Friday, June 27, 2008

Fine for preaching in public challenged:'If they shut down our ability to speak, they shut down the Gospel'

A man arrested for preaching on a public sidewalk too close to the one of the nation's premiere representations of freedom, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, is appealing his conviction and $400 fine.On Oct. 7, Michael A. Marcavage, director of the evangelistic organization Repent America, was arrested while preaching on the sidewalk outside the Liberty Bell Center and urging Americans to halt abortion."We need to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," he told the crowd.But he soon was approached by a police officer who gave him a verbal permit to preach in a different area, a so-called "free speech zone." He declined, saying such restrictions violated his freedom of speech.Then on June 13, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport found Marcavage guilty of violating a verbal permit granted to him by the police officer."The only thing that I was guilty of that day was preaching the Gospel and against the shedding of innocent blood," Marcavage said. "The government not only put me on trial, but also the liberties of the American people."If they shut down our ability to speak, they shut down the Gospel; they shut down any message. If the government prevails in this case, America's experiment in liberty has finally reached its demise," Marcavage said.He has told WND he did not accept the "verbal permit" so should not be convicted of violating something he didn't accept. He also said he had preached in the same location a number of times earlier without difficulties.Scheduled to hear the appeal is U.S. District Court Judge Legrome D. Davis.On his blog, Marcavage noted that such government-mandated "free speech zones" are being assembled all across the country in an effort by cities, colleges and other institutions to hinder free speech outside of those specific "zones."The blog cited a 2007 study by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which found 259 of 346 colleges studied maintained such free speech restrictions.In the aftermath of 9/11, government officials established a free speech zone near the Liberty Bell Center, where, according to government statistics, more than 100,000 protesters demonstrate each year.In United States vs. Michael A. Marcavage, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Goldberg stood behind the practice of government-regulated zones, stating in court that "nowhere does the law say that the government cannot regulate speech on a sidewalk used by the public."Four years ago, Marcavage made headlines for being arrested as a member of the "Philadelphia 11," a group that preached on sidewalks during a homosexual rally in downtown Philadelphia. The group was charged under Pennsylvania's hate crime laws, though the charges were later dropped.
As in the days of Noah...

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