervisor, and repeated the orders."I was very patient," Marcavage said. "I listened to what he had to say, and encouraged him to speak to our legal counsel. I said it was sad that in the birthplace of freedom they were attempting to establish 'free speech zones.'"Those are areas, which have been defeated in other court challenges, where officials say they want street preachers or protesters to remain, usually ostensibly to "avoid conflict."The ranger on duty then said he was granting Marcavage a "verbal permit" for the free speech zone, then arrested him and cited him for violating the provisions of that permit."It was so absurd," Marcavage said. "We didn't want the permit. We have the First Amendment."He noted that while he was discussing the situation with rangers, a team of marchers promoting the awareness of breast cancer, passed by with no comment from the rangers.The park service website for the Liberty Bell notes that the bell's inscription "conveys a message of liberty which goes beyond the words themselves.""When William Penn created Pennsylvania's government he allowed citizens to take part in making laws and gave them the right to choose the religion they wanted," the website explains. The bell was created for the Pennsylvania State House, and rang for public announcements, including the July 8, 1776 announcement about the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.It last was rung in 1846 for the celebration of George Washington's birthday. There's never been an explanation why the bell cracked.

As in the days of Noah....

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