Two veteran street preachers in Houston are facing a bench trial for spreading the biblical message about homosexuality – and other sins – on one of their favorite corners for preaching in Houston.
Street preachers with shofar, sign that prompted tickets
Their sign warns those who are "Drunks, homosexuals, abortionist, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, witches, idolators" that "Hell awaits you."
Their hearing will be in Houston Municipal Court, which is run by Barbara E. Hartle, who, according to the Dallas Voice, is listed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund as "one of only a few out members of the Texas judiciary."
She was appointed to the position by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, identified by the Los Angeles Times as "the first lesbian to head a major American city."
Allen told WND that no matter what happens, the fact that the ministers were handcuffed and ticketed, with their signs and shofar confiscated for a time, sent a chilling message about free speech regarding religion and homosexuality.
Technically, they were ticketed for having signs thicker than one-quarter inch (they say they were 3/16ths and that they'd been approved beforehand), and for having a sign not made out of wood (their shofar is a ram's horn style).
Officers responded after someone apparently complained about the messengers and their message, but a video reveals that the first officer on the scene told them they weren't doing anything wrong.
It was a few minutes later, however, when officers approached the preachers, apparently grabbed a video camera, wrestled them to the ground and put them in handcuffs.
That's even though Stokes and Allan have been preaching at that location for several years.
The video recording shows that the officers discussed the situation with each other, saying, "They can be out there all they want," and "There was no problem, but we have to do a report on this guy."
There's also a reference to "one way to get rid of them," coupled with a muffled statement that appears to say, "Seize the signs."
The ministers reported on a YouTube video description that that "police officer admits to trying to take the signs away in order to get us to leave the corner."
To Allen, that sounds like a First Amendment speech infringement.
"We have been preaching on this corner with these same signs for two years," he says in the YouTube introduction.
A local television station also reported on the developing controversy:
Allen told WND he blows the shofar and others preach to passersby because of the Old Testament warning that those who know the truth of God's will and don't deliver it to others will bear the responsibility of that failure.
Allen told WND the ministries largely have had a reasonable relationship with the Houston Police Department, but this incident seemed to be reaching for the men in blue.
He said he couldn't speculate on what impact the ministries' message of biblical condemnation for homosexuality may have on the outcome of their case.
"Preaching is all we were doing," he said. "Against all sins."