I always laughed in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons when Bugs would would draw a line in the sand and tell Yosemite Sam, “I dare you not to cross THIS line!” Inevitably, ol’ Sam would cross it…and then next and the next…until the final line led him to drop off the edge of a cliff.
Throughout the bible, God has a line drawn in the sand. I’m not referring to the Law…the Ten Commandments…but I am talking about right living. Being obedient. Loving. Kind. At peace with others. And obeying authority. It’s a boundary that keeps us from plunging ourselves over the edge.
A trial has begun today concerning the case of two men who were arrested in Hemet, California, while reading the Bible out loud and in public. One of them is a pastor from that city. The event took place at a DMV over a year ago.
I saw a video of the arrest when it was covered on Fox News.
The men were arrested when they went to their local DMV in Hemet, California, and read aloud from the Bible as people stood in line for the DMV to open. When the first California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer arrived on the scene, he grabbed the Bible away from the man reading it and said he could not “preach to a captive audience.” The officer later cited them for violating California Penal Code Section 602.1(b) which provides:
“Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business carried on by the employees of a public agency open to the public, by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business, or those persons there to transact business with the public agency . . . is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days, or by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”
This penal code is meant to protect businesses from protesters who intimidate patrons and block entrances. In this case, the DMV was not yet open at the time the men were there, and they were standing approximately 40 feet away from the entrance of the building, though still in the building’s parking lot.
After Advocates for Faith and Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol for unlawful arrest, Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach decided to charge the men with “trespassing” on State property, a misdemeanor offense under Title 13 of the California Administrative Code, Section 1860(a): “No person shall hold or conduct any demonstration or gathering in or upon any state buildings or grounds unless a permit has been issued by the Department.”
Trial is scheduled to begin at 1:30 pm on Monday, August 5, 2013. Their attorney stated, “These men were exercising their First Amendment right of Free Speech. They were simply sharing their faith on public property, and we will defend their constitutional right to do so. This prosecution amounts to nothing more than retaliation for our filing a federal lawsuit.”
The defense contends that the regulation being enforced is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment right to free speech and is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. Additionally, however, the defense contends that the permit requirement does not apply because the men were not engaged in a “demonstration” or “gathering”.
Now…hear me out… This is usually the part where we as Christians are supposed to get upset that our rights are being trampled on… The pastor shouted out as the cuffs were being put on him: “This is what America has come to!”
I have a hard time with this one…I remember seeing the video of this arrest. While I appreciate the intention of these men, what they were cited for was valid.
The DMV wasn’t open, but you and I know you can’t just walk away from your place in line if you do not like the message being delivered. You leave and your wait is hours longer…you have to get back to work, or home. You just need to renew your license or file your registration. You are, in fact, trapped.
Neither did they have a permit to be engaging as they were at a state building. The officer gave them an opportunity to leave, but they did not. They could have simply moved to the sidewalk and been okay.
As I was watching the video of the arrest, I remember turning to my questioning son and saying, “Unfortunately, these men broke the law.” They could have been more effective if they had simply apologized and moved to a place where they could legally do what they wanted to do…preach the Gospel.
Romans 13:1-5 says:
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
I don’t want these guys to get into trouble, but if they are hit with a $400 fine, it will be fair.
Worse yet, they are possibly paving the way for a precedent to be set, creating further issues for other potential street preachers down the road. If we are worried about what America has come to…then let’s not give them fuel for the fire.
I understand…sometimes you just gotta preach. But we have to obey “man’s law”, until it forces us to break God’s law. He’s drawn a line in the sand. Don’t cross it.