Free Speech Court Case By Ray Comfort
On Friday, September 30, two deputies stopped me from preaching and handed me a court order. For the past 2-1/2 years, EZ (our manager) and I have been preaching open-air almost daily outside the local courthouse in the City of Bellflower. We have always stayed away from the entrance, and spoken before the courts opened. The officers informed us that a judge issued an order forbidding open-air preaching and handing out tracts, not only in our city but outside the more than 40 court buildings throughout Los Angeles County. This is a violation of our First Amendment rights. Lawyers from the Alliance Defense Fund are suing the judge for $25, and believe that we will be back there speaking within a month. For court case details, see www.FreeSpeechRights.com.
For the past month or so, Scotty (our sound man) has been giving out tracts outside the local DMV. When we couldn't preach at the courts, he thought that perhaps God was freeing us up to start speaking there. So, after the court order he felt compelled to preach outside the DMV for the first time. He carried a recorder in his pocket in case the authorities tried to stop him, then preached to the crowd (the recording is wonderful). He did that for four days without any complaints from the DMV.
Then he showed up in my office and asked if I would preach on a Wednesday. That was the busiest day, with people wrapped around the building. I told him that I felt it was his territory, and I didn't want to muscle in on him. I would simply carry on at the courts when we were allowed to go back. When I suggested that he take a team there each day, he smiled and said, "Ray, you are today's team." I couldn't get out of it. So I went and preached to 90 - 100 people who were standing in line. It seemed that everyone listened and some even thanked me. Afterward, a security guard relayed that the manager said we couldn't give out literature or preach.
So we went in and spoke to the manager. I explained that I was a pastor and that the local police had given us permission to speak. She replied that it was State property, under the jurisdiction of the California Highway Patrol, and that officers would be arriving any moment to speak to us. After waiting outside for 15 minutes, we concluded that she was bluffing. I wanted to find out what law we were supposedly violating, and the lawyers could fight that too.
When we arrived back at the ministry, there was a call from the ACLU. They said they believed that our First Amendment rights were being violated, and wanted more information about the court order. I told them that we already had representation, but if they could apply any pressure to the judge, we would be grateful.
The next day we went back to the DMV and Scotty preached. Just after he started, the CHP arrived and stopped him. On inquiry, they said that we needed a permit to give out literature, but they were okay with preaching . . . okay with the preaching?! We could hardly believe our ears. So we heartily thanked God for giving us favor.
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