The four adult defendants who are part of the “Philadelphia 5,” Christians who have been criminally charged for preaching at a homosexual event last fall, won a court battle today when a judge removed the bail requirement that they stay at least 100 feet away from any homosexual gathering.
“The judge dissolved the bail restriction,” the defendants’ attorney Scott Shields told WND.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe ruled the bail requirement was an “unusual restriction on a person’s right to speech.”
“We’re gratified with the ruling,” Shields said. “This judge recognized that my clients definitely do have the right to speak freely about any issue they want, especially in the public square.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, on Oct. 10, a group of 11 Christians was “preaching God’s Word” to a crowd of people attending the 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 Christians were arrested and spent a night in jail.
Eight charges were filed: criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highways.
None of the Pink Angels was cited or arrested.
After a preliminary hearing in December, Judge William Austin Meehan ordered four of the Christians to stand trial on three felony and five misdemeanor charges. If convicted, they could each get a maximum of 47 years in prison. One female teenage protester faces charges in the juvenile justice system.
Besides ruling on the bail restriction, Dembe viewed the videotape of the OutFest protest and said she could not see any criminal activity being committed.
Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, is also working with the Philly 5.
“It is clear that Judge Dembe understands and values the First Amendment; and because of that, she recognized that what is depicted in that video which captures everything at issue in this case, as we have been saying all along, is classic peaceful First Amendment activity.”
Discussing the judge’s ruling, Shields stated, “It was a good day for freedom.”
The next hearing date scheduled for the protesters is Feb. 17, when the court will consider their motion to dismiss the case. Seventeen-year-old Lauren Murch’s trial date is Feb. 18.