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April 2013            DAYTONA BEACH, FL    Preacher arrested for “battery” when hand-held megaphone makes accidental contact with aggressive heckler

While preaching on public property outside a bar in Daytona Beach, a preacher was surrounded by the bar’s “bouncers” and other hecklers.  The “bouncers” held “tactical flashlights” (extremely bright lights with strobes) inches from the preacher’s eyes.  Although blinded by the bright lights, the preacher continued to preach.  Eventually the preacher’s hand-held megaphone made inadvertent contact with one of the “bouncers,” and the preacher was arrested for “battery.”  We are representing the preacher in criminal court.

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March 2013              GAINESVILLE, GA.   Preacher ordered not to preach on public sidewalk without permit

We are investigating a series of incidents in Gainesville, Georgia where a preacher was told by city police that he could not preach without a permit, and that he could not display his banner supported by a plastic pole.  In addition to advising our brother how to handle any further confrontations, we are reaching out to city officials to try to ensure that further attempts at constitutionally protected evangelism will not be hindered.

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Nov. 2013 to Feb. 2014     DELAND, FL     Battle over public preaching

For the past several months downtown evangelists from The BIBLE Baptist Church have faced mounting opposition both on the street and at City Commission meetings.  One local businessman who is opposed to the preaching printed some flyers criticizing the preachers, and hired some young people to distribute them and hold signs with opposing messages during the weekly evangelism outreach.  Other groups saw the increased activity

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downtown on Friday afternoons, and they joined the forum with many signs, most mocking the preachers and the Gospel, some promoting or opposing various causes.  The immediate result was that much more interest was stirred among the church, and the number of street evangelists swelled about seven-fold.  When the opposition forces found that their efforts would not make the Christians quit, they began to lobby the City Commission to enact legislation to restrict or prohibit the evangelistic activities in that location.  With exaggerated and fabricated reports of street preachers being aggressive, threatening, disorderly and dangerous, they presented the issue as a public safety hazard and a nuisance which interfered with local commerce and threatened to shut down the town’s businesses.  Although for four months dozens of people opposed to the preaching brought cameras to the weekly evangelism events, no one was able to produce any video evidence to support their accusations.  Police investigated and reported no problems with excessive noise, impeding sidewalks, or dangerous or threatening activity of any kind.

Gospel Advocates was involved throughout the process, providing advice to the church group, contacting city officials and business leaders, and attempting to reason with members of the opposition.  We participated in two City Commission meetings where these issues were discussed.  Over 170 supporters of Free Speech attended the last Commission meeting.  The end result was that the Commission decided to take no action to attempt to place any further restrictions upon free speech activities in downtown DeLand.

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Nov. 16, 2013   ALBANY, KY   Public Evangelism SeminarStreet Ministry

We had a great meeting at Albany Independent Baptist Church in Albany, Kentucky on Saturday, November 16, 2013 presenting a Public Evangelism seminar.  The program covered the Biblical  foundation for public ministry; spiritual and legal issues; practical do’s and don’t's; and an opportunity for questions & answers.  After the program we conducted a street meeting at a busy intersection nearby.  The display of scripture signs and gospel preaching was very well received by the community.  Pastor Melvin Daniel is having some new signs made and is planning to organize further street meetings on a regular basis.

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Aug. 20, 2013   RADIO APPEARANCE

August 20, 2013 Program

August 20, 2013 Program

Brother Jake was invited to call in to the Alaska Talks Liberty radio program to take part in a discussion about public evangelism, police encounters, and freedom of speech under the First Amendment.  The program aired on Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Several street preachers participated in the panel discussion, and the gospel of Jesus Christ was clearly presented several times.  You can listen to or download a recording of the program at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/alaskatalksliberty/2013/08/20/the-police-state-the-first-amendment-free-speech  (The program’s theme song repeats for about 11 1/2 minutes before the talk show begins.)

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July 2013     DAYTONA BEACH, FL       NASCAR Preaching Interrupted

Christian evangelists who were preaching and handing out gospel tracts before a NASCAR race in Daytona Beach in a pedestrian overpass walkway were interrupted by track security and told to leave the property.  The Christian witnesses explained that they believed they were on public property and had a right to remain there.  Police were called, and the racetrack security officer claimed that the pedestrian overpass was owned by the racetrack.  The responding Police Officer believed that it was private property, and enforced the (purported) property owner’s right to exclude unwanted visitors.  We contacted both the racetrack corporate office and the City Attorney, and it was determined that the pedestrian overpass bridge is owned by the City of Daytona Beach, and that the landings which were on the racetrack property are dedicated to the public.  Upon our request for written confirmation from the City, the Police Legal Advisor issued a memorandum to all Daytona Beach Police Officers confirming that the distribution of religious literature on the pedestrian bridge and landings is allowed to the same extent as on a public sidewalk.  The memorandum was also provided to the racetrack corporation’s Director of Security.  The group of evangelists will be prepared with a copy of the memorandum for all future races at this location.

