‘Protective order’ finally canceled against street preacher

By Bob Unruh

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has abandoned a five-year protective order that was issued against a street preacher whose opinions offended those in a church that had endorsed same-same marriages.

The Rutherford Institute confirmed the 5-4 decision by the court regarding an order against street preacher Rich Penkoski.

The organization reports that although Penkoski never contacted, spoke to, tagged, named, or met the public figures leading a local LGBTQ activist group, a trial court imposed a five-year protective order against him.

It came about because LGBT activists told the court they “felt” terrorized and harassed by his social media posts on significant religious and political issues.

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The court’s decision made Penkoski subject to arrest and jailing if anything caused his accusers “to fear for their safety, which could broadly be interpreted to prevent him from citing similar Bible verses critical of the church’s or LGBTQ group’s activities,” the Rutherford report explained.

The state Supreme Court, when the dispute reached that level, made short work and vacated the lower court’s order.

“Religious individuals have a clear First Amendment right to publicly cite Bible verses that reflect their concerns about moral issues of the day without being accused of stalking, harassing, or terrorizing those who are offended by the sentiments,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.

“This case is a foreshadowing of the government’s efforts to insulate the populace from all things that might cause offense by criminalizing nonviolent First Amendment activities (speech, thought, and actions) that may be politically incorrect.”

The fight dates back to 2022 when Penkoski used social media to express his moral and religious concerns about a church endorsing same-sex marriage and a public drag queen show in front of children.

The organization explained, “In one of Penkoski’s posts, he shared the church’s public photo of a same-sex wedding involving leaders of an LGBTQ organization and quoted Bible verses describing God’s judgment of sin. In a second post, Penkoski criticized the church’s publicly shared photos of children celebrating Gay Pride Month. In a third post, Penkoski weighed in on a local effort to ban adult-oriented entertainment in public spaces. In refuting what he believed were false statements by one of the leaders of the LGBTQ group who told city council that no adult-oriented entertainment, obscenity, or sexually suggestive performances had occurred at a Gay Pride event, Penkoski posted a video clip of the LGBTQ leader’s public statement to city council along with a video and photos of a drag queen dancing in a sexually suggestive manner near children at the Pride event.”

Rutherford argued that the order was a violation of the First Amendment’s protections for free speech and free exercise of religion.

Such an ideology easily could product penalties, later, against someone who “cites a Bible verse which causes offense or ignites fears despite not making any threat.”

The institute noted its affiliate attorneys Joe M. Fears and Richard D. White, Jr. worked to take the arguments to the high court.

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