Tag Archives: free speech

Is It Wrong For A Believer To Sue For Violation Of His Constitutional Rights? A Real Life Study/How Old Paths Baptist Church Street Preachers Won the Support of Law Enforcement by Spiritual, Not Legal, Action

Jerald Finney © July 9, 2014

1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

Contents:

Preface
Introduction
Putting on the Armour of Light
The Rubber Meets the Road

Preface

7The principles proclaimed in this article have now been tested and will continue to be tested and honored by the men of OPBC, a church who seeks to obey God in all matters. See the latest test at: OPBC Street Preachers Actions against University of Minnesota Peace Officer who acted unlawfully; for more, see also, Articles Dealing with Street Preaching and Attacks on Street Preaching. God is pleased when believers do things as he has instructed them in the Bible; whereas, using methods contrary to God’s word will, sooner or later, result in negative consequences. As a result of doing things God’s way, no OPBC street preacher has ever been arrested, the police in cities who have been educated by communications with the Chiefs of Police, City Attorneys, Mayors, and city council members of various Minnesota towns and cities. OPBC street preachers stood their ground on the field while gaining the respect of police and  city officials. As a result, the police in cities dealt with now protect the street preachers and put those who would assault them or apply the “hecklers veto” in their place.

Introduction

One’s heart, flesh, emotions, and reasoning tell him, when his civil rights are violated, to sue for damages, including vindictive damages; and as a lawyer, I am taught, in civil cases, to go for everything I can get. Are man’s heart, flesh, emotions and reasoning consistent with God’s Word – the believer’s God-ordained sole source of faith, belief, and practice? What does the Bible teach about this important issue as related to illegal official interference with street preaching? That is the subject of this article.

Both the goal and the method matter to God. An active believer with good intentions but the wrong methodology can do great harm to the cause of Christ. Of course, street preaching done correctly according to Bible principles is immediately beneficial. However, legal action which does not comply with Bible principles is not wise and harms the cause of Christ. When a ministry takes proper preemptive action when trouble from authorities is anticipated or encountered, God is glorified, His Bible methods are honored, government officials including peace officers, city counsel, and mayors are educated in the law; a good working relationship is established with those officials, especially the police; and the effort and considerable time needed to pursue the issue in court can be used instead for doing the works God has commanded His churches to do – it is a lot easier to take proper action before, not after, encounters.

A good example of taking the wrong course of action is Miller v. City of St. Paul, 823 F. 3d 503, from the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals (click to go directly to case). First, the actions of the David Miller as described in the facts of the case is commendable. David Miller is a great man of God who tirelessly works for our Lord. I admire him.

However, the case illustrates (1) the considerable time, effort and resources involved in litigating such a case; (2) that during litigation, even good lawyers can make costly mistakes, errors in procedure, evidence, and so forth; (3) that simple preemptive action would have allowed David to do what the Lord led him to do on the street and avoided any need for such consuming after-encounter legal action. Notice, if you read the case, that the police officer bluffed him-the actual city policies did not comport with her orders and actions. Because of the officers deceptions, David left and filed suit after the fact. The city, which was included in the suit, had a policy which favored David and was not liable. Only the individual lone-wolf officer was in the wrong.

Hopefully, the concerned believer will read and study the Bible reasoning and conclusions in this article in an effort to examine not only himself, his motives, and his methods but also the assertions herein. If he can show this author and OPBC where they are wrong according to the Bible, he can greatly help the cause of Christ by honest Holy Spirit led communications. All our desire should be to please our Lord by doing things His way.

Putting on the Armour of Light

“The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light” Romans 13:12 .

Several years ago I became concerned that pastors and other believers were hurting the cause of Christ by suing cities, mayors, individual police officers and others who disobeyed the law and cited and/or arrested them falsely for exercising their First Amendment right to freedom of religion and speech in the public forum. As this article will show, I modified my position (repented as to that part of my belief which was  not correct: see the conclusion beginning with the paragraph in red at the end of the article before the Endnotes) later as I discussed the matter with my pastor after the church I am a member of met the police head on as a result of their preaching of the Gospel in the public forum. I announced my belief and the reasons for it, and read a few relevant Scriptures at a meeting attended by quite a number of Fundamental Baptist pastors. I also stated my belief that filing for injunction as opposed to suing for punitive damages when one’s rights are threatened and/or violated does not violate Biblical precepts. Some of the verses which led me to this conclusion are:

Mt. 5.10-12, 38-48; 6.8-15; 18.21-35; Lk. 6.27-46; 9.51-56; Ro. 8.28; 12.9-21; 13.8-14; 14.19; Ga. 6.10; 1 Thes. 5.15; 1 Ti. 3.1-7; 2 Ti.1,8; 2.8-12; 3.12;  3.12; Ja. 3.17; 1 Pe. 2.9-25 (esp. 15-16 and 20-25); 3.14-17; 4; Ge. 50.16-20; Le. 19.18; De. 32.35 and other verses.

[Most of the above verses from the Bible are reproduced in EN 1. This is done for the convenience of the reader and also because many people either do not have a Bible, or they have an interpretation of the Bible such as the NIV, the ASB, the Living Bible, etc. Reading an interpretation can only confuse one when he wants to get into the truth about doctrine. Please read those verses so that you will understand what the Bible says about taking vengeance, the believer’s reaction to evil against him, one’s actions against his enemies, about the believer’s attitude in time of persecution, etc. Consider this article in light of Biblical teaching, not in light of your traditions. In response to a mailing publicizing this article, one pastor who has been a longtime beloved friend has already e-mailed me to “unsubscribe” him from my e-mail list. He merely states that he is making this request because I obviously do not “understand the clear statutes of Scripture.” He gives no reasoning in his request because he cannot. I still love him and his church, but I cannot let anything, including family and friendship stand between me and my Lord. I believe that Scripture clearly supports my position. I always leave open the challenge, “Show me where I am wrong.” If you can show me, I will publish my repentance. By the way, I have received communications from other pastors who are supportive of this article. Really, the only thing that matters is the truth of the matter according to the word of God.]

My beliefs about this matter of suing for damages were challenged the way that most, if not all, Fundamental Baptist preachers address issues – in a sermon at a future meeting. Instead of in-depth, studied communication in a search for truth, their chosen method is preaching since the pastor is the boss. If he has a concern or if he needs to be uplifted, he goes to other pastors in his chosen circle, the “clergy,” the chosen ones and perhaps a “layman” or “laymen” in his church who are fully persuaded that the “man of God,” the pastor, as boss, is the only one accountable to God and that whatever he deems to be the truth is the truth. Many lost people understand that counsel as to their worldly concerns is profitable. “… For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Lk.16.8b).

I was anxious to hear the pre-announced sermon since I had hopes that the preacher, a man for whom I had and have a great deal of respect, would take out his Bible and “show me” where I was wrong. He did not. He explained that after he filed suit in a case where the law enforcement violated his First Amendment rights, the police whom he included in the suits suddenly started treating him with the greatest of respect, that he won quite a sum in damages, etc. He relied on one verse which I do not remember but which did not support his position and a portion of another verse: “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (the last part of Jude 1.3; Jude deals with apostates and apostasy in a church). To understand “how” God wishes a believer to react to a violation of his constitutional rights exercised in the public forum (the method) one has to do some serious Bible study. Verses taken out of context are often used to support heresy. We talked briefly after his message, but he never offered any explanation of why I was wrong. He did give me some unneeded advice on how to proceed with an injunction. His sermon and our brief conversation were cordial but unfruitful. I still love him; I only mention this to point out the cavalier manner by which some very important matters are sometimes handled.

The Rubber Meets the Road

3Due to an incident in Faribault, Minnesota in which police officers violated the rights of men from the church I am a member of, Old Paths Baptist Church (“OPBC”) of Northfield, Minnesota, OPBC had to deal with God and His principles and earthly authorities head on.

I found that my position, which at that time was no suing for damages whatsoever, was partially right and partially wrong. I learned this through talks with my pastor, Pastor Jason Cooley, and more Bible study as the incident in Faribault played out. Instead of preaching to me, he got out his Bible and examined Scripture and talked to me about it. It was important that we do so because it appeared that, in spite of all our sincere efforts to avoid litigation (getting federal court intervention), the City of Faribault, their Chief of Police, and the police department were going to allow a city code to trump the First Amendment speech protections for our men who were preaching in the public forum. All this is reflected in the correspondence in the Endnotes. Thankfully, the city through the Chief of Police, after I got the city attorney and city council involved in the correspondence, seems to have acknowledged that the First Amendment trumps a city ordinance. The law is given in the many cases I cited and quote from in my e-mail correspondence which is in the Endnotes below.

2Many police departments and police officers, including Chiefs of Police, like many Americans, make up the law concerning First Amendment rights. Those in larger towns and cities usually know the law of free speech in the public forum since they regularly deal with all kinds of activists. This is not true in smaller towns and cities where the issue has never arisen. Shame on believers and churches who have not followed biblical guidelines and done their duty to go into all the world and preach the Gospel in this nation where, unlike many nations, they can do so under the protection of man’s law.

After the Faribault police violated the speech rights of the OPBC street preachers, I posted the following report online (no longer online):

  • “On June 21, 2014, Brother Paul Pearson, Pastor Jason Cooley, Brother Cooley (Pastor Jason’s dad) and some other younger men from Old Paths Baptist Church went to Faribault MN for street preaching, displaying signs, and handing out tracts. Two recordings of the encounter were made by Pastor Cooley may be viewed by left clicking the following links:
    Faribault MN Police Order Preachers To Stop Preaching
    Faribault Police Tell Preachers To Leave Or Be Arrested
  • “Faribault police officers approached them. One of the officers arguably assaulted (petty misdemeanor assault) Brother Pearson as he was preaching by poking his with his finger as he stood on a stand street preaching. As the officer poked Brother Pearson with his finger he told him, “Get down from there. I said get down from there.” Brother Pearson kept preaching. The officer said that if they did not leave, they would be going to jail. One female officer told them that if they did not leave, they would be cited and arrested. She threatened them by saying they would cite them for violating Section 17-42(a) of the Faribault City Ordinances entitled “Nuisance noise” (See EN 2 for the whole ordinance).
  • “She had to go get a copy of the above section of the code before she could tell them what they were allegedly doing wrong. Brother Pearson kept preaching and Pastor Cooley explained to the officers that they were engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (which is above a city ordinance and nullifies any ordinance which is in violation of that amendment). The female officer told them that it was illegal for them to preach there and that ‘telling people they’re going to hell is alarming and scaring them.’”

The preachers stayed on for a time, probably a little longer than they would have stayed had the police not interrupted their efforts, then they left. However, the tone of the police was such that they believed that they would be cited, and possibly arrested, the next time they went back to preach in Faribault.

Chief BohlenIn an attempt to resolve the matter, I called city attorney on June 23, 2014. He suggested that I call the Chief of Police. I have had many dealings with police as a lawyer over the years, including examining them on the witness stand. I knew the “peace officer” mindset. But I decided to honor the request of the city attorney. I left a voicemail for the Chief. Then I sent him an e-mail (See EN 3 for the e-mail). In that e-mail, I told him what had happened and gave him links to the videos above, briefly explained the law, gave him links to materials which explained the law, told him that we were proceeding like this in hopes of settling the matter peaceably with the hope that “this whole matter will glorify God, uplift all involved and bring us closer together in love, strengthen and enforce principles which have made America great, and increase all our knowledge, wisdom and understanding of a vital matter. “etc.

On June 26, the Chief replied by e-mail, since we were playing phone tag. In his e-mail, he explained that the officer who “tapped the preacher on the arm” was a community service officer – not an officer in the Faribault Police Department – that it was not an assault, that a person “has the right to free speech and can preach loudly and exclaim their beliefs in public;” but he went on to explain that “in the City of Faribault we do have an ordinance and a state statute that defines some behavior as public nuisance or disorderly conduct” and that “a citation can be issued.” He expressed his confident belief that “our State Statute” would “comply with the Hierarchy of Law and win challenges.” He went on to explain that correct his officers used correct protocol, were polite and professional, were responding to complaints, etc. It was clear, that citations would be issued for street preaching if citizens complained. He then explained the court process. In other words, he was saying that we could take it up with the trial court judge after the citations were issued. He still did not get it. He ended with, “The City of Faribault will continue to enforce the law and protect all citizen rights, as well as  free speech.” Note. I have his e-mail on file, but am not publishing any of his e-mails. I will only do so if someone accuses me of falsely representing what was in the e-mail. Of course, I will not cover everything he said in his e-mails.

Again, while this was going on, my pastor and I were not only discussing what was going on but also what we should do, according to the Bible, should one or more of the men be arrested in violation of the First Amendment. I will explain our conclusions at the end of this article.

