Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

Persecution of Street Preacher Touches on Basic Issues of Freedom

Posted by faithandthelaw on January 29, 2010

Sadly when it comes to finding new ways to persecute Christians for living their faith, some school officials aren’t letting any grass grow under their feet.

In Edison, New Jersey, for example, Robert Parker was standing on a sidewalk outside the local high school, sharing the Gospel. Classes were over and the school day was at an end. Parker spoke respectfully to students as they left the campus.

The school principal came out and ordered Parker to leave. Parker patiently explained that he was well within his First Amendment-protected rights to speak and freely exercise his religion. The Constitution, however, made no impression on the principal, who promptly called the police.

Upon arriving, the police officers instructed students not to go near Parker. That still wasn’t enough for the principal, though. Despite the fact that Parker was standing on a public sidewalk, polite, gracious, and well within his rights, the principal demanded that he be arrested. A video camera recorded all this … as well as what happened next.

As he talked calmly with police on the sidewalk, the toe of Parker’s shoe brushed the grass of the campus lawn. The police promptly arrested him for “defiant trespassing” and “disorderly conduct.”

ADF-allied attorney Demetrios Stratis of Fair Lawn took Parker’s case, filing a motion to dismiss the charges with the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County. The court subsequently issued an order dismissing the charges in State of New Jersey v. Parker. The Edison Municipal Court, where the charges and complaint were still pending, later complied with the higher court’s decision and dismissed the charges.

“Christians shouldn’t be arrested and charged as criminals for expressing their beliefs on public property,” Stratis says. “First Amendment protections apply to them as much as to anyone else in America. 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.”

No matter where Christians try to put their best foot forward in America today, someone seems to be waiting to trip them up. Many of our fellow citizens – and not a few government officials – seem all too eager to exploit any legal resource to silence the voice of faith in our communities.

The faithful prayers and generous gifts of caring friends like you are equipping the Alliance Defense Fund to keep hundreds of legal doors open for the spread of the Gospel. Thank you, and God bless you for all that you make possible.

Courtesy of ADF

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