A national evangelistic group is denouncing the recent arrest of six Christians in New Orleans’ French Quarter and is seeking intervention from the federal government, including the Department of Justice.
As previously reported, this past Friday, Pastor Troy Bohn of Raven Ministries and five members of his ministry team were arrested while ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the large crowds that were reveling on Bourbon Street, a popular section of the city that is known for its preponderance of bars and strip clubs. After being marched down to the 8th Precinct, three of the Christians were cited for violating the city’s “Aggressive Solicitation” ordinance, which primarily serves to curb the aggressive solicitation of donations.
However, the statute also contains a clause that prohibits any type of free speech on Bourbon Street after sunset, including religious or political speech.
“It shall be prohibited for any person or group of persons to loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise,” the ordinance outlines.
Repent America, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, issued a news release this morning, stating that the “Aggressive Solicitation” ordinance is a calculated attack on the Gospel.
“New Orleans’ ‘Agressive Solicitation’ ordinance is not only unconstitutional, but unGodly, as it is nothing less than an attempt to silence the public proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is being used as a tool to protect wickedness and criminalize righteousness,” said Repent America director Michael Marcavage. “New Orleans, which has seen great suffering, remains a city full of lawlessness, and is now targeting the messengers of mercy that God has sent into its streets. God is patient, but his judgments are sure.”
Marcavage himself has been arrested and charged under ordinances that many felt criminalized Christianity. In 2004, Marcavage and ten others known as “the Philadelphia 11” were arrested while ministering to attendees at a popular homosexual festival known as OutFest. After being jailed for 21 hours, Marcavage and the others, which included two grandmothers and a minor, were charged under Pennsylvania’s “hate crimes” law called “ethnic intimidation.” They were also leveled with a host of other felony and misdemeanor charges, including “criminal conspiracy” and “possession of an instrument of crime” for planning to attend the event together and preach with amplification. Each faced a possible sentence of up to 47 years in prison, along with a $90,000 fine.
Months later, “the Philadelphia 11” were vindicated on all counts, and in 2008 they succeeded in their legal challenge to have Pennsylvania’s “hate crimes” law struck down as being unconstitutional.
Repent America states that it will now be sending a letter to the United States Department of Justice to request that the government intervene by halting the enforcement of New Orleans’ “Aggressive Solicitation” ordinance as it pertains to free speech. The New Orleans FBI has also been contacted about the situation and has stated that they have received calls from a number of concerned citizens. The evangelistic group is urging others to contact the Department of Justice at 202-514-2151 and via email at [email protected] The New Orleans FBI may also be reached at 504-816-3000 and via email at [email protected]
“We are calling upon the Department of Justice to bring relief to the Christians that are being oppressed by the tyrannical actions of the City of New Orleans under this Orwellian ordinance,” Marcavage stated. “The Church must raise its voice against this great injustice and urge the city to turn from its persecution of Christians. Without Christ, New Orleans will have no hope.”
Pastor Troy Bohn and the two others that received citations will appear in court on Wednesday to enter a plea against the charge.