Christians Acquitted After Being Arrested For Preaching In Public

Members of Calvary Chapel of Hemet in Southern California have been involved in an active evangelism program.  Assistant Pastor Brett Coronado heads up the evangelism program at the church and frequently leads others out into the community to hand out Gospel tracts and read from the Bible.

In February 2011, Pastor Coronado and two men from his church went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to witness to the line of people waiting outside.  Mark Mackey, one of the men accompanying Coronado, began reading from his Bible when a security Guard told him he had to leave.  Mackey knew his rights and continued reading from the Scriptures.  Not long afterward, a California highway patrolman showed and immediately arrested Mackey for trespassing and told him it was illegal to preach to a captive audience.  If that was true, then all prison ministries and chapels would be operating illegally since their audience really was captive.

Pastor Coronado and the other man with him were soon arrested by another officer.  The three evangelists vowed to fight for their rights of free speech and religion.  They were represented by Robert Tyler who is a general counsel with the Advocated for Faith and Freedom.  At the time, Tyler said:

“Now when we do go to trial, it will be an important case as unfortunately it reflects upon the increasing discrimination that Christians are facing for engaging in their faith – doing things in public places that never before would have been considered to be something that was criminal in conduct.”

“As a result, this case will be an important one – and Lord willing, we’ll be able to find success and victory in the court system.”

When the case went to trial, Pastor Coronado and Mackey were both charged with misdemeanors.  The prosecutors claimed that they were conducting a demonstration on state property without a permit and presented their case before Riverside County Superior Judge Tim Freer.

What happened next surprised everyone, including the defense.  Judge Freer acquitted both men without ever hearing their defense and without a jury.  He ruled that the prosecution failed to provide enough evidence against the two to substantiate the charges against them.

After the acquittal, Tyler told OneNewsNow:

“This case, I think, is somewhat symbolic of the battle that we have seen occur in the United States over Christian worldview in an attempt to silence [that] worldview.  I think this is just symbolic of Christians around the country, standing up and saying ‘We need to stand up for our liberties and we want protections. That’s why our First Amendment exists.’”

In today’s liberal government and judicial system, especially in California, I was very surprised at the actions and ruling of Judge Freer.  Knowing that Christians can stand and defend their rights, I hope and pray that more will do the same.  If we don’t and fight for our rights as Christians and Americans, we will surely lose them.