One of the attorneys for the Christian protesters who are criminally charged for evangelizing at an outdoor homosexual event in Philadelphia has renewed an appeal in federal court, citing the Supreme Court statement “Speech cannot be … punished or banned simply because it might offend a hostile mob.”
The filing by the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy seeks emergency relief in federal district court based on evidence from a December preliminary hearing.
As WorldNetDaily reported, on Oct. 10, a group of 11 Christians was “preaching God’s Word” to a crowd of people attending the “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.
Last month, the federal district court denied the group’s first request for emergency relief. According to a statement from the law center, the court asserted that there was no evidence showing why the city of Philadelphia would want to stifle the Christians’ First Amendment rights.
In the latest filing, Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the AFA Center for Law and Policy, uses the words of Assistant District Attorney Charles Ehrlich from the preliminary hearing to argue the city is prosecuting the Christians simply because they find their words offensive.
At the hearing, Ehrlich characterized the Christians’ preaching and signs bearing biblical quotes as “hateful, disgusting, despicable words,” and as “fighting words.”
Citing the Supreme Court’s finding, Fahling stated: “There is no more profound an abuse of power than the government seeking to imprison individuals engaged in classic and peaceful First Amendment activity.”
Though an arraignment of the four adult defendants was scheduled for yesterday, prosecutors again postponed the proceeding. The same thing happened last week when an arraignment was scheduled.
“Just as they did last week, they’re not prepared,” Michael Marcavage, the head of Repent America, the group that sponsored the October protest, told WND. “Last week they weren’t ready, this week they’re not ready, and now they’re saying we have to come back again.”
The government also postponed a bail hearing at which Marcavage and the other defendants had hoped to have a condition of their bail removed. That condition requires them to stay at least 100 feet away from any homosexual gathering.
Marcavage says both hearings are now scheduled for next week.