A New Jersey judge has dismissed a criminal case against a volunteer who was preaching the Gospel on public property in front of the Edison, N.J., High School when his toe inadvertently brushed the grass and he was arrested.
The case has been detailed by the Alliance Defense Fund, which takes on civil rights and religious rights cases nationwide.
The order dismissing the case against Robert Parker was signed by Judge Travis Francis.
“Christians shouldn’t be arrested and charged as criminals for expressing their beliefs on public property. They have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America,” said ADF-allied attorney Demetrios Stratis of Fair Lawn.
“A person cannot be charged with a crime just because a school official has a complete misunderstanding of the First Amendment or doesn’t like what that person has to say. We are pleased that we prevailed in court in getting these unwarranted criminal charges dropped,” he said.
According to the report issued yesterday by the ADF, Parker “was taken into custody after his toe touched the grass on the school’s side of the sidewalk. He was charged with trespass and disorderly conduct.”
It was last May when Parker was sharing the Gospel from a public sidewalk outside the high school after students were dismissed for the day.
The school principal came out and told him to leave, whereupon Parker explained his First Amendment free speech and free exercise of religion protections. Dissatisfied, the principal called police.
According to the ADF, when officers arrived they took control of the situation and instructed students “not to go near Parker.”
The principal then insisted that Parker be arrested.
“While speaking with officers, Parker’s toe brushed against the grass along the school side of the sidewalk. The officers arrested him and issued him a summons for ‘defiant trespassing,'” the ADF reported.
The events leading to the arrest were recorded on video.
Stratis later filed a motion to dismiss the charges with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County, and the court ordered the dismissal. The Edison Municipal Court later followed the order.