PHILADELPHIA ELEVEN FILE SUIT IN FEDERAL COURT
OVER 2004 "OUTFEST" ARRESTS 10/13/05
PHILADELPHIA - The law firm of Shields & Hoppe, LLP has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia and others on behalf of the eleven members of Repent America, who were arrested as a result of their efforts to minister the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ at a homosexual event called "OutFest", which was held in the public streets of Philadelphia on October 10, 2004. The six men and five women were charged with three felonies, which included the "hate crime" of ethnic intimidation, along with conspiracy, incitement to riot, in addition to five misdemeanor charges. The Christians spent 21 hours in jail, faced up to 47 years in prison, and $90,000 in fines each.
"We believe this is the first case in the United States where someone was charged with a hate crime for ministering the Gospel in public," stated Ted Hoppe, attorney for the Philadelphia Eleven. "This case not only involves an effort to suppress the Christian viewpoint and to keep that viewpoint from being expressed in the public square, it also demonstrates a complete lack of regard by the City of Philadelphia for the basic right to free speech and free exercise of religion," Hoppe continued.
The criminal charges were ultimately dismissed after a hearing where a judge reviewed a videotape of the event and found that there was not one iota of evidence that Repent America had done anything wrong.
"Outfest" is an annual event held in Philadelphia. It is held within a fifteen block public area of the City and is funded, at least in part, with taxpayer funds totaling approximately $22,500, not including the logistic support such as police and clean up after the event. When Repent America arrived at the event, they were immediately surrounded by a militant mob of homosexuals called the "Pink Angels" so they could not move. The group held up large, pink styrofoam boards to block the group; they also blew whistles so that the Christians could not be heard.
At the preliminary hearing, Chief Inspector James Tiano, from the Philadelphia Police Department's Civil Affairs Unit, testified that police met with the "OutFest" organizers 3 or 4 times before the event and discussed, among other things, tactics to prevent Repent America from having access to the event. "Chief Inspector Tiano's comments seem to make it clear that the City conspired with the organizers of 'OutFest' to ensure that Repent America would not have access to the event to exercise their protected rights under both our state and federal Constitutions," Hoppe concluded.
"The City’s action at the Outfest event demonstrated a clear hostility toward Repent America and the content of their message," Hoppe stated. "Through this lawsuit, we hope to send a message to the City of Philadelphia, its police force, as well as Philly Pride Presents, that they do not have the right to interfere with Repent America's constitutionally protected rights to free speech and free exercise of religion simply because they do not agree with the content of their message," Hoppe concluded.
Shields & Hoppe, LLP is a full service, general practice Firm providing representation of clients in state and federal Courts in Pennsylvania and the State of Delaware, with offices located in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware.
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