I sent Chief Bohlen a rather lengthy e-mail reply to his June 26 e-mail which is reproduced in EN 4. In that e-mail I 1) apologized; (2) gave him a link to a Youtube video of a Minneapolis policeman interacting with the men of OPBC on June 28, 2013 as they preached at a “gay” pride event, a link to a website page which shows what happened in Northfield MN when people complained about the street preaching in downtown Northfield and my credentials to speak on these matters; (3) presented requests for clarification of his position and some other matters; (4) spoke to the assault issue showing him why I thought that the officer actually did assault Brother Paul Pearson; (5) gave him specific law which clearly proves that it is unlawful for a police officer to arrest someone under color of certain types of statutes (disorderly conduct, nuisance, littering, etc.) laws when they are speaking in the public forum; (6) Concluded.

Mayor John Jasinski
Mayor John Jasinski
Council Member Kevin Vorasek
Council Member Kevin Vorasek

In spite of all this, Chief Bohlen maintained his position which was that our men had a right to speak in the public forum; but that if someone complained the police could still issue a citation for violation of certain statutes. Of course, he would have understood he was wrong had he read and understood the law as laid out in my e-mails. It appeared that the men of OPBC would have to go to court for resolution. However, I knew that I needed to notify the appropriate city officials of what was going on and make sure that they shared his position, as he had asserted. To do so, I sent an e-mail reply to the Mayor of Faribault, the Chief, the City Attorney, and all the Faribault City Council members. The entire e-mail is included in EN 5.

Finally, before I heard from Chief Bohlen again, I sent another e-mail in to all the above mentioned Faribault city officials in which I quoted from and linked to MCCULLEN ET AL. v. COAKLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MASSACHUSETTS, ET AL. a United States Supreme Court case which was handed down June 26, 2014, and also linked to a recent and relevant Texas case. I ended, in part, “I know that you are all busy, but I would ask you to please let the men of OPBC know as soon as you can as to what your city policy is going to be regarding their First Amendment right to speak in the public forum.” The Chief had indicated that he spoke for the City of Faribault, but I wanted to pin all the above persons and the City of Faribault down in case further legal action were required. See En 6 for the entirety of that e-mail.

Council Member Joan VanDyke
Council Member Joan VanDyke
Council Member John Rowan
Council Member John Rowan

The Chief relented.  He left a voice mail and we talked over the phone later. I think that he finally understood the law on the matter and the role of the police. I have retained his voice mail. Our conversation was not recorded, but he said the same thing, for the most part in our conversation as he said in his voice mail. Among other things, he said that he saw the videos, stressed that no one was taken into custody or arrested, that he understood our frustration, that they would respect our First Amendment rights, that the police have an obligation to take calls of complaint, that he wants to make sure that they handled appropriately, and that he has issued the appropriate directives to his officers as to how to take these complaints. He said that they “have an obligation to go out and take these calls” and that he “wants to make sure they are handled appropriately.” He also said something which causes me concern as to whether he truly understands the law, but I will leave that out of this article. He, the Faribault police department, and the city of Faribault through her officials now cannot say that they did not know the law should they violate it. In talking with Chief Bohlen, I believe that he is a good man, a man of his word, and that he truly wants to run his police force according to the law of the land. The men of OPBC know that many smaller towns, unlike larger cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul and Austin TX, have never had to deal with the controversy caused by activism in the public forum. Therefore, they usually do not respond appropriately when citizens complain. This is an indictment against many, and especially against believers and pastors of churches who were instructed by our Lord: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Had they only done their job, everyone in the land would not only see the power of God and hear the Gospel, but also know the law of the land concerning First Amendment freedoms; then, they might even study the history of how Americans got those freedoms. That study would enlighten them on many matters such as religion (Catholicism, Protestantism, the history of true Baptist believers and churches, the blood of the martyrs which led to the First Amendment) the history of America, etc.

Council Member Kay Duchene
Council Member Kay Duchene
Council Member Steve Underdahl
Council Member Steve Underdahl

Now, as to the results of the studies and discussions between myself and Pastor Jason. My belief is now, as before, that a believer who wishes to speak in the public forum should do all he can, aside from abandoning his calling and duty, to avoid litigation. I know that this is not always possible. Even in this instance, one or more of the men could have been arrested. Since that did not happen, the men of OPBC did all they could to honor God, Chief Bohlen, the Faribault City Officials, and the City of Faribault and avoid litigation. However, had Faribault not relented, we had decided that the next step was to file for federal injunction. Of course, we felt that, through all the correspondence, we had enough to implicate Chief Bohlen, the City Officials, and the City of Faribault. Had we been forced to take that route, we do not believe that a federal judge would have looked kindly on the city’s actions since they had been thoroughly educated as to the law; in one sense, that would not have mattered since there are no damages to be awarded in a successful action for injunction.

Council Member David Albers
Council Member David Albers

On the other hand, had the city not relented and had the city violated or should the city in violate the constitutional rights of one or more of our men while speaking in the public forum, I now believe, as do the men of OPBC, that a civil rights lawsuit would be in order. We believe that it would be appropriate, according to the conscience of the person wronged, for the suit to ask for actual damages to any man who lost income or money as a result of being arrested, having to go to court, going to jail, etc. We believe that this is biblically acceptable for several reasons.

3First, God laid out the jurisdiction of civil government. Much of the Old Testament deals with this matter, as do parts of the New Testament. Romans 13.3-4 which gives civil government jurisdiction in a nutshell says:

“For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

Ro. 13.8-14 then gives the individual believer’s duty to our fellow citizens. Inherent within that duty is to do God’s bidding and show our love to our neighbors by preaching to them.

When a peace officer seeks to terrorize good, not evil, works, he is misusing his God-ordained power – he is executing wrath on the wrong person(s). He is becoming a lawbreaker.

1 Ti. 1.8-11 says:

“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”

6Second, the verses I cited at the beginning of this article to support my belief that believers should never sue because of violation of their civil rights did not take into consideration justice. The above verses, and many others inherently include the notion of justice. One can do a word search of “justice” to find out that the Bible specifically speaks much of justice. Psalms 82:3 says, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.” Micah 6.8 says, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” If a man’s family suffers because a government has unlawfully terriorzed and/or persecuted him, justice demands that that family receive restitution (actual damages).

Another consideration for the believer who sues for violation of his constitutional rights is his motive – is his primary desire to glorify God by making sure he is not led in any way by covetousness. In Genesis 14, we read that the King of Sodom wished to reward Abraham for saving the good and the people who had been taken forcefully by certain kings and their armies. “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion” (Ge. 14:22-24). “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (He. 13.5-6).

The Bible also teaches that a believer is to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh. All actions and battles for a believer and the church he is a member of are spiritual, not material or temporal (See, e.g., Ro. 7.15-25, 8.1-13; 1 Co. 12-13; Ga. 5; Ep. 2.1-10 and the whole book of Ep.; etc.). A church’s and a believer’s methods and motives in all matters are always to be spiritual and eternal as opposed to fleshly or worldly.

The Bible limits what a child of God should seek in restitution. Never should one seek exemplary damages, damages for mental anguish, damages for emotional distress, or any kind of damages which can be characterized as seeking vengeance. One can study out the meaning of the various types of legal damages to determine which can be characterized as “vengeance” damages. A true believer is to rejoice and be exceeding glad when persecuted for the cause of Christ. He is instructed never to seek vengeance since God makes clear that vengeance is His and that he will repay the offender for his unlawful actions. I refer the reader to the verses at the beginning of this article, most of which are reproduced in EN 1 below, for a study of this matter of vengeance and loving one’s neighbor. A complete serious study of the whole word of God would be even more enlightening.One simply cannot get around the fact that those Scriptures which I rely on to say that Christians are not to seek or take vengeance by making the argument that those Scriptures do not apply to the scenario I am considering. My human emotions, flesh, and reasoning tells me to sue for damages, including vindictive damages but the Bible instructs me not to do so. See how LLDF vindicated Rev. Walter Hoye.

In short, I believe that the course one who wishes to preach the Gospel in the public forum should be as follows:

(1) Do everything possible to avoid having to go to civil (as opposed to criminal) court. If one plans to speak in the public forum within a jurisdiction in which he is unsure if the authorities there are educated as to the law, notify the appropriate official(s) of when and where you will be speaking. If they do not know the law, educate them. Be sure to keep all evidence possible of your communications in case needed in future litigation.

(2) If the jurisdiction threatens citation and/or arrest after having been informed of the law, file for injunction in federal court.

(3) If you are arrested at any time for violation of your Biblical mandate to preach the Gospel in the public forum and in violation of your Constitutional rights, file a civil rights lawsuit. The only acceptable damages, according to God’s word, is actual damages which keeps one from properly keeping his duty to provide for himself and his family, and even those damages may not always be called for – a believer who is suing must honestly determine if such damages are appropriate. Suing for any  type of damages which takes vengeance violates God’s principles. Suing for financial loss which compromises your ability to support your family is Biblically acceptable. I can help get an attorney licensed in your state to practice law to help you. If you are in Austin, Texas or in a nearby county in Texas, I may be able to help you depending upon my schedule.

I salute Chief Bohlen for giving his attention to this matter. He is a busy man. He and the officials and citizens of Faribault as well as the men of OPBC are better off for this educational experience. May the education extend to those citizens who have not, to this point, been privy to what has gone on in resolving this matter. May justice prevail now and in the future.

This same procedure has had the same results in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Northfield, and Anoka Minnesota. All glory to God!

Endnotes

EN 1

Mt. 5.10-12, 38-48; 6.8-15; 18.21-35: “5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. 5:38-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. 6.8-15 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 18.21-35 [Not reproduced here.]

Lk. 6.27-46; 9.51-56: “6:27-46 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.  Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? 9.51-56 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.”

Ro. 8.28; 12.9-21; 13.8-14; 14.19: “8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 12:9-21 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.  Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. 13.8-14 [God’s command to the believer concerning his acts toward his neighbor in the context of civil government jurisdiction and the believer’s role as a citizen of that civil government. Notice that these verses say nothing about the believer’s relationship to God in that context.]. 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

Ga. 6.10: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.”

1 Thes. 5.15 “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”

1 Ti. 3.1-7: “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;  Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;  One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.  Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.” [Since pastors should be going into the world preaching the Gospel, and since they may encounter violations of their civil rights, they should be aware that they are held to an even higher standard than other believers. Verses 10-13 then deals with qualifications for deacons.]

2 Ti.1,8; 2.8-12; 3.12: “1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;” 2:8-12 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

Note. Contextually, in 2.Ti. 3.12 and other verses, when Paul speaks of believers suffering persecution, he means that they will suffer, not fight, persecution. Of course Paul argued within the legal system when falsely accused of crime. He appealed to Rome as a Roman citizen and argued that the facts showed that he was not guilty. He did not have the civil rights given Americans in the Constitution, so one must go deeper into relevant Biblical doctrine to see God’s limits on one’s methods as he enters the civil (as opposed to criminal) law. That is what this article is about.

Ja. 3.17: “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”

1 Pe. 2.9-25 (esp. 15-16 and 20-25); 3.14-17; 4: “2:15-16 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 2:20-25 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.  For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:  Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:  Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.  For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 3:14-17 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” [Read chapter 4 in your Bible. If you only have an interpretation – a non-KJB – buy a Bible!]

Ge. 50.16-20; Le. 19.18; De. 32.35: [Not reproduced here]

EN 2 “Sec. 17-42. Nuisance noise.

“(a) No person in the city shall make or assist in or permit the making of any noise tending to unreasonably disturb the peace and quiet of persons in the vicinity thereof, unless the making and continuing of the same cannot be prevented and is necessary for the protection or preservation of property or of the health, safety, life or limb of some person. “… “(d) Permitted noise. Customary sounds from any of the following activities shall not be deemed to violate this section. “(1) Marching and/or playing of music by bands, orchestras, or other musical aggregations in conjunction with an authorized city celebration, festival, or other neighborhood or community event, including band shell concerts; or the practice for or presentation of an event sponsored by a local public or private school; “(2) Church bells, chimes and carillons; “(3) Authorized parades; “(4) Construction work conducted between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; “(5) School bells; “(6) Emergency vehicles; “(7) Permitted street dances; or “(8) Collection and transportation of garbage or refuse in the city between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. Notwithstanding the preceding sentence, the collection and transportation of garbage or refuse for commercial, industrial or institutional properties may be conducted between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.”

Note. I included subsection (d) above because I believe it is significant that the exceptions do not include the most important and constitutionally mandated exception – free speech in the public forum – while it does include garbage collection and other similarly types of sound causing activities including some Biblically offensive types of “noise.”

