New Jersey Police Charge Six Christians for Evangelizing in Public Park


Police in New Jersey charged six Christians yesterday for evangelizing in a public park without government permission, and for causing some hearers to be upset with their Gospel message.

Robert Parker of Millstone, New Jersey told Christian News Network that he and several Christians from Bread of Life Fellowship in Wayne were all cited on Saturday as they witnessed to passersby in Journal Square in Jersey City. He stated that Richard Corniel of Paterson, a Marine who had served in Iraq, was preaching the Gospel when he was approached by Officer Chris Baker, who immediately shut down Corniel by asserting that a permit was required for his activities. Officer Baker also reportedly informed the Christians that they were in a “private park” and that they had to leave the city-owned property.

When Parker first spoke to the police, he stated that Officer Baker demanded identification from all of the Christians under the threat of arrest. Parker said that at first he declined, but police insinuated that if they provided identification, everything would be fine. However, that did not turn out to be the case.

“He told us, ‘That will cost you $250 a piece,’” Parker recalled the officer stating. “He said, ‘Anybody who is with them gets a ticket.’”

Parker explained that the police also confiscated the mobile phone of one of the Christians who was recording the incident, contending that it was against the law for them to record police, and that the officers were taking the phone as part of an investigation.

In addition to engaging in open-air preaching and one-on-one witnessing, the Christians were also distributing Gospel literature to those inside the park. However, Jersey City police told them that they were not permitted to hand out tracts in the entire city without government permission.

“He kept asking me, ‘Do you know where you’re at? Do you know where you’re at?” Parker outlined.

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When the supervising officer arrived on the scene to assess the situation, he agreed with Baker. Parker said that at this point, there were five to six law enforcement officials surrounding them.

When contacted, the Jersey City Police Department stated that because members of the public were upset with the message being proclaimed, the officers had a right to prevent potential violence. They stated that in such cases, police protocol is to disperse the crowd and silence the speaker.

However, some legal experts have noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that heckler’s vetoes — the silencing of speech based upon the reaction of the hearer — are impermissible.

In the case of Terminiello v. Chicago (1949), which involved a man who was cited for “breach of the peace” due to the reactions of those who opposed his views, the court ruled:

“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, 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.”

The Christians shut down in Jersey City yesterday were issued citations that stated that they were being charged with “breach of the peace” as well. Others cited besides Parker and Corniel include Patrick Colacicco of Iselin, Alexander Solis of Plainfield and Juan Luck of Piscataway. Police also informed Luis Zapata of Palisades Park that they would send his citation in the mail.

A hearing date has been set for November 23rd at the Jersey City Municipal Court. The Christians are not allowed to return without obtaining a permit for their activities.

 

 

Editor’s Note: Those wishing to express concerns about the matter may contact Mayor Jerramiah Healy at 201-547-5200 or email [email protected], District Attorney Gaetano Gregory at 201-795-6400 or email [email protected] and Newark FBI Special Agent In Charge Michael Ward at 973-792-3000 or email [email protected]


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7 Responses to New Jersey Police Charge Six Christians for Evangelizing in Public Park

  1. This past summer – 2012 6th & Penn St – Reading, PA. Was given a citation charge = “defendent was found preaching on a public street using a voice amplifier that created a noise disturbance and could be heard more than 50 feet away.” I have been preaching in this area for some 3 yrs now… a new street vendor selling food from a hand pushed cart on the corner where I was preaching…with a belt attached 16 watt 5″x 5″ amplifier (museum tour guide variety) was upset at my preaching when it came to the scriptural references about hell… he called police. They responded asked what I was doing I responded preaching the Gospel as referenced in the Bible… They said I would have to stop… I respectfully responded that I wasn’t about to have my U.S. Constitutional rights be violated nor denied me… and that I wasn’t going to cease from preaching… the Gospel, when they continued to harass me with empty and bogus claims (made up as they continued in their conversation) I insisted respectfully that I wasn’t going to stop preaching… and I said I needed to continue preaching and they were disrupting that plan… either they needed to arrest me or stop harrassing me… WHere upon 1 of the two officers said OK and then proceeded to write up a citation… Long and short of it… I challenged the citation’s charge and plead not guilty… Several weeks later I appeared before a local Magisterial Court (judge)… Shortly after seating himself the judge looked at me and said you don’t look like a threat to me for preaching the Gospel… and then suggested additional area’s in the Reading, PA area that additionally needed the preaching of the Word of God… Then he stated that the charges were being dismissed; and that the deposit money ($50) I had previous paid for the not guilty plea would be returned to me in full.

  2. I am extremely liberal. I totally disagree both theologically and historically with many “street preachers”. They are often so self confident and what some may see as angry. But I have never seen them as combative or disruptive other than speaking and handing out literature. This is the basis of the first amendment. I also support protests of people whom disagree. It is a keystone of our republic and of our constitution. I would think “Liberal” groups would be concerned about us as it could be our expression that could be in jeopardy.

    As for police falsifying reports this should also concern citizens and police officers. If such has happened people should speak up.

  3. Now that the dust has settled, I look forward to sending emails to the contacts above and to ask how it’s possible they believe anyone in the entire city needs a permit to even hand out a tract in the entire city of Jersey City. Is Jersey city now a no free speech zone where Christians can’t speak or hand out literature? Is this Cuba or Jersey City?

  4. So the Jehovah witnesses can go door to door and bother people but us CHRISTIANS need a permit? Is the USA becoming a dictatorship or communist country. Whatever happened to freedom of speach. I thought that is why immigrants came to America so they can practise their religion? I feel sorry for the usa on judgement day

  5. If one needs a permit to speak in public and hand out literature, why not advertisers? Why just Christians? And if we are going to abolish the first amendment, lets get rid of spam, and all advertising too. All the Christians are doing is advertising their faith and speaking freely in public. Sounds awfully American to me!

  6. that’s what the goberment doing turning they back to the only one hwo can make achange in man hards…

  7. It is so sad that not in schools not in public the word of God is accepted or permitted. But once the system gets people in jail they allowed it. This world needs God’s living word. All I can say is Lord have Mercy with all of our ignorance.

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