A Christian missionary who preaches the Gospel message in public places across the nation says officers from the University of Pennsylvania illegally arrested him and tampered with evidence about their actions during a preaching mission on public walks in front a Philadelphia mosque.
The accusations come from Michael Marcavage of Repent America, who along with another Christian was arrested by university officers while preaching and speaking in front of the Masjid al-Jamia mosque in Philadelphia over the 4th of July holiday weekend.
According to a report from Repent America, Marcavage was with evangelists Ken Fleck and Mike Stockwell of Cross Country Evangelism on a mission on the walks outside the mosque.
“Upon arrival, they sang a hymn and began their outreach activities of open-air preaching and witnessing to the Muslims on the public sidewalk that were leaving the building,” the organization said. “However, as they ministered, the evangelists were soon approached by a security officer from the University of Pennsylvania who told them that they could not preach on the public sidewalk outside of the mosque. When Marcavage stated that they were not leaving, the security officer radioed university police.
“Within minutes, a swarm of security and police officers descended upon the evangelists. One of the officers, Nicole Michel, immediately confronted Marcavage, who was videotaping the situation, and assaulted him by grabbing his hand and forcibly turning off his video camera. The officer’s demeanor then escalated into extreme hostility to the point that Marcavage became concerned and called 911 to ask for a supervising officer to come to the scene,” the report said.
“When Officer Michel saw Marcavage videotaping the situation again, she declared, ‘He’s going [to jail],’ and placed him in handcuffs while another officer stated, ‘All three of them are going.’ When the supervising officer, Sergeant Andrew Malloy, finally arrived, he consented to the evangelists’ arrests. Marcavage and Fleck were subsequently taken into custody. Stockwell, however, was not arrested, but was commanded to leave immediately. As he left the scene, he heard Officer Michel stating, ‘I’m concerned about what’s on the video’ to another officer.
“The video camera was not brought into the police station with the evangelists’ other belongings,” the report continued. “After the evangelists were released from jail and their belongings were returned, they discovered that police destroyed their video evidence by completely recording over the footage that had been captured.”
WND requested comment from the office of University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann; the school’s media-relations office; Maureen Rush, the school’s vice president of public safety; and the security division’s media-relations office, but none returned a call.
Liberty Bell engraving states: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
“Hostility is rising against Christians in America and police interference with the proclamation of the Gospel is now commonplace, which will only continue to escalate with the rise of Islam,” Marcavage said. “Regardless of those who wish to silence and harm us, we will be faithful in preaching the cross of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.”
He told WND that Repent America leaders had talked with mosque officials, who confirmed they had captured the sequence of events on their security video. He said the video is being subpoenaed for trial.
Marcavage explained while the public street is not actually on the school campus, security police there are given the duty of patrolling the area.
He also said the mosque officials told him they were delivering their security video to university authorities. Marcavage confirmed he was asking Rush to make sure the video is not destroyed.
The two arrested already have pleaded not guilty to “disorderly conduct” and “obstructing a street” for their preaching efforts. A trial date has been scheduled Aug. 10.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions for violating a demonstration “permit” and “interfering” with National Park Service operations at the popular tourist attraction.
He was taking part in a street-preaching event there in 2007 in which he advocated protecting the lives of the unborn.
The court said while some time and place speech restrictions are constitutional, they need to serve a “compelling interest” and the “government chose not to submit evidence.”
“We hold that the government impermissibly infringed Marcavage’s First Amendment right to free speech,” the ruling said.
The goal of maintaining order at a historical site, the judges pointedly wrote, does not “license the government to deprive an individual of a constitutional right irrespective of the circumstances.”