FEDERAL JUDGE REFUSES TO RELEASE HOMOSEXUAL GROUP
FROM PHILADELPHIA ELEVEN LAWSUIT
PHILADELPHIA - On May 26, 2006, United States District Court Judge Lawrence F. Stengel issued a 17-page opinion denying Philly Pride Presents’ Motion to Dismiss, which sought to release the group from a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Philadelphia Eleven. The lawsuit, in part, declares that Philly Pride conspired with the Philadelphia Police to deprive eleven Christians of their constitutional rights at the group’s homosexual celebration on October 10, 2004.
The lawsuit was filed on October 21, 2005 against the City of Philadelphia, Philly Pride Presents, and others for the arrest of six men and five women with Repent America as they attempted to minister the Gospel of Jesus Christ at Philly Pride’s annual homosexual event called "OutFest". Prior to their arrests, the Christians were surrounded by a militant mob of homosexuals who identified themselves as the "Pink Angels". This disorderly group held up large, pink styrofoam boards, shouted, and loudly blew whistles at the Christians. Police refused to address the disorderly group, but instead, arrested the Christians. After spending 21 hours in jail, they were charged with a host of crimes and under Pennsylvania’s "hate crimes" law, which, if convicted, could have resulted in up to 47 years in prison and $90,000 in fines each. The charges were later dismissed as being without merit.
During the criminal proceedings, Chief Inspector James Tiano, who is the Philadelphia Police Department's "liaison to the gay and lesbian community," 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. Additionally, police video shows Chief Inspector Tiano addressing a group of officers to inform them that the "religious right" was coming, and that the "Pink Angels" would be interfering with them. "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," stated Ted Hoppe, attorney for the Philadelphia Eleven.
In Judge Stengel's opinion denying Philly Pride’s Motion to Dismiss, he wrote: "In this case, Plaintiffs have pleaded sufficient facts to infer a conspiracy between the Philly Pride Defendants and the other defendants. The Complaint alleges a number of facts sufficient to support an inference of a conspiracy to deprive Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights." However, at this point, Judge Stengel cited that he cannot conclude on the existence of a conspiracy without further documentation.
"We are most pleased with the Judge Stengel’s decision to deny Philly Pride Presents’ Motion to Dismiss, and look forward to the discovery phase of the case," stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage. "The discovery process will afford us the opportunity to conduct depositions in order to further investigate evidence and document the conspiratorial actions between Philly Pride and the Philadelphia Police to violate our civil rights," Marcavage continued.
"The City’s action at the ‘OutFest’ event demonstrated a clear hostility toward Repent America and the content of their message," stated Ted Hoppe. "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.
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