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A federal appeals court denied an emergency appeal to stop prosecution of 11 Philadelphia-area Christians who allege the District Attorney’s office retaliated against them for exercising their constitutional rights at a homosexual event in which they were arrested and later charged with felonies.
As WorldNetDaily reported, on Oct. 10, the group was “preaching God’s Word” to a crowd of people attending the outdoor Philadelphia “OutFest” event and displaying banners with biblical messages.
After a confrontation with a group called the Pink Angels, described by protesters as “a militant mob of homosexuals,” the eleven Christians were arrested and spent a night in jail.
Eight charges were filed, including three felonies and five misdemeanors. The charges were criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highways.
A video of the arrest, provided by the American Family Association’s Center for Law & Policy can be seen here [Windows Media].
Early last week, the AFA filed papers in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking a temporary restraining order that would prevent the city of Philadelphia from prosecuting the case.
Judge Petrese Tucker denied the Philadelphia 11’s request, and the CLP immediately appealed the decision to the Third Circuit, which upheld it.
“This turn of events is beyond belief,” said Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the CLP.
At the hearing, the CLP presented what it called “undisputed” video evidence that captured the “Outfest” events on tape, showing the Philadelphia 11 cooperated with police and were continually harassed by the Pink Angels.
None of the Pink Angels was cited or arrested.
“Despite the undisputed evidence placed before the court, our action for emergency relief was denied not once, but twice,” Fahling added. “Many had thought an outcome like this ended at Selma.
“It seems that the Philadelphia 11 have become second-class citizens in the City of Brotherly Love,” he said.
A preliminary hearing takes place today at 9 a.m. in Philadelphia.
The ethnic intimidation charge stems from Pennsylvania’s “hate crimes” law – to which the newest “victim” category of “sexual orientation” was recently added. The protesters say a Philadelphia police officer told them that because they were on a public sidewalk they were permitted to move freely through the event. A few minutes later, however, they were arrested and removed.
The Philadelphia 11 face a maximum penalty of 47 years each in jail.