EN 3 [First e-mail to the Faribault Chief of Police]

My name is Jerald Finney. I am writing this letter as a member of Old Paths Baptist Church (“OPBC”) in Northfield, Minnesota. I am contacting you regarding a matter which happened on June 21, 2013 in your city. Some of your police officers broke the law by assaulting one member and threatening more than one member of OPBC with arrest and citation for violating Section 17.42(a) of your city ordinances. I have already put the whole story online. You can read it at:

https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/sermons/street-preaching/december-25-2013-an-unfolding-street-preaching-battle-in-northfield-minnesota/ You may click the link above and scroll down to “June 21, 2014 Update” to read the story. To verify the story, there are links there to 2 videos which show exactly what happened.

I am a lawyer who specializes in “separation of church and state law” and am licensed in Texas, but not in Minnesota. However, as a member of OPBC and as a representative of that church, I – and the church – wish to attempt to resolve a matter involving your police officers in the most reasonable manner, and in a way which does not waste the money of the taxpayers. This is the best way to handle the matter, in my opinion, since the legal issues have already been decided by the United States Supreme Court. Many lawsuits against municipalities, police departments, and individual police officers have already laid out the parameters of the law and shown that the litigation process ends up with taxpayers spending untold thousands of dollars for not understanding and correctly applying the law. The costs to the city and officers involved have included lawyers fees, court costs, time involved for officers and others who become involved, monetary judgments in favor of those whose legal rights have been violated, etc. OPBC wishes to act in a manner consistent with what the Bible teaches in resolving this matter and avoid further action. We wish to show you our love for you and your city by peaceful resolution. The church has already contacted the Alliance Defense Fund (“ADF”) and an ADF lawyer has told us to call if needed and they will get a lawyer who practices in your jurisdiction on it quickly.

What we would ask from the city is (1) a writing from a city official (Chief Bohlen, City Attorney, Fischer, or the mayor) stating that the Faribault police have been informed of the law regarding free speech in the public forum that can be presented in the future to officers who might attempt to abuse the preachers again and also stating that Faribault police officers have been educated in the law concerning speech in the public forum in America, (2) a written apology from the officer who assaulted the preacher, and (3) an apology from the lady officer who did almost all the talking.

I have thoroughly addressed the law on this matter online. I specifically deal with the issue on the “Old Paths Baptist Church ‘No Small Stir’ (Street Preaching) Ministry” page which you may assess by clicking the following link:

https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/sermons/street-preaching/ There you may find links that will take you to court briefs and other information which spell out the law. I have a 12 page tract which succinctly lays out the law. That tract, “Tract – Street Preaching In America: Is It Legal?” is online at: https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/god-betrayed/books/street-preaching-in-america-is-it-legal-tract/

As you can see from the information on that tract and on the website pages, this matter has already been resolved in Northfield, Minnesota without court action in favor of the street preachers from OPBC.

To understand the importance of protected speech and the bloody history of how it came to be in America, I would suggest reading “The History of the First Amendment,” which is Section IV of the book “God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application and which is free in online form at

https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/contents/online-version-of-the-book-god-betrayed/the-history-of-the-first-amendment/ The free PDF of the book is at: https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/contents/books/god-betrayedseparation-of-church-and-state-the-biblical-principles-and-the-american-application/3812-2/ One may find order information (available in both Kindle and softback) at: https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/book-reviews/order-information/ “An Abridged History of the First Amendment” is available free at: https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/contents/books/an-abridged-history-of-the-first-amendment/ That booklet is only published online.

Please contact me as soon as possible concerning this matter. I talked with Attorney Fischer on the phone a little while ago and he suggested calling Chief Bohlen. I called Chief Bohlen and left a voice mail. Our hope is that this whole matter will glorify God, uplift all involved and bring us closer together in love, strengthen and enforce principles which have made America great, and increase all our knowledge, wisdom and understanding of a vital matter. “And now abideth faith, hope, charity [God’s type of love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13.13).

Very truly yours and for His Glory, Jerald Finney Member of Old Paths Baptist Church 512-785-8445 512-385-0761 E-mail: jerald.finney@sbcglobal.net

P.S. Should you call and get a voice mail, please leave a message and I will return your call as soon as possible.

EN 4 My reply to Chief Bohlen’s e-mail:

Dear Chief Bohlen,

Thank you for your e-mail reply on June 26, 2014. I have been working on this reply for several days. I believe we are getting closer, although still a long way from, a resolution to this problem. It appears to me that I will not be able to resolve this by communicating with you, but I am making an attempt to do so at the request of your city attorney. Again, let me say that I am acting on behalf of the men who were there street preaching, not as an attorney. We are all members of OPBC, a non-legal entity, a First Amendment church (I will not explain what that means other than to say individual men are involved, and no legal entity). The street preachers of OPBC are doing everything possible to get this matter resolved without taxing the city, the church, and the court system. They are ordered by the Bible to love all men and so they are showing their love to you, your city attorney, your city elected officials, your police force, all your city peace officers, and the citizens of your city by proceeding according to the directives of the word of God. They wish to give all their energy to obedience to the Lord which includes preaching the Gospel in public. They have no desire to bring in an attorney who may ultimately ask for certain damages and attorney’s fees which may burden you all in the form of tax dollars used to pay court ordered judgments. They will do that only as a final resort if all efforts to get this resolved according to the law of the land fail.

Let me say that I contacted you because your city attorney, Kurt Fischer, asked me to do so. I wished to take the matter up with him, but out of courtesy, I decided to comply with his request. I am cc’ing this to the mayor, the city council members, and the city attorney. Since in your last e-mail you stated that your position is that of the police department and the city of Faribault, I am sending this letter with a note (included above this letter the mayor to you, the city council members, and the city attorney. it is included, as  you know, in your letter since you saw it before getting to this part of the correspondence.).

In this letter, I will (1) apologize; (2) give you a link to a Youtube video of a policeman interacting with the men of OPBC on June 28, 2013 as they preached at a “gay” pride event, a link to a website page which shows what happened in Northfield MN when people complained about the street preaching in downtown Northfield and my credentials to speak on these matters; (3) present requests for clarification of your position and some other matters; (4) speak to the assault issue; (5) give you specific law which clearly proves that it is unlawful for a police officer to arrest someone under color of certain types of statutes (disorderly conduct, nuisance, littering, etc.) laws when they are speaking in the public forum; (6) Conclude.

(1) My apologies

I wish to apologize to you for what I feel I been wrong in my prior correspondence. I sent you a ton of educational material. I ask you to forgive me for that. The material I sent contained the law concerning the issue we are confronting. I should have specifically given you the important law. Below, I will present what it says and will attach the United States Supreme Court Cases which have laid down the law. You see, I am not the law, the city attorney is not the law, and the police are not the law; nor does any of our opinions have legal effect. The Supreme Court is the law of the American legal system and their opinions are the standard. If their opinion violates the highest law, then they will ultimately pay the price, but that is not our problem. Please forgive me for not being specific.

Let me also apologize for not checking Minnesota law and referring to that when I mentioned what I still feel was an assault by the “officer” in the video. As a citizen of America, I feel the same way the men approached by the Faribault “officials” (I will refer to them all that way, with the understanding that some of them were not “your” officers.). I will clarify below what I meant. I am offended when someone comes up to me and puts their hands, fingers, feet or anything else on me in a negative way, especially if I am doing nothing illegal. I consider that type of action against me to be an assault. I am even more offended when a “peace officer” does so; especially if he says that I can’t do something that is legal, as declared by the U.S. Supreme Court (for example, tells me that a city ordinance trumps the First Amendment which is directly the opposite of the truth – see below for the law), and tells me I am going to jail.

(2) Examples of peace officers who know the law and my credentials to speak on these matters

The men of OPBC have preached in Minneapolis/St. Paul without problem, even in the face of complaints. The police there know the law. They preached at a “gay” pride parade there on June 28, 2014. Go to the video below to see what a police officer who knows and enforces the law (The First Amendment to the United States Constitution) does:

To see what happened in Northfield, Minnesota when citizens vehemently complained to the police of that city in their efforts to try to get the police to cite the preachers from OPBC with violation of city ordinance(s) because of their refusal to quit their protected speech click the following link:

https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/sermons/street-preaching/december-25-2013-an-unfolding-street-preaching-battle-in-northfield-minnesota/

Finally, let me briefly explain that I both led and participated in the street preaching ministry of an Austin TX church for about 20 years. Over that time, many complaints were made to the police – “I am offended,” “I am alarmed,” “You can’t do that,” “The place for this is in the ‘church’ building, not on the street,” “You are making people mad,” “You are in front of my business (where we were closer to the door of the business in busy pedestrian and vehicle traffic than in the incident you mentioned there in Faribault, etc. We were careful not to be so close to his business door that we impeded the progress of pedestrians in any way.). What did the police do to us – they explained the law to the people and protected us. I was assaulted more than once and spit on during those times. One man assaulted me and left to get in a taxi, but some policemen detained him and talked to him. Then the policeman came up to me and said that the man stated that I assaulted him, but that he saw the whole thing and said I could complain and he would arrest the man for assault. I told him that I came to help, not hurt, people and thanked him for protecting us and for all his good work as a peace officer.

Furthermore, I am a constitutional lawyer and have studied free speech. I know the law concerning speech in the public forum (on government sidewalks, parks, etc.) I have successfully represented people who were speaking in the public forum at trial and had to appeal one case which was reversed and acquittal ordered on appeal. Links to my brief and other information on that appeal are linked to at:

https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/sermons/street-preaching/december-25-2013-an-unfolding-street-preaching-battle-in-northfield-minnesota/.

(3) Requests

My first request involves your position.According to your letter, your position is the position of both the city of Fairbault and also the Fairbault police department. I will try to contact the city officials and the city attorney to verify that. If we need to go further, we wish to include everyone involved in any civil actions that may follow. We do not wish to go that route, but just in case. I will be attempting to discuss this with the city attorney and officials so they will not be surprised; and also to allow them to verify or deny whether they share your position and whether your position is also the policy of the city, the city officials, and the city attorney.

My second request is for your clarification of your position – what will happen if the preachers preach in your town? I will give my interpretation of your e-mail and ask if it is correct. If it is not, may I ask that you clearly state your position? Again, may I ask if your position is the express or understood position of the city of Fairbault? If so, how and where may I verify their position? I will be asking your city attorney and city officials (those who I and get an e-mail address for) their position and policy and the position and/or policy of the city in the next few days.

Let me give you my interpretation of your position. You said that a citation can and will be issued for disorderly conduct just for street preaching. You then want a judge to decide the issue. As I read it, you believe that police can cite and/or arrest a street preacher because people are offended and alarmed in violation of Noribault City Ordinance Section 17-42. I agree with you that police can do so. I disagree that they can do so lawfully because Supreme Court case law (quoted below) makes crystal clear that the First Amendment forbids it – the First Amendment trumps Section 17.42 and all the disorderly conduct and nuisance statutes in America. By explicit law (see below) the Supreme Court has already decided this issue and lower federal courts have already, on many occasions, awarded damages to American citizens who filed civil rights (42 U.S.C.S. § 1983) lawsuits against officials who unlawfully arrested them under various statutes (including disorderly conduct statutes) for speech activity in the public forum. Of course, a street preacher can be cited and arrested for some crimes such as assault or criminal trespass even if he is street preaching (as long as the alleged crime is not just a pretext for arrest). Police have unlawfully (in violation of the First Amendment) arrested and/or cited street preachers and others who were speaking in the public forum and charged them with disorderly conduct, littering (when in fact, as proven in court, others were littering by throwing Gospel tracts given them by street preachers in the street), and other crimes. Ultimately, the results were acquittal, many cases being dismissed without trial, some going to trial and acquitted, some being convicted, but exonerated on appeal. Those processes have resulted in clear definition of what the law is for those who know how to research it.

The law regarding freedom of speech in the public forum has also been developed in other ways. In some cases, those whose constitutional rights have sued police officers (I will not, at this time, explain the law of qualified immunity of government officials) and cities and city officials successfully under the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C.S. § 1983). All that because the police and maybe the city and city officials did not know the law and, instead of doing their jobs and protecting the law-abiding preachers or other citizens who were involved in protected speech in the public forum, became a law unto themselves and abused their duty to uphold the law. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The street preachers of OPBC truly wish to avoid all that. They have no desire to get anything from anyone unless your unlawful actions continue, their freedom of speech rights are violated, and/or you deprive them of their livelihood needed to take care of their families. Just being forced unlawfully to go to court by summons and/or arrest will interfere with these men’s ability to do their secular jobs and provide for their families. They will not seek vengeance, but they will seek justice. Hopefully, justice will be served without court action. They will love you, as ordered by God in his word which means they will do everything in their power to resolve this in the most expeditious manner possible without lawsuit or other court action. In addition, your citizens deserve better than that. What they need to know is the truth. According to the United States Supreme Court, here is no right not to be offended or alarmed in the public forum in America. I will give you some Supreme Court quotes below. Most thinking people, myself included, are offended or alarmed by something they see or hear every time they venture out in public. These men could have been offended by the unlawful actions of your officers and by the unlawful responses of the members of your community who called the police in hopes of arresting their protected speech.

