The Philadelphia 11 after they were cleared of any criminal charges for giving their Christian message at a public homosexual festival in Philadelphia in 2004
A notice of appeal has been filed with the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals over actions by city officials in Philadephia who not only refused to protect the speech rights of 11 Christians at a public homosexual festival, but arrested them for quoting the Bible and speaking against the behavior.
The Alliance Defense Fund said it is appealing a judge’s Jan. 19 dismissal of the group’s federal court lawsuit against the city officials.
“Speech cannot be silenced simply because another person or group does not agree with it,” said Ted Hoppe, an attorney allied with the ADF. “City officials must be held accountable for their decision to violate the First Amendment rights of Christians who wanted nothing more than to engage in peaceful assembly on a public street.”
Members of the “Philadelphia 11” as the group has become known were arrested Oct. 10, 2004, after quoting the Bible and expressing their views against homosexual behavior on a public street during “OutFest,” a publicly funded celebration of homosexual choices.
They were jailed overnight in the case, but a judge later dismissed any criminal counts as having no basis in fact. The individuals then filed the damage lawsuit against the city.
“City officials must be held accountable for their decision to censor those who disagree with homosexual behavior,” Hoppe said. “All citizens are permitted by the Constitution to express their beliefs on a public street during a publicly funded event without fear of arrest.”
As WND has just reported, one of the members of the Philadelphia 11 is Repent America director Michael Marcavage, who said the precedent set by the dismissal would allow police to arrest anyone at any public gathering simply because they would have what the judge calls “a contrary message.”
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel had concluded in dismissing the civil rights claim that a “permit” granted by the city to the homosexuals allowed police to silence the Christian activists’ message on public streets.
“It is without question that Judge Stengel’s decision has set a precedent to eliminate the First Amendment rights of others by citing that a ‘permitting scheme’ can be used by police and event organizers to ‘exclude persons expressing contrary messages’ in public areas and at public events,” Marcavage said.
Rev. Ted Pike, of the National Prayer Network, said the dismissal of the civil rights complaint means that “the Philly 11 were wrong in exercising free speech in what had become a no-free speech zone.”
He said the federal plan “would eventually allow government ‘thought police’ to push aside states’ rights in law enforcement. Such laws would allow federal indictment of Christian ‘haters’ in every state of the Union…”
“It would become a federal crime … to show bias against protected groups [including] homosexuals. However, deviant groups such as witches, Satanists, pedophiles, abortionists, and even ‘sinners’ could quickly catch a ride on the bandwagon of federal protection from the ‘hate’ of biblically oriented criticism,” he said.
The decision by Stengel granted summary judgment to the city of Philadelphia and “Philly Pride Presents, Inc.”
The judge couldn’t escape the facts that “the activity in question took place in a public forum,” and “there is no doubt that the venue for OutFest, a designated section of streets and sidewalks of Philadelphia, was a public place,” but despite that he found that through the permit OutFest “was empowered to enforce the permit by excluding persons expressing contrary messages.”
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