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June 2013    FOLEY, AL   Update

Since our last contact, the folks at Foley, Alabama have continued to faithfully participate in their public ministry.  Occasionally the police will ride by but there have been no new confrontations or threats of any kind.  Praise God for our liberty!

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May 2013     FERNANDINA BEACH, FL     Free Speech booklet settles conflicts

Brother Charlie Mack keeps a copy of our booklet, Public Evangelism Under The First Amendment, with him when he evangelizes in Fernandina Beach every week.  Charlie uses a sign and gospel tracts while he witnesses to people at the local flea market and during street festivals.  At the recent Shrimp Festival he was confronted by the organizers and was told that he “can not do that here.”  Charlie used our booklet to show them that he does have the legal right to be there with his signs and tracts, and he was allowed to continue with no further interference.  Charlie reports that the booklet was effective in dealing with local police when he first began his public ministry, and he enjoys great liberty in serving the Lord in his community.

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February 2013     FOLEY, AL     Street Ministers Threatened By Police

For several years a local church has conducted evangelistic street meetings at the main intersection of Foley, Alabama.  Recently they were told by police that they could not assemble on the corner without a permit, or they would be cited and prosecuted under a city ordinance which requires a permit for any “parade, procession or public demonstration.”  We have contacted the city officials and are seeking a determination that the ordinance does not apply to the informal group of Christians who are displaying signs, handing out tracts, and preaching on the sidewalk.  (If the ordinance is deemed to apply to this activity, there are several provisions of the ordinance which may be challenged on First Amendment grounds.)

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November 2012     DELAND, FL  Another Complaint Dismissed, Policy Amended

A complaint for a noise ordinance violation by a street preacher was scheduled for a court arraignment on November 7, 2011.  This was another complaint by the same merchant who opposed the public preaching last August.  After discussions with the City Attorney prior to court, the charge was formally dismissed by the City of DeLand.  The City Attorney agreed to a change of policy so that there would no longer automatically be complaint reports generated every time a call is made complaining about the preaching.

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August 31, 2012    DELAND, FL                          Complaint Dismissed

On August 31, 2012 a formal “Announcement Of No Information” was issued by the DeLand City Attorney, declaring the City’s intent that no formal charge would be filed and there would be no prosecution against a local street preacher who was accused by a local merchant of violating the City’s noise ordinance.  There have been additional noise complaints made by the same merchant, but no action has been taken by the City Attorney on those complaints.  Preaching in downtown DeLand on Friday afternoons has been done consistently since 1987.  The complaining merchant has been in business at that location for less than one year.  The merchant had stated that he objects to preaching in front of his store, which he believes is harming his business, and that “it was never about the noise.”

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August 2012     SALISBURY, NC                  Police Prohibit Sign on Sidewalk

A sidewalk evangelist held a sign depicting Jesus on the cross with a quote from John 1:29 on a public sidewalk in Salisbury, NC.  A police officer promptly ordered the evangelist to remove the sign, upon threat of arrest, claiming that a local ordinance prohibits hand-held signs on the public sidewalks.  The location was directly in front of a Chick-Fil-A restaurant, and the restaurant manager allowed the evangelist to display the sign from the restaurant property.  We contacted the city attorney, who said that the officer made a mistake and they will institute new training on this issue with the police.  There are still some issues to be worked out regarding the application of an ordinance requiring a permit for protests when two or more people hold signs on public property.

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July 2012    VIRGINIA BEACH, VA           Street Preachers’ Meeting

Brother Jake was invited to teach on First Amendment issues at the convention

Witnessing on the boardwalk

of the Southeast Open Air Preacher’s Association in Virginia Beach.  We covered constitutional issues and spiritual considerations at the meeting on July 2, 2012.  We distributed our teaching materials and Brother Jake responded to numerous questions about our liberty to evangelize in public places. In the evening we went to the boardwalk area of Virginia Beach, where we were able to preach, hand out tracts, and have some good conversations with people about the truth of the Bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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June 30, 2012          MINT HILL, NC          Public Evangelism seminar

We had a great time of fellowship as we presented a Public Ministry seminar at Faith Baptist Church in Mint Hill, N.C. on Saturday, June 30, 2012.  The program covered the Biblical basis for public evangelism, as well as legal and constitutional issues, and practical advice including preparation and precautions, and tips for dealing with opposition.  Faith Baptist Church is already very active in public ministry, and we joined them for part of their weekly sidewalk evangelism.  Their members and visitors from other churches had many good questions about handling situations they have experienced in their public ministries.  We enjoyed a sweet time of fellowship with these brothers and sisters throughout our visit.