On top of all that, your proposal that the men come preach, get a summons, go to court, and let the court decide leaves some very important questions. The men probably left later than they would have had the officers not interrupted them by violating their civil rights. What would happen if we followed your proposal and after the summons issued, kept preaching another hour? Two more hours? More complaints and more summons? Or would the preacher(s) be arrested? What if they came back to preach on the streets of Noribault before the judge decided the case or before the appeal, if needed, were finished? More citations, summons, possible arrests? Another important question is why should anyone go through this ridiculous exercise for a matter that has already been decided by the United States Supreme Court? Again, I will offer specific law below. I will attempt to get your city attorney to look at this. It is his job. I will also point it out to any city officials for whom I can obtain an e-mail address. In Northfield, the exact same thing happened, a police officer took it on himself to go to the city attorney, and the city attorney explained that the police could do nothing about street preaching under disorderly conduct, nuisance or other similar laws. I do not know exactly how much detail the city attorney gave, but the police in Northfield now abide by and understand their role. No civil suit of any kind with the collateral consequences to the city, to individual officers, to city officials, to the city attorney, and to the citizens of Northfield (of course, the consequences against the citizens would be indirect since it would all be paid for by their tax dollars). Again, the St. Paul/Minneapolis officers also know and act upon the law as shown in the video linked to above.

By the way, as to the incident at the liquor store, you officers were in the wrong there as well, as far as the video indicates. Paul, I do not believe, did not impede or intimidate customers.  He may have offended them or scared them by telling them that the Bible teaches that “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish,” of by some other constitutionally protected speech. I will have to talk to him more about that. No need to get into great detail about that here. The main thing is that these two incidents (both of which I have on DVD) are establishing a pattern.

My third request is to ask you if you will send me the names, badge numbers (if any), and service or citation addresses of all the personnel who were involved in the incident and the liquor store incident. If similar incidents occur, I will remind the street preachers to get the names and badge numbers of all officers involved, and the names, addresses and phone numbers of any non-peace officers involved. Please instruct your officers to give that information if requested or not in the event of future incidents of the same nature. We would especially like to know the name and contact info. for the person who “tapped the preacher on the arm” ordered him to get down and said “he can’t do that, he’s going to jail,” etc. From whom did he get his authority? I will get the names and e-mail addresses s of the city officials, if possible, off the city website. As you know, I already have all the contact info. for the city attorney. Having all that information will speed up whatever court action(s), if any, takes place regarding this matter. If such action is necessary, OPBC will turn all the info over to the attorney who handles the case(s), thus lowering his billable hours. He will ask for attorney’s fees as well as for certain types of damages should a 1983 action be initiated. If I were licensed in Minnesota, I would handle it all myself pro bono without asking for anything more than out of pocket expenses be awarded by the court. My work on these type matters has always been pro bono. I regret that I cannot save you money in that way.

(4) The assault issue

Although the assault point is moot and although neither Mr. Pearson nor any of the other men will try to proceed on an assault charge, I must give it some attention in answer to your comments. These people are true Christians. If our Lord could suffer as he did at the hands of the religious and political crowds (because they were alarmed and offended because of what he said. We know the real reason for his crucifixion – my sin, your sin and the sins of the whole world put him on the cross), surely we can suffer such a minute affront from the same crowd. In fact, we are told to suffer such tribulation with joy.

One 2012 Webster’s Dictionary definition of “Assault” is “a :  a threat or attempt to inflict offensive physical contact or bodily harm on a person (as by lifting a fist in a threatening manner) that puts the person in immediate danger of or in apprehension of such harm or contact.” One 2012 Webster’s Student definition of assault is: “2 : an unlawful attempt or threat to do harm to another.”

As to Minnesota law, I offer the following sections from the 2013 Minnesota Statutes: 609.02 DEFINITIONS. “Subdivision 1.Crime.“Crime” means conduct which is prohibited by statute and for which the actor may be sentenced to imprisonment, with or without a fine…. … “Subd. 4a.Petty misdemeanor.“Petty misdemeanor” means a petty offense which is prohibited by statute, which does not constitute a crime and for which a sentence of a fine of not more than $300 may be imposed…. “Subd. 10.Assault. “Assault” is: “(1) an act done with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or “(2) the intentional infliction of or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.” 609.2231 ASSAULT IN THE FOURTH DEGREE. “Subdivision 1.Peace officers. “Whoever physically assaults a peace officer licensed under section 626.845, subdivision 1, when that officer is effecting a lawful arrest or executing any other duty imposed by law is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both. If the assault inflicts demonstrable bodily harm or the person intentionally throws or otherwise transfers bodily fluids or feces at or onto the officer, the person is guilty of a felony and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than three years or to payment of a fine of not more than $6,000, or both.” [This states that an assault can occur when there is no demonstrable bodily harm.] Given all the officer said and did, I consider it to be an assault. If I had been the preacher, I would have feared that something more physical (additional unlawful physical force against my person and possible unlawful arrest which usually involves at least some force such as handcuffing) was going to occur. That is the way Paul Pearson felt after the assault. He expressed that sentiment to others who were with him. That can be inferred from what the officer did and said and the way he did and said it. Since it was an officer, I would have had more fear of further unlawful action than if a non-peace officer had inflicted the assault. He, unlike a non-officer, was acting under color of law. Actions against a peace officer, even in self-defense against unlawful action, have resulted in harsh retaliation followed by lies about what happened. Most informed Americans now understand that police can become brutal at the drop of a hat and will lie about it if they think they can get away with it. Cameras help the citizen. One case in point involved Rodney King. Should not law-abiding Americans expect their peace officers to treat them with dignity and know the law? Again, since these street preachers are believers who follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and even though they are physically strong, they are very unlikely to exercise force against and physically hurt anyone unless protecting their families against harm.

(5) The law

The cases below are from the United States Supreme Court. These cases, and many others, clearly lay out the law which a peace officer is entrusted to enforce as regarding those who speak in the public forum (this includes those who preach in the public forum).

1.  The freedom of speech and press are among the fundamental personal rights and liberties which are secured to all persons by the Fourteenth Amendment against abridgment by the state. Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 95, 60 S.Ct. 736, 740, 84 L.ED. 1093 (1940).

2. Freedom of speech includes not only the spoken word, but also speech-related conduct, such as picketing, the wearing of arm bands and, in some recent highly publicized cases, flag burning as a type of political protest. Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748, 756.

3. “Whenever the title of streets and parks may rest, they have immemorially been held in trust for the use of the public and, time out of mind, have been used for purposes of assembly, communicating thoughts between citizens, and discussing public questions. Such use of the streets and public places has, from ancient times, been a part of the privileges, immunities, rights, and liberties of citizens. The privilege of a citizen of the United States to use the streets and parks for communication of views on national questions may be regulated in the interest of all; it is not absolute, but relative, and must be exercised in subordination to the general comfort and convenience, and in consonance with peace and good order; but it must not, in the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied.’ Hague v. C.I.O., 307 U.S. 496, 515-516, 59 S.Ct. 954, 964, 83 L.Ed. 1423 (opinion of Mr. Justice Roberts, joined by Mr. Justice Black). Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, Ala., 394 U.S. 147, 152, 89 S.Ct. 935, 22 L.Ed.2d 162 (1969).”

4. [Government control of access to its property, public forums, littering] The extent to which the government can control access to its property for expressive purposes depends on the nature of the forums. Reed v. State, 762 S.W.2d 640, 643 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 1988, pet. Ref’d) citing Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, 473 U.S. 788, 105 S.Ct. 3489, 87 L.Ed. 567 (1985); Olvera v. State, 806 S.W.2d 546 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). Public forums are those areas which traditionally have been devoted to assembly and public debate, such as public streets, sidewalks, and parks. Id. “[The] Streets are natural and proper places for the dissemination of information and opinion; and one is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place.” Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 97-98, 102, 105-106, 60 S.Ct. 736, 741-742, 744, 746, 84 L.Ed. 1093 (1940).

Although a municipality may enact regulations in the interest of the public safety, health, welfare, or convenience, these may not abridge the individual liberties secured by the constitution to those who wish to speak, write, print, or circulate information or opinion. Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 60 S.Ct. 146, 84 L.Ed. 155 (1939). In Schneider, one appellant was charged with violating a law criminalizing the circulation and distribution of handbills designed, the city said, to prevent littering of the streets even though he did not litter himself—those to whom he handed the literature threw it down. The court said that the city could achieve the same thing without violating appellant’s freedom of speech by punishing those who threw the literature into the streets. Thornton v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 97-98, 102, 105-106, 60 S.Ct. 736, 741-742, 744, 746, 84 L.Ed. 1093 (1940):

  • “A threat … is inherent in a penal statute … which does not aim specifically at evils within the allowable area of State control but, on the contrary, sweeps within its ambit other activities that in ordinary circumstances constitute an exercise of freedom of speech or of the press. The existence of such a statute, which readily lends itself to harsh and discriminatory enforcement by local prosecuting officials, against particular groups deemed to merit their displeasure, results in a continuous and pervasive restraining on all freedom of discussion that might reasonably be regarded as within its purview….
  • “Freedom of discussion, if it would fulfill its historic function in this nation, must embrace all issues about which information is needed or appropriate to enable the members of society to cope with the exigencies of their period….
  • “[The] streets are natural and proper places for the dissemination of information and opinion; and one is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place.”

5. [Evils within allowable are of state control] Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1; 69 S. Ct. 894; 93 L. Ed. 1131; 1949 U.S. LEXIS 2400 (1949):

“Freedom of speech, though not absolute, is protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. “The vitality of civil and political institutions in our society depends on free discussion. As Chief Justice Hughes wrote in De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, 365, it is only through free debate and free exchange of ideas that government remains responsive to the will of the people and peaceful change is effected. The right to speak freely and to promote diversity of ideas and programs is therefore one of the chief distinctions that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes. “Accordingly a function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea. That is why freedom of speech, though not absolute, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, supra, pp. 571-572, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. See Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, 262; Craig v. Harney, 331 U.S. 367, 373. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups. “The ordinance as construed by the trial court seriously invaded this province. It permitted conviction of petitioner if his speech stirred people to anger, invited public dispute, or brought about a condition of unrest. A conviction resting on any of those grounds may not stand.”

Substantive evils within the allowable are of state control are obstructing or unreasonable interfering with ingress to and egress for enumerated public places, blocking sidewalks, obstructing traffic, littering streets, committing assaults, and engaging in countless other forms of anti-social conduct. Olvera v. State, 806 S.W.2d 546, 548-549 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991) citing Coates v. Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91, S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971) and Cameron v. Johnson, 390 U.S. 611, 88 S.Ct. 1335, 20 L.Ed.2d 182 (1968). Evil within allowable areas of state control include molestation or interference with person and vehicles, obstruction of pedestrians and automobiles, threatening or intimidating or coercing anyone, making loud noises, unpeaceful and disorderly conduct, acts of violence, and breaches of the peace.See, e.g.Carlson v. California, 310 U.S. 106, 60 S.Ct. 746, 84 L.Ed. 1104 (1940), Thornhill v. State of Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 60 S.Ct. 736 (1940), Olvera v. State, 806 S.W. 2d 546 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991).

Municipal legislation meant to keep community streets open and available for movement of people and property is constitutional so long as the legislation does not abridge constitutional liberty of one to impart information through speech and distribution of literature. Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 160, 60 S.Ct. 146, 150, 84 L.Ed. 155 (1939). Crimes may be punished by law, but the freedom of speech and the press may not be abridged in the guise of regulations by the governing entity to prevent littering, fraud, or to promote the public health, welfare, or convenience. Id. While declaring laws unconstitutional which infringe upon first amendment rights, the Court has made clear what a city may do to punish evils within the allowable areas of state control: “[A] city is free to prevent people from blocking sidewalks,obstructing traffic, littering streets, committing assaults, or engaging in countless other forms of anti-social conduct. It can do so through the enactment and enforcement of ordinances directed with reasonable specificity toward the conduct to be prohibited.” Coates v. Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91, S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed.2d 214 (1971).

