JUDGE DISSOLVES BAN PLACED ON CHRISTIANS;
SEES NO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR IN VIDEO
PHILADELPHIA - At a court hearing today in Philadelphia, a state court judge dissolved an order that had previously been entered against the four Christians with Repent America who are facing criminal charges for preaching at a homosexual event in October of 2004. Court of Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe lifted the ban that prohibited the four men from being within 100 feet of any homosexual event.
Eleven Christians were arrested at a Philadelphia "OutFest" in October, and four men were bound over for trial on criminal charges. A seventeen year-old girl with the group faces a separate trial. The men face up to 47 years in prison if they are convicted.
During the hearing, the defendants' criminal defense attorney, C. Scott Shields, said the bail condition preventing his clients from being within 100 feet of any homosexual event had effectively "muzzled" them, "and that's unconstitutional as a prior restraint."
Judge Dembe dissolved the order prohibiting the men from coming within one hundred feet of a homosexual event, saying, it "is an unreasonable restriction on a person’s right to speak." "We cannot restrict people's right to speak or to be near those who might not wish to hear them into the future," Dembe added. After viewing a 22-minute videotape of the events leading to the defendants' arrest, Dembe said: "...it did not amount to criminal behavior that I can see." Judge Dembe also stated that if people did not like the speech they can move to another country.
"We're gratified with the ruling," Shields said. "This judge recognized that my clients definitely do have the right to speak freely about any issue they want, especially in the public square."
"We were blessed with a judge who recognizes and respects our constitutional rights," stated Michael Marcavage, director of Repent America. "Acting as a lighthouse, Judge Dembe's decision attempted to guide prosecutor Charles Ehrlich home," Marcavage said. "The prosecution is on a sinking ship, their arguements are drowning in our constitutionally protected freedoms, and they are scrambling to find a way to save themselves," he continued. "On the shore anchored firmly in the Biblical bedrock of Christianity, we stand waiting with the Life Preserver, Jesus Christ," Marcavage concluded.
Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the AFA Center for Law & Policy, who filed a federal lawsuit on the Christians behalf, stated, "It is clear that Judge Dembe understands and values the First Amendment; and because of that, she recognized that what is depicted in that video which captures everything at issue in this case, as we have been saying all along, is classic peaceful First Amendment activity."
"This just underscores the abuse of power that occurred in Philadelphia when eleven Christians were arrested, thrown in jail, and charged with crimes that could have put each of them in prison for 47 years—all for peacefully preaching the gospel in public; justice will be done, however, only when the charges are dropped and the public officials and private parties who are responsible for this travesty are held accountable," Fahling added.
The next hearing will take place on February 17, in which a motion to dismiss the charges against the Christians will be heard. A trial will be held the following day, on February 18, for seventeen year-old Lauren Murch on her criminal charges.
"We are calling Christians to the courtrooms of Philadelphia," Marcavage said. "We must not allow the anti-Christian agenda to silence us from preaching the Gospel and raising our voices against evil publically and passionately," he concluded.
E-MAIL THIS PAGE TO A FRIEND NOW!