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JUNE 2012          NEW PUBLIC EVANGELISM BOOKLETS AVAILABLE

Our Second Edition of PUBLIC EVANGELISM UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT is published.  With updated                                                         caselaw and new sections on “Fighting Words,”  Noise Ordinances, and more, we hope this will be a very valuable resource for all who are inclined to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in public ministry.  As always, these booklets are available without charge.  If you choose to donate to this work, a receipt will be provided for your tax-deductible donation.

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June 6, 2012     DELAND, FL          Update: Police Chief & City Attorney

We met with the DeLand City Attorney and the Chief of Police to discuss the situation in downtown DeLand.  They assured us that they understand and support our First Amendment right to assemble on the public sidewalk and convey our message.  They said that they have always found us to be approachable whenever an issue has come up about our ministry.  They told us that if there are further violations of the local noise ordinance by the store owner, they will pursue prosecution against him upon proper complaint.  With the loud music eliminated, we will not need megaphones and agreed not to use them.  (In 27 years of preaching in this venue, we have never used amplification until June 1st.)  The gospel continues to be heard in this community.

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June 1, 2012     DELAND, FL          Merchant harasses preachers, police intervene

Christians have been publicly proclaiming the gospel on the corner of New York Avenue

Downtown DeLand June 1, 2012

and Woodland Blvd. in DeLand , Florida on Friday afternoons since 1985.  On May 25th and June 1st the owner of a new music store put giant speakers in his doorway and blasted loud music to disrupt the street meeting.  On June 1st two preachers began to use megaphones to try to be heard, and the police were promptly called.  At first the police asked the preachers to stop using amplification, but did not address the music which was much louder, because they had received complaints about the megaphone but not the music.  We explained that if amplified music is allowed, amplified preaching must also be allowed.  When the music was turned down, we stopped using megaphones.  Police were called a second time after the merchant broadcast a loud high-pitched anti-crowd noise and more loud music.  Eventually police persuaded the merchant to turn down his noise, and an officer was posted at the scene until we finished preaching.  Praise the LORD!

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May 2012       GROTON, N.Y.           Local evangelism

A brother in Groton has been displaying his large scripture sign from the trunk of his car in various locations around the city, including by the local high school.  Preaching, tract distribution, and one-on-one conversations are included.  We have been providing some advice.  So far there have been no conflicts with local authorities.

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May 2012     SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J.           Evangelism planning

A group of Christian witnesses are planning public evangelism outreach at the popular boardwalk in Seaside Heights following the upcoming local high school graduation.  We are providing advice and guidance as plans are made for public preaching, display of gospel signs, and  tract distribution.

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April 2012     DUNN, N.C.          Police stop amplified preaching

A preacher was told by a local police officer that he must not preach at a busy intersection using a megaphone.  Review of the city’s noise ordinance and permitting procedures reveal that the city’s policies violate the First Amendment.  We are contacting local officials to advise them of the constitutional concerns, and we expect to receive assurance that the preaching will be allowed to continue without interference.

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November 2011    DAHLONEGA, GA

A group of evangelists were ordered by police to disperse when a large crowd which had gathered in opposition to the preachers became hostile.  Police claimed that the preachers were “inciting” a breach of the peace and that their large sign violated the local sign ordinance.  We have contacted the city attorney, and are providing analysis and advice to the Christian group.

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October 2, 2011    PORT ORANGE, FL      Public Ministry Workshop

We conducted a free seminar on Public Evangelism at Bible Baptist Church in Port Orange, Florida.  Biblical and legal issues were covered, with emphasis on practical application and an opportunity for questions and answers.  Following the instruction session we had an evangelistic street meeting at U.S. 1 & Dunlawton Avenue.  About 20 people participated in public preaching and display of scripture signs.

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September 2011     BUFFALO, NY                 Police say preacher is “too loud”

A local street preacher has been told that his preaching is too loud and is disturbing the peace.  We are reviewing the situation and providing analysis and advice.

