Sunday, August 24, 2008
Cops kill free speech at 'gay' event: Christians file suit over orders to remove shirt, stop talking about Bible
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed suit against the City of Elmira, N.Y., after police threatened to arrest three Christians if they did not remove a shirt and stop sharing biblical messages during a "gay" pride event at a public park.John Barnes wore a shirt with the message "Liberated from sin by the blood of Jesus" to the Southern Tier Pride 2008 at Wisner Park – a June 14 event promoted as a celebration of homosexual, bisexual and transgender lifestyles.According to the complaint filed in a U.S. district court, Elmira police Capt. Michael Marrone ordered Barnes to remove his shirt to prevent a "negative atmosphere" at the event and arouse discomfort in other attendees.Barnes obeyed the officer and took off his shirt so he could remain at the park without facing arrest.Another Christian, Julian Raven, carried a Christian newsletter to the event called the Elmira Protestor. Marrone threatened to arrest Raven if he distributed the letter, saying it contained obscene or illegal material, according to the complaint. Raven complied with the order.Capt. James Wandell and Sgt. Sharon Moyer threatened a third Christian, James DeFerio, with arrest for holding a sign on a public sidewalk adjacent to the park. The sign read: "Thousands of ex-homosexuals have experienced the life-changing love of Jesus Christ" and listed websites for more information about ministry to ex-"gays."DeFario complied with their demands. However, according to the complaint, officers then told him he was not allowed to talk to anyone at the event about the Bible. Police ordered DeFario to leave the event where Elmira Mayor John Tonello was scheduled to speak about democracy, telling him to cross the street."Christians shouldn't be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs," ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster said in a statement."Police cannot threaten to arrest Christians at a city park for sharing their viewpoint at an event open to the general public. Respecting their free speech rights is not optional."The men are claiming officers violated their constitutional rights to free speech, free exercise of religion and equal protection under the law. They are requesting a permanent injunction prohibiting police from "arresting them, forcibly removing them, or otherwise restricting their speech in traditional public fora due to the content and viewpoint of such speech, or because of their religious beliefs."Oster said police harassed the men primarily because of their Christian beliefs."Exercising your First Amendment rights is not a crime," Oster said. "Threatening to arrest Christians simply because they have opposing views and choose to exercise their free speech rights at a public place is unconstitutional."
As in the days of Noah....