October 10, 2004 could become a red letter day in the history of Christian persecution. It could be the day we look back to when it became illegal in the United Stated for Christians to exercise their First Amendment rights against radical elements of the homosexual movement.
Eleven members of a group called Repent America were arrested at an event called "Outfest" in Phildelphia when their right to protest was impeded by a group of radical homosexuals known as the Pink Angels. The members arrested were carrying banners with biblical messages and they were preaching God's Word to the crowd which had gathered for the event. The Pink Angels, who were later deteremined to be a kind of vigilante security force for the event, surrounded the Christians with large signs with the goal of blocking their access.
According to World Net Daily, charges filed against those taken into custody include criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, (Bibles and banners?) reckless conduct and obstructing highways. I am amazed they weren't charged with inciting global warming and the assasination of John F. Kennedy.
At a preliminary hearing in December before Judge William Austin Meechan, four of the adult Christians and one juvenile were ordered to stand trial for all eight counts. Three of the counts are felony charges and the other five are midemeanors but the bottom line is if the adults are convicted on all counts (the juvenile will appear before a juvenile court) they could receive a maximum of 47 years in prison. All for showing up and exercising their constitutional rights to free speech.
The Philadelphia city prosecutor, Charles Ehrlich, described the Christians behavior as "hateful" and he went on to say their preaching of the Bible amounted to using "fighting words." Pennsylvania recently added sexual orientation to catagories already covered by the states hate crime law. The charge of ethnic intimidation comes from this recent addition proving that those who have warned us for years how hate crimes legislation would someday be used against Christians because of our moral beliefs have been right on with their assessment of the new laws.
Where is the ACLU and why haven't they raised their shrill voice against this clear violation of every Americans right to protest? Where is the outrage that is always present in the mainstream media when prosecutors overstep their bounds? How can we live in a country where freedom of expression and freedom of religon are bedrock, cornerstone principles and yet a city prosecutor can equate evangelistic speech with hate and refer to the Bible as fighting words?
This case points out the blatant hypocrisy of the left who preach tolerance and diversity but practice censorship and bigotry when Christians take their faith out of the church and into the marketplace. Chuck Volz, who serves as senior advisor to Philly Pride Presents, the organization which planned and sponsored Outfest, said, "It's our event, and we're not going to permit vendors or community groups that conflict with the them of the event." He went on to compare the welcoming of Christians to Outfest to blacks welcoming white supremacists to a black event.
The Christian Worldview calls for believers in Jesus Christ to share their faith with those who have rejected the message of the Gospel. We cannot be silent in the face of what the Bible clearly teaches is immoral behavior. We must demonstrate love and compassion for those who are blinded by sin but it is never an act of love or compassion to fail to point out the destructive nature of immorality.
The arrest and prosecution of Christians who continue to insist that homosexuality is a sin is designed to intimidate other Christians from letting their voices be heard. But believers would do well to take their cue from the Apostle Peter who addressed the attempted silencing of believers with the following words from I Peter 3:13-16. "Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame."
Just as Peter and John refused to be intimidated by the Council into abandoning the preaching of the Gospel (Acts 4:18-20), we must follow Peter's advice and refuse to fear the intimidation of a justice system that is beginning to look on Christians with a prejudiced eye. As Christ is sanctified in our hearts we will be ready with a defense and one day, those who falsely accuse Christians of being homophobic bigots will be put to shame when their true motivations are revealed.