Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Christians charged with "hate speech" after peaceful protest

Christians Arraigned on Felony Charges over Peaceful Protest
(Citizenlink article)

Four Christian men were arraigned [on January 5th] in Philadelphia on so-called "hate crime" felony charges stemming from a peaceful protest at a gay pride event in October. A pro-family group is asking for the Justice Department to intervene.

Authorities originally charged 11 Christians associated with Repent America who were preaching and singing at Outfest, a homosexual street event in Philadelphia. Though the Christians were peaceful, they were surrounded by a group of homosexual activists called the Pink Angels, who held up Styrofoam sheets walling off the group. When police arrived, however, they arrested only the Christians.

Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, said the city of Philadelphia violated the protesters' civil rights -- and called on the Justice Department to intervene on their behalf.

"The district attorney's office went berserk, saddling them with criminal charges including trying to incite a riot, even though the protesters were peaceful," Knight said. "Their crime was to cite Bible verses, which a prosecutor called 'hateful,' and to urge homosexuals, like other sinners, to repent. It's frightening to see religious persecution on American soil, especially in the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence."

In December, a municipal court judge dropped charges against six of the defendants -- including a 72-year-old grandmother -- after viewing a videotape of the incident. A juvenile defendant awaits separate court action.

The four remaining defendants, who face a total of 47 years in prison if convicted, pleaded not guilty.

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