PRELIMINARY HEARING SET FOR CHRISTIANS
CHARGED WITH “HATE CRIMES”
PHILADELPHIA - A preliminary hearing has been set for December 14 in Philadelphia City Court to determine probable cause for charges against eleven Christians arrested for alleged “hate crimes” while exercising their First Amendment rights at Philadelphia’s “Outfest” on October 10. The charges brought against Repent America’s Michael Marcavage and ten others during the homosexual “coming out” event consist of three felonies and five misdemeanors, which could result in up to 47 years in jail.
“Outfest” is an annual block party sponsored by Philly Pride Presents, Inc. to celebrate so-called “National Coming Out Day,” a celebration of homosexuality. A 15-block downtown area was designated for the event; however, there is no cost for admission and thus no separation between Outfest participants and the general public walking on the same public streets. Prior to the event, Marcavage, director of Repent America, was denied his application to have a display booth at Outfest, in order that he might proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to deliver homosexuals from their lifestyle. Because of the public venue, guaranteeing First Amendment rights, Marcavage and his group attended in order to open-air preach, hand out tracts, and carry signs with Scripture and the Gospel message.
They were met by the “Pink Angels”, an organization founded by attorney Chuck Volz, senior advisor to Philly Pride Presents, who had stated in a pre-event interview that their group would carry large signs to block Christians’ access to Outfest participants. A group of the “Pink Angels” locked arms to create a human wall to blockade the public sidewalk and prevent the Christians from proceeding.
The Philadelphia Civil Affairs Police Captain, William Fisher, initially broke the blockade when requested to do so by Marcavage, and confirmed that they had freedom to go where they wanted on the public street and sidewalks. However, Fisher failed to take subsequent action when the “Pink Angels” again surrounded the Christians and began to blow whistles, scream obscenities, and hold their approximately 10-foot-high pink Styrofoam boards to obscure the Repent America workers from anyone’s view. After a complaint by an Outfest vendor, and some discussion with Marcavage about the legalities of both the “Pink Angels” and Captain Fisher’s actions, Fisher moved the Christians to a more remote location. However, the “Pink Angels” continued to surround, obstruct and shout at the Christians.
Neither City Attorney Karen Simmons nor Chief Inspector of the Civil Affairs Division, James Tiano, would deal with the boisterous behavior of the “Pink Angels” nor would specify what laws, if any, Repent America workers were breaking. However, when Marcavage and his group attempted to walk to another area, Chief Tiano unexpectedly placed all eleven Christians under arrest.
The Christians, including a juvenile, were held from 1:30 Sunday afternoon until Monday morning, with a sixty-seven-year-old woman not released until ten days later. They were charged with three Felonies: Criminal Conspiracy, Ethnic Intimidation, which falls under “Hate Crimes”, and Riot; as well as five Misdemeanors: Reckless Endangerment, Possession of Instruments of Crime, Failure to Disperse, Disorderly Conduct, and Obstructing Highways. None of the “Pink Angels” were cited or arrested.
Only days prior to the arrests, the American Family Association’s Center for Policy and Law (CLP) had filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court (Marcavage vs. City of Philadelphia), claiming the City of Philadelphia exhibits a “policy, practice and custom” of denying Marcavage’s First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by continually harassing, intimidating, threatening, and arresting him for his street ministry. CLP attorneys are currently gathering facts and deciding on a strategy to respond to the latest charges stemming from the “Outfest” event.
The preliminary hearing will take place on December 14 at 9AM in courtroom 606 of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center.
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