7. [Disorderly conduct] In Gooding v. Wilson, 405 U.S. 518, 92 S. Ct. 1103, 31 L. Ed. 2d 408, a defendant was found guilty of using opprobrious words and abusive language in violation of a Georgia statute. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals declared the statute unconstitutionally vague and broad and set aside defendant’s conviction. “The constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech forbid the States to punish the use of words or language not within “narrowly limited classes of speech.” Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 571 (1942). Even as to such a class, however, because “the line between speech unconditionally guaranteed and speech which may legitimately be regulated, suppressed, or punished is finely drawn,” Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 525 (1958), “in every case the power to regulate must be so exercised as not, in attaining a permissible end, unduly to infringe the protected freedom,” Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 304 (1940).” Government may pass laws which punish “fighting words.” In Chaplinsky, we sustained a conviction under Chapter 378, § 2, of the Public Laws of New Hampshire, which provided: “No person shall address any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place, nor call him by any offensive or derisive name . . . . ‘Chaplinsky was convicted for addressing to another on a public sidewalk the words, ‘You are a _ _ _ damned racketeer,’ and ‘a damned Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists.’ Chaplinsky challenged the constitutionality of the statute as inhibiting freedom of expression because it was vague and indefinite. The Supreme Court of New Hampshire, however, ‘long before [*523] the words for which Chaplinsky was convicted,’ sharply limited the statutory language ‘offensive, derisive or annoying word’ to ‘fighting” words’: “No words were forbidden except such as have a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person to whom, individually, the remark is addressed. . . .

  • “The test is what men of common intelligence would understand would be words likely to cause an average addressee to fight. . . . Derisive and annoying words can be taken as coming within the purview of the statute . . . only when they have this characteristic of plainly tending to excite the addressee to a breach of the peace….
  • “The dictionary definitions of ‘opprobrious’ and ‘abusive’ give them greater reach than “fighting” words. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1961) defined ‘opprobrious’ as ‘conveying or intended to convey disgrace,’ and ‘abusive’ as including ‘harsh insulting language.’ Georgia appellate decisions have construed § 26-6303 to apply to utterances that, although within these definitions, are not ‘fighting’ words as Chaplinsky defines them.”

8. The state of Louisiana both directly [see Cox v. State of Louisiana, 379 U.S. 559, 574, 85 S.Ct. 476, 486 (1965)] and indirectly [see Cox] attempted unsuccessfully to deny freedom of speech to picketers. The United States Supreme Court ruled against the state in both cases. Louisiana indirectly tried to abridge appellant’s freedom of speech and assembly by charging him with violation of “disturbing the peach” and “obstructing a public passage” penal statutes. 379 U.S. 536, 85 S.Ct. 453 (1965).

As to the “breach of the peace” charge, the Court stated that its independent examination of the record, which it is required to make, shows no conduct which the state had a right to prohibit as a breach of the peace. Id. At 545, 85 S.Ct. at 459. In addressing the “obstructing a public passage” conviction, the Court addressed the issue of the “right of a State or municipality to regulate the use of city streets and other facilities to assure the safety and convenience of the people in their use and concomitant right of the people of free speech and assembly.” Id. At 554, 85 S.Ct. at 464. There was no doubt that the sidewalk was obstructed by the picketers. Id. At 553, 85 S.Ct. at 464. The Court said that the statute, as applied, violated the appellant’s Constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech andassembly. Id. At 558, 85 S.Ct. at 466.

9. [As to when a governmental entity seeks to take away one’s freedom to display signs and banners in conjunction with his protected speech.] A municipality in Carlson v. People of State of California, 310 U.S. 106, 60 S.Ct. 746, 84 L.Ed. 1104 (1940) sought to enforce an ordinance which directly infringed on appellant’s freedom of speech. Carlson declared unconstitutional a municipal ordinance which declared it unlawful for any person, in or upon any public street, highway, sidewalk, alley or other public place … to carry or display any sign or banner in the vicinity of any place of business for the purpose of inducing or attempting to induce an person to refrain from purchasing merchandise or performing services or labor. Id. (emphasis mine).

Spence v. Washington, 418 U.S. 405, 94 S.Ct. 2727, 41 L.Ed. 2d. 842 (1974):

[Appellant had displayed an American flag upside down out of his apartment window with a peace symbol attached. at 405-406. The Court noted, and the state conceded, that appellant engaged in a form of communication. at 409, 94 S.Ct. at 2729-2730.

  • To apply an ordinance to prevent the display of banners or signs in conjunction with protected speech activity violates the speaker’s right to freedom of speech and the rights of the people to whom the speech was directed.
  • “An assertion that ‘Jesus Saves,’ that ‘Abortion is Murder,’ that every woman has the ‘right to Choose,’ or that ‘Alcohol Kills,’ may have a claim to constitutional exemption from the ordinance [which prohibited certain political campaign signs] that is just as strong as ‘Roland Vincent—City Council.’ To create an exception for … political speech and not these other types of speech might create a risk of engaging in constitutionally forbidden content discrimination.” Members of City Council v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 104 S.Ct. 2118, 80 L.Ed. 772. Under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, not to mention the First Amendment itself, government may not grant the use of a forum to people whose views it finds acceptable, but deny use to those wishing to express less favored or more controversial views. Police Department of City of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92, 96, 92 S.Ct. 2286, 2290, 33 L.Ed. 212 (1972)(Holding a Chicago ordinance unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in a case where the equal protection claim was closely intertwined with First Amendment interests)(p 27 of brief). Once a forum is opened up to assembly or speaking by some groups, government may not prohibit others from assembling or speaking on the basis of what they intend to say. Id. Selective exclusions from a public forum may not be based on content alone, and may not be justified by reference to content alone. Id. Mr. Justice Black called an attempt by a government to pick and choose among the views it is willing to have discussed in picketing activities “censorship in its most odious form, unconstitutional under both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.” Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 85 S. Ct. 453, 13 L.Ed. 2d 471 (1965) cited in 408 U.S. 92, 98-99, 92 S.Ct. 2291; Carey v. Brown, 477 U.S. 455, 100 S.Ct. 2286, 65 L.Ed. 263 (1980) reaffirmed Mosley.
  • Even if the purpose of an ordinance does not specifically aim at protected speech, it may indicectly attempt to deny freedom of speech (See p. 34 of brief in the Steve Drake case which is in PDF form on the website.). Even if the purpose of [an ordinance] is to keep community streets open and available for movement of people and property or to prevent littering, fraud, to promote the public health, welfare, or convenience, to prevent breaches of the peace or other crimes, it is constitutional only so long as it does not abridge constitutional liberty or one to impart information through speech and the distribution of literature. See Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 60 S.Ct. 146, 84 L.Ed. 155 (1939); Coates v. Cincinnati, 402 U.S. 611, 91 S.Ct. 1686, 29 L.Ed. 2d 214 (1971); Cox v. State of Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536, 85 S.Ct. 453 (1965).

 (6) Conclusion

 Again, the men of OPBC salute you. They are endeavoring to do everything possible to resolve this matter quickly in accordance with man’s law and with the law of God. The First Amendment which provides for separation of church and state and freedom to practice one’s religion, freedom of assembly, press, speech, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances says that cities, city officers, city attorney’s, and city elected officials are to protect the First Amendment freedoms of all citizens, including those who choose to speak in the public forum. In love, the men of OPBC are trying to treat all the people of Noribault with godly love. Accordingly, we are seeking to avoid further action in the legal arena, an action which will result in expense to your city and also detract our people from their primary duties to their Lord

EN 5 I sent the e-mail below to the Faribault Mayor, City Attorney, City Council members, and Chief Bohlen. In the e-mail was the note. Attached to the e-mail was a link to the online article which described what happened and linked to the Youtube videos which showed what happened [I am omitting that here since one can go directly to the link to see it], some other information, my letter to Chief Bohlen which had replied to his June 26 letter, and a final letter to all the above mentioned Faribault officials.

Note to City Attorney Fischer, Mayor Jasinske, and Faribault City Council members: The letter to Chief Bohlen is below this rather lengthy note. The city attorney asked me to call Chief Bohlen rather than seeking resolution through him. Out of courtesy, I complied with his request even though I did not personally feel that a police officer would have the necessary expertise to delve into the legal issues. I do not mean that as an insult. I can tell from his e-mail, which is copied and pasted at the end and which was very courteous, that Chief Bohlen has the best interests of everyone at heart; but I could also tell that he does not understand the law regarding these matters. He discussed the proper protocols in his letter; I have no quarrel with that when applied to lawbreakers. However, when that protocol is used against law-abiding citizens, it makes the officer who applies it a lawbreaker subject to civil, if not criminal, litigation. I would not know how to do the job of law enforcement because I have no law enforcement training. That is his expertise. Examining, understanding, and litigating the law is mine. That is why the other members of Old Paths Baptist Church (“OPBC”) asked me, a lawyer, to try to resolve this matter as a member of OPBC without bringing in a lawyer. Should legal action come about, an attorney who is licensed in Minnesota (or a pro hoc vice attorney) will represent the men.

Although the Chief understands police protocol, he reveals in his letter that he understands neither (1) the law of free speech in the public forum and the freedom of those who exercise their First Amendment speech rights in that forum nor (2) the role of the police officer when such speech is complained about. Chief Bohlen stated in the letter: “The City of Faribault will continue to enforce the law and protect all citizen rights, as well as free speech.” In that statement, he indicates that he speaks for the City of Faribault. I want to make sure that is so because he also stated, “I am confident that our State Statute would comply with the Hierarchy of Law and win challenges.” That is the first time he mentioned “our state statute.” I do not know which statute he is talking about since the officers who approached the men cited a city statute. He then gave his legal opinion concerning the relationship between the law of free speech in America and the guidelines he follows concerning enforcement of certain state and local ordinances when such ordinances come into conflict with Constitutionally protected speech in the public forum. I take great issue with his legal position; I believe that he is totally off base.

I want to make sure that the Chief speaks for you all before proceeding. I would ask that you all review these matters. I need to know for sure that Chief Bohlen is, in fact, stating the official position of you all so that in the event future action is called for, our attorney will know who to include in any legal litigation.  Should an attorney be called in to take legal action on behalf of the street preachers, he will be informed of your actions and responses – common sense would dictate that no response on your part will indicate that your position and the city’s position is that you support Chief Bohlen’s position and actions and that he speaks for you. You speak for your city. Whatever position you take will also implicate the entire city.

To give you relevant facts, I have copied and pasted facts about the matter directly below. I have also posted the story on the page which is available by clicking following link (left click and scroll down to “June 21, 2013 Update” once you access the link):

https://opbcbibletrust.wordpress.com/sermons/street-preaching/december-25-2013-an-unfolding-street-preaching-battle-in-northfield-minnesota/

Notice that on the above entry and in the copied and pasted page below are links to 2 Youtube videos which you may view which record the whole encounter with the Faribault officials.

___________________________________________________________________________

I copied and pasted the page mentioned in the last paragraph here One can go to the link to see it. It is essentially the same now as then.:

___________________________________________________________________________

I am e-mailing this to: Chief of police: Chief Andy Bohlen <abohlen@ci.faribault.mn.us> City Attorney: Kurt Fischer <kurt@kurtfischerlaw.com> Mayor: John Jasinske <jjasinske@faribault.mn.us>

City Council members: David Albers (or Ablers – its 2 ways on website) David Albers <dalbers@ci.faribault.mn.us >; David Ablers <dablers@ci.faribault.mn.us>; Kay Duchene <kduchene@faribault.mn.us>; John Rowan <jrowan@ci.faribault.mn.us>; Steve Underdahl <sunderdahl@ci.faribault.mn.us >; Joan VanDyke <jvandyke@@ci.faribault.mn.us >; Kevin Voracek <kvoracek@ci.faribault.mn.us >:

I got the e-mail addresses of the mayor and council members off the city website. Council member Albers or Ablers his 2 spellings which differ – one in the spelling of his name and one in the e-mail listing. If the addresses and names are no longer the same, please let me know.

You may read the cases I cite for yourselves to verify that I am not trying to deceive you. If you would like to have a case or cases which is cited below e-mailed to you, let me know. I have most of the cases I quote from below available  in Word documents.

Letter To Chief Bohlen:

The letter was included in the e-mail. I am not reproducing it here since it is in EN 3 Above.

EN 6 My June 30, 2014 e-mail to the Faribault Mayor, Chief of Police, City Attorney, and City Council Members:

Dear Chief Bohlen, Honorable Mayor Jasinske, and Faribault City Council members:

The Supreme Court, on June 26, 2014, handed down another First Amendment speech case dealing with speech in the public forum. In a 9-0 decision, the Court struck down a Mass. law which violated long established principles regarding speech in the public forum. The case is linked to below (just click the name to go directly to it). I have included some quotes from the case. I also link to a Texas case which just came down in which police arrested a street preacher and the Texas Court ruled in his favor. Please take note of these cases.

