Hemet California Pastor, Mark Mackey of Calvary Chapel was arrested Feb.2, 2012 for reading Romans 1 outside the DMV office. Pastor Mackey was first asked to leave by a security officer shortly after he began reading the bible passage to those standing in line waiting for the office to open.
A short time later, a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer arrives to arrest Pastor Mackey. When questioned why he is being arrested the officer states that he [Mackey] was asked to leave and didn’t. The officer later states it was because the minister was preaching to a captive audience.
The officer then turns his attention to the two individuals accompanying pastor Mackey. They are asked to leave and are never given an answer to their question of what law they are breaking if they continue to “preach” at the DMV.
The First Amendment Rights Allegedly Violated
The biggest issue here is the First Amendment right granted by the U.S. Constitution to Free Speech. There is an ongoing debate over whether this incident is a violation of that right. The main problem arises from the fact the listeners allegedly had no ability to leave the area. This would in fact make them a captive audience.
Troubling Facts of The Situation
There are a few points that concern me about this situation.
- The officer does not seem willing or able to give an answer to what statute they are breaking
- There is question about the fact the pastor or church may have been informed before they would need a permit to preach.
Should We Always Enforce Our Rights?
If you believe the pastor did have a constitutional right to preach, do you believe it was wise? I am not convinced this matter was the best way to share the gospel.
This is not the same as a park or courthouse. In those situations, the people could leave if they wanted to. Here, the listeners were forced to stay in a way of speaking by the necessity to perform their business with the DMV.
Finally, if indeed he was informed previously of the need for a permit, why not fight that stipulation and respect the government while waiting?
What do you think?
Wise choice of venue?
Were his rights violated?
Should he have left when asked by security?
Were they antagonistic?
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