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September 2011    PORT ORANGE, FL      Liberty prevails for parade evangelism

After our further discussions with the City Attorney of Port Orange, the City has decided that it does not need a new ordinance regarding distribution of literature.  Instead, the City has amended its parade policy to specifically allow distribution of literature at its annual Christmas Parade, both by parade participants and by members of the public.

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August 2011    NEW LONDON, CT       Police prohibit sidewalk evangelism

New London Police have ordered Christian evangelists to stop witnessing on the public sidewalk outside the Amtrack station.  A group from a local church has been holding scripture signs and distributing gospel tracts on the sidewalk outside the Amtrack train station and in a public park across the street.  Police have informed the group that this is “private property” and that they must leave the sidewalk by the train station if they want to display their signs and distribute their literature.  This police order prevents the group from interacting with the substantial number of pedestrians who use that sidewalk, many of whom are approaching or leaving the nearby ferry.  We will be advising the Christian group and contacting the local authorities on their behalf.

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May 2011     LEDYARD, CT        Free Public Ministry Workshop

INVITATION

We conducted a free PUBLIC MINISTRY/FIRST AMENDMENT workshop on Saturday,May 21, 2011 at VICTORY BIBLE BAPTIST CHURCH in Ledyard, CT.  The morning session included instruction and Q&A regarding the Biblical foundation for evangelism, the constitutional right of free speech, and several legal and practical considerations.  In the afternoon we took a group of over 30 people to New London for public evangelism.  Bibles and gospel tracts were distributed; scripture signs were displayed; and the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached in the public square.

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March 2011    DELAND, FL                Free Speech charge dismissed

A Bible student was charged with violating DeLand’s noise ordinance for preaching on a public sidewalk near two downtown bars which had their loud music blaring.  The preacher was cited for being too loud (based on a citizen’s complaint), but the bars were not.  The DeLand ordinance prohibits “loud, disturbing and unnecessary noises.”  We filed a Motion to Dismiss the charge because we believe the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague, subjective and overbroad due to the lack of sufficient objective criteria for enforcement.  The City Prosecutor dismissed the charge.

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February 2011     CHARITABLE STATUS APPROVED

Gospel Advocates, Inc. has received formal approval as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  All donations to this ministry are tax-deductible.

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December 2010     PORT ORANGE, FL      Rights violated at Christmas Parade

A church group was ordered by the Port Orange Police to stop distributing gospel literature along the parade route of the city’s Christmas Parade.  We have contacted the City Attorney to make the city aware of the constitutional violation and to seek assurances that this will not happen again.  The city is drafting a formal policy for distribution of literature at its parades, and they have agreed to allow us to review and comment upon any draft proposal of the new policy before it is considered by the City Commission.

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October 2010      ORLANDO, FL                   Evangelism at Gay Pride event

Christian evangelists participated in public ministry at the annual Gay Pride event at Orlando, Florida on October 10, 2010 without any hindrance from the promoters or the police this year.  At last year’s event, Orlando Police would not allow the public ministers into the public park where the event was being held.  The Christian witnesses were not even allowed on the sidewalk surrounding the park, but were ordered to remain across the street from the event.  In the months that followed we had extensive communications with the Assistant City Attorney who serves as the Orlando Police legal advisor, providing caselaw and legal memoranda in support of the public evangelists’ First Amendment rights.  The result was that the City Attorney’s office informed both the Police Department and the event promoters that the Christian witnesses have a right to be on the park property and on the sidewalk while they preach, display signs and distribute gospel tracts.

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September 2010      BUFFALO, NY   Police persuaded by our Free Speech Booklet

Our booklet, Public Evangelism Under the First Amendment, was used by a street-preaching brother in reasoning with a Buffalo, NY Police Supervisor regarding public evangelism activities at the Buffalo Wing Festival on Saturday, September 4, 2010.   The Police Supervisor was persuaded to allow the preaching and distribution of tracts to continue.

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August 2010       DUNELLON, FL      City recedes from permit requirement

A church group wanted to preach, display scripture signs and distribute gospel tracts in Dunellon, Florida.  The City of Dunellon has an ordinance that prohibits the distribution of any written materials anywhere in the city without first obtaining a permit from the city.  The church’s pastor was aware of another street preacher who had trouble with the Dunellon Police in the past.  We contacted the City Attorney on behalf of this church group and explained that the permit requirement was an unconstitutional prior restraint upon protected speech under U. S. Supreme Court precedent.  The City Attorney consulted with the City Manager and then sent a reply confirming that the questioned ordinance was outdated, that the City of Dunellon “respects all First Amendment Rights” and “welcomes” the pastor and his public ministry and “will govern itself accordingly.”

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