MCCULLEN ET AL. v. COAKLEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MASSACHUSETTS, ET AL. struck down a state law creating 35 foot buffer zones around abortion clinics. Some excerpts from the case follow (be sure to read the entire case – click to the above link to go directly to the case):

Held: The Massachusetts Act violates the First Amendment. Pp. 8–30. (a) By its very terms, the Act restricts access to “public way[s]” and  “sidewalk[s],” places that have traditionally been open for speech activities and that the Court has accordingly labeled “traditional public fora,” Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U. S. 460, 469. The government’s ability to regulate speech in such locations is “very limited.” United States v. Grace, 461 U. S. 171, 177. “[E]ven in a public forum,” however, “the government may impose reasonable restrictions on the time, place, or manner of protected speech, provided the restrictions ‘are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, that they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and that they leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information,’ ” Ward, supra, at 791. Pp. 8–10….

(1) The buffer zones serve the Commonwealth’s legitimate interests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities. See Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western N. Y., 519 U. S. 357, 376. At the same time, however, they impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of communicating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature. Those forms of expression have historically been closely associated with the transmission of ideas. While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petitioners are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives. It is thus no answer to say that petitioners can still be seen and heard by women within the buffer zones. If all that the women can see and hear are vociferous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively stifled petitioners’ message. Pp. 19–23.

(2) The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests. Subsection (e) of the Act already prohibits deliberate obstruction of clinic entrances. Massachusetts could also enact legislation similar to the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, 18 U. S. C. §248(a)(1), which imposes criminal and civil sanctions for obstructing, intimidating, or interfering with persons obtaining or providing reproductive health services. Obstruction of clinic driveways can readily be addressed through existing local traffic ordinances. While the Commonwealth contends that individuals can inadvertently obstruct access to clinics simply by gathering in large numbers, that problem could be addressed through a law requiring crowds blocking a clinic entrance to disperse for a limited period when ordered to do so by the police. In any event, crowding appears to be a problem onlyat the Boston clinic, and even there, only on Saturday mornings.

It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas. Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir. With respect to other means of communication, an individual confronted with an uncomfortable message can always turn the page, change the channel, or leave the Web site. Not so on public streets and sidewalks. There, a listener often encounters speech he might otherwise tune out. In light of the First Amendment’s purpose “to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail,” FCC v. League of Women Voters of Cal., 468 U. S. 364, 377 (1984) (internal quotation marks omitted), this aspect of traditional public fora is a virtue, not a vice. In short, traditional public fora are areas that have historically been open to the public for speech activities. Thus, even though the Act says nothing about speech on its face, there is no doubt—and respondents do not dispute—that it restricts access to traditional public fora and is therefore subject to First Amendment scrutiny. See Brief for Respondents 26 (although “[b]y its terms, the Act regulates only conduct,” it “incidentally regulates the place and time of protected speech”).

In short, traditional public fora are areas that have historically been open to the public for speech activities. Thus, even though the Act says nothing about speech on its face, there is no doubt—and respondents do not dispute—that it restricts access to traditional public fora and is therefore subject to First Amendment scrutiny. See Brief for Respondents 26 (although “[b]y its terms, the Act regulates only conduct,” it “incidentally regulates the place and time of protected speech”). Consistent with the traditionally open character of public streets and sidewalks, we have held that the government’s ability to restrict speech in such locations is “very limited.” Grace, supra, at 177. In particular, the guiding First Amendment principle that the “government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content” applies with full force in a traditional public forum. Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U. S. 92, 95 (1972). As a general rule, in such a forum the government may not “selectively . . . shield the public from some kinds of speech on the ground that they are more offensive than others.” Erznoznik v. Jacksonville, 422 U. S. 205, 209 (1975).

Links to a couple of articles dealing with the McCullen v. Oakley

Supreme Court strikes down abortion clinic buffer zone, June 26, 2014, Richard Wolf, USA Today

Supreme Court, 9-0, nixes 35 foot ‘buffer zone’ at abortion clinic, June 26, 2014, Warren Richey, The Christian Science Monitor

Click the following to go to article from June 13, 2014: “VICTORY: Texas Court Affirms First Amendment Rights of Street Preachers Arrested for Engaging in Sidewalk Protest and Crossing a Police Line.” Click the following to go to the Texas Court of Appeals opinion: Faust v. Texas.

I know that you are all busy, but I would ask you to please let the men of OPBC know as soon as you can as to what your city policy is going to be regarding their First Amendment right to speak in the public forum.

Thank you for your courtesies in this matter and for your quick attention to the Constitutional issue.

Very Truly Yours, Jerald Finney

EN 7. Followup discussion of this article.

I received 2 Facebook e-mails on August 8, 2014:

(1) We are not to sue a “Brother”, I do not see anything in GOD’S WORD about suing the Government.
(2) Paul invoked his rights as a Roman citizen several times, including an appeal to Caesar.

My reply (as written with a couple of obvious typos) was:

Dear Brother _____________ and Brother _______________, Thank you both for not labeling me an heretic and cutting off fellowship because of the article. One brother, a longtime friend, did this. I let him know that I still love him and see no reason for breaking fellowship over this matter, to no avail. He has been the only negative response. Others agree with me. Still other, I am guessing, may not agree but have not seen it as an issue to get crossways and break fellowship over. Nor do I. Are we not to sharpen one another as we fight this spiritual warfare we are called to engage in? No one has shown me where I am wrongly interpreting the scriptures I gave in the article, many of the quoted word for word in endnote 1. Those scriptures lay out the principles upon which I rely for my position. Let me address Paul and what he did. Paul invoked his rights as a Roman citizen while he was under arrest, at times incarcerated during that arrest (sometimes, as I understand history, he was under house arrest – the point is, he was being detained.). In other words, Paul was charged with criminal activity. He was falsely accused of a crime for which the religious leaders sought death. He defended himself. I have done the same thing for others on many occasions. I have defended people falsely accused of crime and gone all the way to trial for some. A few of those I have defended at no charge and gone to trial for were falsely accused of criminal activity and arrested in violation of their Constitutional rights. There is nothing in Scripture which would be offended by such action. In fact, seeking justice in such a situation is the right thing to do. However, my article was not concerned with seeking justice in the criminal system. My article addressed seeking vengeance in the civil system. I pointed out that I could not argue against seeking justice and restitution in a suit against the government. The Bible speaks to the issue of restitution, and I believe allows for such in the law. It also speaks of justice and upholds justice. But the Bible is very clear that the believer is not to seek vengeance. Paul did not seek vengeance while incarcerated. Paul did not sue those who falsely accused him. Had he had the opportunity, I do not believe he would have violated principles he knew from the Old Testament and which God inspired him to write on in his epistles. I am convinced that he would never have sued for even restitution, much less for damages for pain and suffering and other exemplary damages, the purpose of which is to exact vengeance.I do not believe that he would have even sued for restitution, a stressful and time consuming process. I believe that he would have used the time and resources in carrying out the Great Commission, a thing which he did even while under arrest. A man who has a family to support in today’s world might find it necessary to seek restitution for lost wages and other costs of being falsely arrested. I would have no problem with that and might even help in the legal arena, if possible. I would certainly help that person find a lawyer in his locality to help if I were unable to do so because of distance and lack of monetary resources. That is my answer. Can either of you show me where I am wrong?

I sent a second reply: Dear Brother _____________, I did not address your concern in the last reply. When one sued government for vengeance, who pays for the judgment – one’s fellow man. Government gets its money from the citizens. The citizens are the ones who pay the vengeance damages.

The Legality of Door-to-Door Evangelism

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 10, 2011

Note.  The first article is an abbreviated version of the second longer, more complex, and more detailed article which follows it below. See EN1

The Legality of Door-to-Door Evangelism

Brother David Muralt was one of the most humble dedicated soul winners I have ever known.
Brother David Muralt was one of the most humble dedicated soul winners I have ever known.

Given all the God-given freedoms that the courts have taken from Americans, it is surprising that Americans still have the right to communicate freely in America.  The First Amendment protects American Christians as they communicate the Gospel door-to-door and through street preaching, carrying signs, and handing out tracts and other literature in the public forum. This article deals only with door-to-door evangelism.

God’s Word tells believers what He wants them to do.  If He tells them to do something, it is legal and issue becomes whether the government rules regarding that activity are legal.  “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  Door-to-door evangelism is legal.  The Bible says it is legal, and God told us to do it. See EN2. As a lawyer, the author addresses only the earthly consequences of door-to-door evangelism in the United States.

For the time being believers who go door-to-door spreading the Gospel can rest easy because Christians are still protected in this enterprise due to the efforts of Jehovah’s Witnesses (“JWs”), a cult.  Because of the JWs’ stand for door-to-door communication on behalf of their cult, Baptists, if they are not already doing so, can begin to go out and do what God has told them to do—the government cannot persecute them for doing so.  It may give one who does door-to-door evangelism a citation for allegedly violating a law prohibiting his efforts and take him to court (probably will not, especially if he calls a Christian attorney familiar with the issue should the government threaten him), but as it now stands, he will prevail should the government illegally  interfere with his activity.

May the author present to you a brief example of government infringement of this constitutionally protected activity  from his personal case file? The case was resolved by the author and never went to court. Near the end of the year 2000, a police officer of the city of West Lake Hills, Texas, a suburb of Austin, Texas, informed members of Capitol City Baptist Church that they could not continue their activity without a permit. The author was asked to handle the case. He called the Westlake Hills city administrator, researched the law (the city ordinance being relied on by the police officer and relevant Constitutional law), and drafted a letter to the city administrator. As a result, the city attorney agreed with this author and notified the police department that the activity was constitutionally protected. See the more lengthy article below for more information, including a copy of the letter sent to the Westlake Hills city administrator. Note. A copy of the letter which the author sent to the city administrator is included as EN22 of the longer version of this article below.

DSCN1574In 2002, the United States Supreme Court again dealt with the issue of door-to-door evangelism in Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York v. Village of StrattonStratton reaffirms the right of every citizen to engage in face-to-face conversation with his neighbors.  The Court reminded us that the American people do not require the government’s protection from speech, recognizing that the proper response to the unwelcome door-to-door canvasser is not government regulation but the homeowner’s absolute right to shut the door.  Government lacks the authority to stop Americans from talking to each other–even if they don’t want to.  Liberty ensures one’s right to speak to his neighbors even when his speech annoys them.

Although one can evangelize door-to-door in America without a permit and without being punished by the state, a homeowner can tell someone to leave his property and not come back.  If one does not leave after being told to leave or comes back after being told not to come back, he can be punished under the law of criminal trespass.  To go onto another’s property marked by a “no-trespassing” sign is also punishable under the criminal law.  Also, other criminal laws such as those regarding “disorderly conduct” still apply to one’s activities.

“For most of modern American history, we’ve worked very hard to legislate, regulate and agitate to get the true believers out of sight and out of mind. We’ve tried to license them out of existence, put them in jail, limit them to certain public places, forbid them from all public places.” EN3 . The secular law journal note from which the last statement was taken also states: “The strongest challenge to individual liberty in this nation may not be dramatic displays of force, similar to terrorism or totalitarianism, but instead, the intolerance of some Americans for day-to-day annoyances and unorthodox forms of self-expression. As the Stratton ordinance [the ordinance being challenged in the Stratton case] demonstrates, the character of this nation is defined not just in the legislative chamber and in the courtroom but also on the doorstep.” EN4.  Christians should be even more concerned than a secular writer about our ability to freely communicate without persecution.  What are Christians in this free society doing to define the nature of this nation on the doorsteps of our neighbors?  How do our efforts compare with those of the early Christians who suffered persecution and death for their obedience to God’s directions?

Thank God that, due to the efforts of the JWs, Christians can go to door-to-door and offer to communicate truth.

Endnotes

EN1 Many Christians have not taken the time to study as they should.  They have so often settled for simple answers without gaining an understanding of not only temporal facts, but also the reasoning and rationale needed to counter the complex arguments constantly being published by Satan and his followers.  It is one thing to sit in church and listen to sermons aimed at God’s people.  Sermons have a distinct purpose, and, to paraphrase Doctor J. Vernon McGee, “The cookies should be on the bottom shelf so the children can reach them.”  It is another thing to go into the world as a good soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ, fully armed for the particular battles the Lord calls us to engage in.

The Bible deals with both simple and complex issues.  If everything in God’s Word is simple, why is it that God saw the necessity of having pastors and other church members to “[s]tudy to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)” and to be diligent to grow in knowledge among other virtues (2 Peter 1:3-10)?  Why are so many so easily deceived about how to be saved?  Why do we have doctrines such as Calvinism with its variations?  Why are there so many different cults which claim to know the truth of the Bible?  Why are so many of us saved people unable to answer questions concerning many biblical principles and are therefore not only ineffective witnesses for the true Gospel, but also ignorant of biblical principles concerning witnessing, helping our neighbors, the biblical guidelines concerning the role of civil government, the role of the church, the role of the family, the role of the individual in relation to himself, the family, and the government, husband-wife and parent-child relationships, etc.?

The article above deals with door-to-door evangelism.  The shortened version basically says that the government cannot punish a person for engaging in that activity.  That version will not equip a believer to do anything other than assert that the law allows you to go door-to-door.  Reading the longer article below will help one to gain a deeper understanding of the issue; to counter verbal attacks while going door-to-door; to turn the attacks toward a discussion of the Gospel and the role of the Gospel in the development of this nation and the God-given freedoms we enjoy, including the freedom of speech which includes the freedom to evangelize door-to-door without persecution; and finally to go into a discussion of salvation.  The longer article not only gives a much more in-depth analysis of the issue, it also paves the way for an even further study.

EN2 To gain deeper understanding of biblical teachings concerning public ministry, one can consult the writings of men like Dr. Gerald Sutek—who has written several books on the subject, helped many churches and Christians to become involved in Street preaching, and practices what he preaches.

EN3 Laurence D. Cohen, Editorial, With God (and the Supreme Court) on Their Side, Hartford Courant, July 11, 2002, at A9 cited in Proselytizers, Pamphleteers, Pests, and Other First Amendment Champions: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton , 18 BYU J. Pub. L. 229, 233-234 (2003).

EN4 Id. at 234.

The Legality of Door-to-Door Evangelism (Full version) See EN1

SAM_0058God’s Word tells believers what God wants them to do.  If He tells believers to do it, it is legal.  If He tells believers to do something, the issue becomes whether the government rules regarding that activity are legal.  “We ought to obey God rather than men.” EN2. Door-to-door evangelism is legal.  The Bible tells us it is legal, and we are told to do it.  For the most part, I the author leaves an in-depth biblical explanation of what Scripture says regarding public ministry, including door-to-door evangelism, to men like Dr. Gerald Sutek EN3, and addresses earthly consequences of the activity in the United States.  Regardless of the latter, door-to-door evangelism is legal and God says do it.  Should someone wish to take such scriptures as, “Obey every ordinance of man,” out of context, or misinterpret scriptures such as “Blessed are the meek,” or use their own reasoning to the effect that Christians are not to offend any man, and use them as an excuses not to obey God, the author suggests that they examine their faith and understanding very carefully.

Christians who decide to obey God in the area of public ministry can rest easy because they are still protected in this enterprise due to the efforts of members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (“JWs”), a cult. EN4. Because of the JWs’, Baptists, if they are not already doing so, can begin to go out and do what God has told them to do and the government cannot persecute them for doing so.  It may cite a person for some alleged offense and take take to court (probably will not, especially if a Christian attorney familiar with the issue is consulted); but, as it now stands, a person who practices door-to-door evangelism will prevail should the government interfere with his activity.

May the author present to you a brief example of government infringement of this constitutionally protected activity from his personal case file? The case was successfully resolved by the author and never went to court. Near the end of the year 2000, a police officer of the city of West Lake Hills, Texas, a suburb of Austin, Texas, informed members of Capitol City Baptist Church that they could not continue their activity without a permit. The author was asked to handle the case. He called the Westlake Hills city administrator, researched the law (the city ordinance being relied on by the police officer and relevant Constitutional law), and drafted a letter to the city attorney. EN22 is a copy of the letter sent by the author sent to the city administrator. As a result, the city administrator agreed with this author and notified the police department that the activity was constitutionally protected.

In 2002, the United States Supreme Court again dealt with the issue of door-to-door evangelism in Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York v. Village of Stratton. EN5.  Stratton reaffirms the right of every citizen to engage in face-to-face conversation with his neighbors.  The Court reminds us that the American people do not require the government’s protection from speech, recognizing that the proper response to the unwelcome door-to-door canvasser is not government regulation but the homeowner’s absolute right to shut the door.  Government lacks the authority to stop us from talking to each other–even if we don’t want to.  Liberty ensures us the right to speak to our neighbors even when our speech annoys them.

Although one can evangelize door-to-door without a permit and without being punished by the state, a homeowner can tell anyone to leave his property and not come back. If one does not leave after being told to leave or comes back after being told not to come back, he can be punished under the law of criminal trespass.  To go onto another’s property marked by a “no-trespassing” sign is also punishable under the criminal law. Also, other criminal laws such as laws regarding “disorderly conduct” still apply to one’s activities.

SUMMARY OF STRATTON

The following is from 153 L.Ed. 205 and is a good summary of Stratton:

SYLLABUS: Respondent Village of Stratton (Village) promulgated an ordinance that, inter alia, prohibits ‘canvassers’ from ‘going in and upon’ private residential property to promote any ‘cause’ without first obtaining a permit from the mayor’s office by completing and signing a registration form. Petitioners, a society and a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses that publish and distribute religious materials, brought this action for injunctive relief, alleging that the ordinance violates their First Amendment rights to the free exercise of religion, free speech, and freedom of the press. The District Court upheld most provisions of the ordinance as valid, content-neutral regulations, although it did require the Village to accept narrowing constructions of several provisions. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Among its rulings, that court held that the ordinance was content neutral and of general applicability and therefore subject to intermediate scrutiny; rejected petitioners’ argument that the ordinance is overbroad because it impairs the right to distribute pamphlets anonymously that was recognized in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334, 131 L. Ed. 2d 426, 115 S. Ct. 1511; concluded that the Village’s interests in protecting its residents from fraud and undue annoyance and its desire to prevent criminals from posing as canvassers in order to defraud its residents were sufficient bases on which to justify the regulation; and distinguished this Court’s earlier cases protecting the Jehovah’s Witnesses ministry.

Held: The ordinance’s provisions making it a misdemeanor to engage in door-to-door advocacy without first registering with the mayor and receiving a permit violate the First Amendment as it applies to religious proselytizing, anonymous political speech, and the distribution of handbills.

a)     “For over 50 years, this Court has invalidated on First Amendment grounds restrictions on door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering by Jehovah’s Witnesses. See, e.g.,   Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 87 L. Ed. 1292, 63 S. Ct. 870, 891. Although those cases do not directly control the question at issue, they yield several themes that guide the Court. Among other things, those cases emphasize that the hand distribution of religious tracts is ages old and has the same claim as more orthodox practices to the guarantees of freedom of religion, speech, and press, e.g., id., at 109; discuss extensively the historical importance of door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering as vehicles for the dissemination of ideas, e.g., Schneider v. State (Town of Irvington), 308 U.S. 147, 164, 84 L. Ed. 155, 60 S. Ct. 146, but recognize the legitimate interests a town may have in some form of regulation, particularly when the solicitation of money is involved, e.g.,   Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 306, 84 L. Ed. 1213, 60 S. Ct. 900, or the prevention of burglary is a legitimate concern, Martin v. City of Struthers, 319 U.S. 141, 144, 87 L. Ed. 1313, 63 S. Ct. 862; make clear that there must be a balance between such interests and the effect of the regulations on First Amendment rights; e.g., ibid.; and demonstrate that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have not struggled for their rights alone, but for those many who are poorly financed and rely extensively upon this method of communication, see, e.g.,   id., at 144-146, including nonreligious groups and individuals, see, e.g.,   Thomas v. Collins, 323 U.S. 516, 539-540, 89 L. Ed. 430, 65 S. Ct. 315.

b)     “The Court need not resolve the parties’ dispute as to what standard of review to use here because the breadth of speech affected by the ordinance and the nature of the regulation make it clear that the Sixth Circuit erred in upholding it. There is no doubt that the interests the ordinance assertedly serves — the prevention of fraud and crime and the protection of residents’ privacy — are important and that the Village may seek to safeguard them through some form of regulation of solicitation activity. However, the amount of speech covered by the ordinance raises serious concerns. Had its provisions been construed to apply only to commercial activities and the solicitation of funds, arguably the ordinance would have been tailored to the Village’s interest in protecting its residents’ privacy and preventing fraud. Yet, the Village’s administration of its ordinance unquestionably demonstrates that it applies to a significant number of noncommercial “canvassers” promoting a wide variety of ‘causes.’ The pernicious effect of the permit requirement is illustrated by, e.g., the requirement that a canvasser be identified in a permit application filed in the mayor’s office and made available for public inspection, which necessarily results in a surrender of the anonymity this Court has protected. Also central to the Court’s conclusion that the ordinance does not pass First Amendment scrutiny is that it is not tailored to the Village’s stated interests. Even if the interest in preventing fraud could adequately support the ordinance insofar as it applies to commercial transactions and the solicitation of funds, that interest provides no support for its application to petitioners, to political campaigns, or to enlisting support for unpopular causes. The Village’s argument that the ordinance is nonetheless valid because it serves the two additional interests of protecting residents’ privacy and the prevention of crime is unpersuasive. As to the former, an unchallenged ordinance section authorizing residents to post ‘No Solicitation’ signs, coupled with their unquestioned right to refuse to engage in conversation with unwelcome visitors, provides ample protection for unwilling listeners. As to the latter, it seems unlikely that the lack of a permit would preclude criminals from knocking on doors and engaging in conversations not covered by the ordinance, and, in any event, there is no evidence in the record of a special crime problem related to door-to-door solicitation.

“240 F.3d 553, reversed and remanded.”

OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE CONTENT OF STRATTON

Some aspects of Stratton are of special interest to the Christian.  For example, a section of the ordinance that was not challenged provided that should a resident file a “No Solicitation Registration Form” with the mayor, and post a “No Solicitation” sign on his property, no uninvited canvassers could enter his property, unless they are specifically authorized to do so in the “No Solicitation Registration Form” itself. EN6.  Each of the forms in the record contained a list of 19 suggested exceptions. EN7.  Those listed on the form included “Jehovah’s Witnesses” “Little League,” “Police,” “Campaigners,” “Camp Fire Girls,” and “Political Candidates.” EN8.  Not included in the suggested exceptions were “Christians,” “Baptists,” “Fundamental Baptists,” nor members of any other “Christian” denomination.  Apparently, it never entered the minds of the authors of the bill that members of any of those groups would be going door-to-door to spread the Gospel. Or perhaps the lawmakers were Baptists who did not understand the biblical principles concerning soul liberty.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses “explained at trial that they did not apply for a permit because they derive their authority to preach from Scripture. ‘For us to seek a permit from a municipality to preach we feel would almost be an insult to God.’”EN9.  “Specifically”, they said, “from the Book of Matthew chapter 28, verses 19 and 20, which we take as our commission to preach. . . . So Jesus, by example, instituted a house-to-house search for people so as to preach the good news to them. And that’s the activity that Jehovah’s Witnesses engage in, even as Christ’s apostles did after his resurrection to heaven.” EN10.

The Court commented on prior law dealing with religiously motivated action:

  • “The only decisions in which we have held that the First Amendment bars application of a neutral, generally applicable law to religiously motivated action have involved not the Free Exercise Clause alone, but the Free Exercise Clause in conjunction with other constitutional protections, such as freedom of speech and of the press, see Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. at 304-307 (invalidating a licensing system for religious and charitable solicitations under which the administrator had discretion to deny a license to any cause he deemed nonreligious); Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 87 L. Ed. 1292, 63 S. Ct. 870 (1943) (invalidating a flat tax on solicitation as applied to the dissemination of religious ideas); Follett v. McCormick, 321 U.S. 573, 88 L. Ed. 938, 64 S. Ct. 717 (1944) (same), or the right of parents, acknowledged in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 69 L. Ed. 1070, 45 S. Ct. 571 (1925), to direct the education of their children, see Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 32 L. Ed. 2d 15, 92 S. Ct. 1526 (1972) (invalidating compulsory school-attendance laws as applied to Amish parents who refused on religious grounds to send their children to school).” Smith, 494 U.S. at 881 (footnote omitted by Court).” EN11.
  • “For over 50 years, the Court has invalidated restrictions on door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering. (footnote with citations omitted by me). It is more than historical accident that most of these cases involved First Amendment challenges brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses, because door-to-door canvassing is mandated by their religion. As we noted in Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105, 108, 87 L. Ed. 1292, 63 S. Ct. 870 (1943), the Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘claim to follow the example of Paul, teaching ‘publicly, and from house to house.’ Acts 20:20. They take literally the mandate of the Scriptures, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ Mark 16:15. In doing so they believe that they are obeying a commandment of God.’ Moreover, because they lack significant financial resources, the ability of the Witnesses to proselytize is seriously diminished by regulations that burden their efforts to canvass door-to-door.” EN12.
  • “From [our past cases involving Jehovah‘s Witnesses], several themes emerge that guide our consideration of the ordinance at issue here.
  • ‘First, the cases emphasize the value of the speech involved.  For example, in Murdock v. Pennsylvania, the Court noted that ‘hand distribution of religious tracts is an age-old form of missionary evangelism — as old as the history of printing presses. It has been a potent force in various religious movements down through the years . . . . This form of religious activity occupies the same high estate under the First Amendment as do worship in the churches and preaching from the pulpits. It has the same claim to protection as the more orthodox and conventional exercises of religion.  It also has the same claim as the others to the guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.’ 319 U.S. at 109.
  • ‘In addition, the cases discuss extensively the historical importance of door-to-door canvassing and pamphleteering as vehicles for the dissemination of ideas. In Schneider v. State (Town of Irvington), 308 U.S. 147, 84 L. Ed. 155, 60 S. Ct. 146 (1939), the petitioner was a Jehovah’s Witness who had been convicted of canvassing without a permit based on evidence that she had gone from house to house offering to leave books or booklets. Writing for the Court, Justice Roberts stated that ‘pamphlets have proved most effective instruments in the dissemination of opinion. And perhaps the most effective way of bringing them to the notice of individuals is their distribution at the homes of the people. On this method of communication the ordinance imposes censorship, abuse of which engendered the struggle in England which eventuated in the establishment of the doctrine of the freedom of the press embodied in our Constitution. To require a censorship through license which makes impossible the free and unhampered distribution of pamphlets strikes at the very heart of the constitutional guarantees.’” Id., at 164 (emphasis added). EN13.
  • ‘Finally, the cases demonstrate that efforts of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to resist speech regulation have not been a struggle for their rights alone. In Martin, after cataloging the many groups that rely extensively upon this method of communication, the Court summarized that ‘door-to-door distribution of circulars is essential to the poorly financed causes of little people.’ 319 U.S. at 144-146.’” EN14.
  • “If the exercise of the rights of free speech and free assembly cannot be made a crime, we do not think this can be accomplished by the device of requiring previous registration as a condition for exercising them and making such a condition the foundation for restraining in advance their exercise and for imposing a penalty for violating such a restraining order. So long as no more is involved than exercise of the rights of free speech and free assembly, it is immune to such a restriction. If one who solicits support for the cause of labor may be required to register as a condition to the exercise of his right to make a public speech, so may he who seeks to rally support for any social, business, religious or political cause. We think a requirement that one must register before he undertakes to make a public speech to enlist support for a lawful movement is quite incompatible with the requirements of the First Amendment. (citations omitted).” EN15.
  • “The mere fact that the ordinance covers so much speech raises constitutional concerns. It is offensive — not only to the values protected by the First Amendment, but to the very notion of a free society — that in the context of everyday public discourse a citizen must first inform the government of her desire to speak to her neighbors and then obtain a permit to do so. Even if the issuance of permits by the mayor’s office is a ministerial task that is performed promptly and at no cost to the applicant, a law requiring a permit to engage in such speech constitutes a dramatic departure from our national heritage and constitutional tradition. Three obvious examples illustrate the pernicious effect of such a permit requirement.” EN16.
  • “First, as our cases involving distribution of unsigned handbills demonstrate, there are a significant number of persons who support causes anonymously.  “The decision to favor anonymity may be motivated by fear of economic or official retaliation, by concern about social ostracism, or merely by a desire to preserve as much of one’s privacy as possible.” McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. at 341-342. The requirement that a canvasser must be identified in a permit application filed in the mayor’s office and available for public inspection necessarily results in a surrender of that anonymity.” EN17.
  • “Second, requiring a permit as a prior condition on the exercise of the right to speak imposes an objective burden on some speech of citizens holding religious or patriotic views. As our World War II-era cases dramatically demonstrate, there are a significant number of persons whose religious scruples will prevent them from applying for such a license. There are no doubt other patriotic citizens, who have such firm convictions about their constitutional right to engage in uninhibited debate in the context of door-to-door advocacy, that they would prefer silence to speech licensed by a petty official.” EN18.
  • “Third, there is a significant amount of spontaneous speech that is effectively banned by the ordinance. A person who made a decision on a holiday or a weekend to take an active part in a political campaign could not begin to pass out handbills until after he or she obtained the required permit. Even a spontaneous decision to go across the street and urge a neighbor to vote against the mayor could not lawfully be implemented without first obtaining the mayor’s permission.  In this respect, the regulation is analogous to the circulation licensing tax the Court invalidated in Grosjean v. American Press Co., 297 U.S. 233, 80 L. Ed. 660, 56 S. Ct. 444 (1936). In Grosjean, while discussing the history of the Free Press Clause of the First Amendment, the Court stated that “‘the evils to be prevented were not the censorship of the press merely, but any action of the government by means of which it might prevent such free and general discussion of public matters as seems absolutely essential to prepare the people for an intelligent exercise of their rights as citizens.’ (citations omitted by me).” EN19.

CONCLUSION

It is surprising that Americans still have the right to communicate freely.  The government still cannot punish us for communicating the Gospel door-to-door. “For most of modern American history, we’ve worked very hard to legislate, regulate and agitate to get the true believers out of sight and out of mind. We’ve tried to license them out of existence, put them in jail, limit them to certain public places, forbid them from all public places.” EN20.

A secular law journal note states: “The strongest challenge to individual liberty in this nation may not be dramatic displays of force, similar to terrorism or totalitarianism, but instead, the intolerance of some Americans for day-to-day annoyances and unorthodox forms of self-expression. As the Stratton ordinance demonstrates, the character of this nation is defined not just in the legislative chamber and in the courtroom but also on the doorstep.” EN21.  Christians should be even more concerned than a secular writer about their ability to freely communicate without persecution.  What are Christians in this free society doing to define the nature of this nation on the doorsteps of their neighbors?  How do their efforts compare with those of the early Christians who suffered persecution and death for their obedience to God’s directions?

Thank God that, due to the efforts of the JWs, Christians can go to all doors, including those of JWs, and offer them the whole truth.

Endnotes

EN1 The reader can get the point in the first three paragraphs.  Those who want to delve deeper into the subject may read further into the paper and go to other sources such as cases and law review articles.  I have not eliminated legal citations or legalese in parts of the paper–e.g., in the summary from Lawyer’s Edition.  This allows the more serious student to examine the issues to whatever depth he desires.

EN2 Acts 5:29, KJV.  I am not unaware that one can find a verse of scripture taken by itself to support about anything.  However, this scripture, when taken in context of the entire book of Acts and the entire Bible, definitely supports the principle that God lays out the guidelines for the Christian walk.  When God tells Christians to do something, then it is legal for them to do it.  For example, notice the verses preceding and following Acts 5:29.  The disciples were commanded not to teach in the name of Jesus.  Their response was “We ought to obey God rather than men” and immediately did what they had just been told by man not to do–that is, they immediately preached Jesus [and the Gospel, by implication] to those who had just told them not to do so.  “When [the officials] heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.” Acts 5:33.  It is interesting to note that the people to whom they spoke were offended, yet they spoke the truth nonetheless.  Another example of the fact that the Word of God is up to date: in these verses we see, if we have obeyed God and presented the Gospel to others outside the settings of our church buildings, that the attitudes and actions of the religious crowd in response to the preaching of the Gospel has not changed.   Of note also is the fact that the apostles were commanded not to teach in the name of Jesus.  Today churches line up at the door of the government to get incorporations and 501(c)(3) tax exemptions so that they can preach in the name of the government, to be told what they can and cannot preach by the government.  If the government allows a church to preach in the name of Jesus, the issue is still “by whose authority do you do this?”  Of course, it is by the authority of the state and not by the authority of Jesus.

EN3 Dr. Gerald Sutek is a great man of God who has been a leader in “public ministry” for many years.  He has preached and evangelized on the street and in pulpits all over the world and has published several biblically based books on the subject of “public ministry.”

EN4 I speak satirically at times.  To paraphrase Hank Hanagraph, “It’s too bad Christians won’t do for the truth what the cults do for a lie.”  Of course, cults sometimes are correct about some principles while wrong about others.

EN5 536 U.S. 150 (2002).

EN6 Stratton at 156.

EN7 Id. at 157.

EN8 Id.

EN9 Id. at 157-158.

EN10 Id. at 158 fn 7.

EN11 Id. at 159 fn 8.

EN12 Id. at 160-161.

EN13 Id. at 161-162.

EN14 Id. at 163.

EN15 Id. at 164.

EN16 Id. at 165-166.

EN 17 Id. at 166.

EN18 Id. at 167.

EN19 Id. at 167-168.

EN20 Laurence D. Cohen, Editorial, With God (and the Supreme Court) on Their Side, Hartford Courant, July 11, 2002, at A9 cited in Proselytizers, Pamphleteers, Pests, and Other First Amendment Champions: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton , 18 BYU J. Pub. L. 229, 233-234 (2003).

EN21 Id. at 234.

EN22 Letter sent to the Westlake Hills city attorney:

Jerald c. Finney
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 1346
Austin, Texas 78767
Phone: (512)385-0761
Fax: (512)385-0761

[Name of Westlake Hills City Administrator]
City Administrator
911 Westlake Drive
Westlake Hills, Texas 78746

RE:  Door to door communication of the Gospel..

Dear Mr. []:

            I am writing this letter pursuant to our telephone conversation on November 22, 2000. I apologize for not getting back with you sooner, but I needed to copy and study your City Ordinance concerning the licensing of solicitation, and the applicable caselaw.

            As you know, some people from Capitol City Baptist Church were going door to door communicating the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to residents of Westlake Hills. They were informed by a West Lake Hills police officer that they could not continue without a permit. Of course, the police officer was just doing his job as he understood the law.

            I was contacted by one of the men from that church concerning the legality of their activity. They are waiting for a resolution between the City of Westlake Hills and me, their attorney, before resuming their door to door communications.

            After reading your statute, I find no division of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Westlake Hills, Texas that requires people involved in door to door communication of the Gospel to ask the City of Westlake Hills for a permit. Section 58-32 states:

“The regulations contained in this division shall apply to all solicitors, peddlers, and other persons conducting solicitations and whose activities are governed under division 2, 3, 4, or 5 of this article.”

            Division 2 requires a permit for “Commercial Solicitations by Peddlers and Itinerant Merchants.” Division 3 requires a permit for doing “Charitable Solicitations.” Division 4 requires a permit for “Political Advocacy Solicitations.” Division 5 requires a permit for “Mobile Food Peddlers.” None of these divisions govern communication of the Gospel. It might seem that the people involved are soliciting for charity, but that is not the case. They request nothing from any resident of the City of Westlake Hills. They knock on a door, politely explain their purpose, perhaps offer a Gospel tract and engage in verbal communication concerning the Gospel if the inmate of the house is receptive. If not, they go to the next door. They are not abusive or discourteous. They honor the desires of the inmates to whom they come in contact. They never ask for money or anything else. They merely make known, to those who wish to communicate, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            As you know, there are many criminal laws on the books that protect people from intrusion onto their property—for example, criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, obstructing a passageway or highway and many others. If a resident tells someone to leave their property and that person refuses, the person can be cited for criminal trespass, not a minor offense.

            Allowing freedom of speech and religion produces positive consequences for a governmental entity. The courts have acknowledged this by recognizing the importance of freedom of speech and religion. The United States Supreme Court has dealt with the issue of door to door communication by religious people in numerous cases. In the following cases, legislation regulating canvassing and soliciting, as applied to the noncommercial activities by members of the Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was held to violate the First Amendment guaranties of free speech and press, and freedom of religion.

  1. Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147, 146 S. Ct. 146, 84 L. Ed. 155 (1939).
  2. Caldwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 60 S. Ct. 900, 84 L. Ed. 1213 (1940).
  3. Largent v. Texas, 318 U.S. 418, 63 S. Ct. 667, 87 L. Ed. 873 (1943).
  4. Martin v. Struthers, 319 U.S. 141, 63 S. Ct. 862, 87 L. Ed. 1313 (1943).

As I recall, those cases are fairly succinct and answer many questions one may have concerning this issue. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the freedom of religion and freedom of communication are pillars of our nation. Noncommercial speech, especially religious speech, is given more protection than other types of speech.

            Our early leaders recognized the importance of religion to a nation. George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” In his Farewell Speech on September 19, 1776, he said:

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports….  In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens.”

            The law of our land still protects the freedom of those who, for nothing in return, give of their time and labor to communicate the Gospel in a peaceful manner. To hinder those involved in such activity is prohibited by the Constitution of the United States.

            My clients wish to resolve this issue as expeditiously as possible. I will contact you in a day or two to see if you agree with their position. If you do, I would appreciate your notifying the West Lake Hills Police Department that their activities are not governed by the Solicitation Ordinance of the City of West Lake Hills.

            The people involved are peaceful law abiding citizens and are willing to cooperate in any reasonable manner to address any concerns you may have. They have a high regard for the police department and for government officials and appreciate the job they do. They would be glad to give you their identities and any other information you desire. However, they cannot, according to their beliefs, ask for a permit, nor is a permit required under your present statute as I understand it.

            Please do not hesitate to contact me for any reason.

Very truly yours,

Jerald C. Finney

jcf