Throughout 2012, numerous incidents have been making headlines pertaining to the persecution of Christians in America. Some believe that persecution is on the rise, and that matters will only continue to get worse across the country on both the federal and local levels.
While circumstances have not escalated to the intensity taking place in countries such as Nigeria, where Christians are being mass murdered and their churches set on fire by the Islamic group Boko Haram, or North Korea, where thousands of believers are being held in prison camps for their faith in Christ, many note that persecution is here nonetheless.
In late June, evangelists Robert Parker and Don Karns were taken into custody and jailed after preaching at the Princeton train station in West Windsor, New Jersey.
Parker and Karns stated that they have been witnessing at station for years, which is a part of the New Jersey Transit system, a provider of public transportation.
However, they explained to Christian News Network that after they had finished preaching and witnessing to those waiting for trains, and were leaving, they were approached by Sergeant Kathleen Shanahan and Officer Sandy Crowe. Parker and Karns said that Shanahan was “extremely hostile.”
The officers stated that the evangelists had violated the law for speaking at the train station without a permit, and demanded identification. Parker and Karns attempted to record the encounter with their cell phones, but were ordered to turn them off, which they did.
“She demanded ID, and I said, ‘What law am I breaking?’ and she said, ‘I’m going to take you to jail,’” Parker remembered.
The men were then taken into custody and transported to be booked and charged. As they were separated, Parker states that he overheard the officers disagreeing over which cell to place him in.
“There’s a pervert in there; we’ll put him in that one,” he heard Shanahan say.
The evangelists spent three hours in jail and now face criminal proceedings for three offenses: defiant trespass, and two counts of obstruction for recording with a cell phone and declining to provide identification. Their trial is currently ongoing.
As previously reported, in July of this year, Jesse Boyd of Full Proof Gospel Ministries, a missionary to Southeast Asia, was placed under arrest while witnessing at an Independence Day celebration in Holly Ridge, North Carolina. Ricky Springer, a friend of Boyd’s, had been preaching to attendees, while Boyd quietly distributed tracts and filmed Springer preaching. After an intoxicated crowd member began to take issue with the preaching, Officer Keith Whaley approached and demanded that Springer cease and desist his activities.
Boyd then attempted to assist Springer by asking Whaley what law was being violated, but Boyd stated that Whaley refused to provide an answer. When Chief John Maiorano returned with Whaley and still refused to provide answers, then walked away in a huff, Boyd called out to the officers, “This is the USA, not the Soviet Union. Shame on you, you need to repent . . . I am not disrespecting you; I respect your office, but not your manner. This is America.”
Upon uttering the word “repent,” Boyd was taken into custody and jailed. He was released on $500 bond and charged with disorderly conduct for using “abusive language” against police that “incites violence.”
Days later, the charge against Boyd was dismissed by District Attorney Ernie Lee, citing Boyd’s First Amendment right to free speech.
In August of this year, Mike Stockwell of Cross Country evangelism was cited in Philadelphia for disorderly conduct when a female heckler exposed her breasts as he was preaching.
Lieutenant Thomas McLean immediately grabbed into Stockwell to stop him from preaching. Officer Thomas Ohm concurred that Stockwell should be cited over the woman’s response to his message.
“You’re drawing a crowd, and that young lady exposing herself, that ended it. Once you cross that boundary of freedom of speech in drawing a malicious or out-of-order crowd, that’s when we have to stop it,” Ohm outlined.
The woman was the sole individual that interrupted Stockwell that night.
“I thought it was ridiculous,” Stockwell told Christian News Network. “What was I doing that was disorderly?”
Ohm informed Stockwell that if he continued in his activities, he would go to jail, at least for a few hours, if not the weekend.
Last week, the prosecution dropped the charge, advising that it had no interest in pursuing the case.
In September, six Christians in New Orleans, Lousiana were arrested for violating a city ordinance that restricted them from preaching on the infamous Bourbon Street after sunset. The street is generally quiet during the day, and is the center of nightlife after dark.
Pastor Troy Bohn of RAVEN Ministries told Christian News Network that as one of the men were being placed in handcuffs, he heard a sergeant give the order, “Be sure to find out what church they are with because we are going to start going after these churches.”
“It kind of chilled me,” he stated. “Are we the threat preaching Jesus? No, I kind of like to think that we are holding back the darkness.”
Three of the six Christians were then cited with violating the ordinance, which carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and six months imprisonment.
While one of the Christians arrested, Kelsey Bohn, obtained a temporary restraining order against the ordinance, the three that were cited still face a court date on October 31st.
Earlier this month, six Christians in Jersey City, New Jersey all received citations for engaging in free speech activity without a permit. They were prohibited from preaching effectively or distributing tracts without first obtaining government permission.
The Jersey City Police Department also 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.
All six Christians await a hearing on November 23rd.
Ordinances Used to Shut Down Home Churches
One of the largest and most noted cases this year was the imprisonment of Michael Salman of Phoenix, Arizona, for holding private worship services in a building that he constructed in his back yard.
Salman states that he was told by the city that he could not hold Bible studies in his home without converting it into an official church, which at first, he attempted to do.
“Bible studies are not allowed to be conducted in your residence or the barn on your property as these structures do not comply with the construction code for this use,” one letter from the city stated, which Salman presented in an online video. Another letter from Assistant Development Services Director Robert J. Goodhue, now retired, outlined, “…Bible studies are not allowed in the residence… The simple and direct answer [as to why] is that the Bible study use requires a change of occupancy.”
Salman spent sixty days in jail this summer, and was released last month after serving his sentence. At last report, he was serving house arrest for holding the worship services with family and friends on his 4.6 acre property without comporting with commercial standards.
Some note that Salman was charged for violating code from the International Code Council, which was adopted by the city of Phoenix, and is in place in many municipalities across the nation. It is believed that these codes will be used to shut down many house churches across the nation.
The primary regulation that was used against Salman was from the ICC’s “Use and Occupancy” code, which defines civic, social or religious gatherings as either a business or an assembly, even if the meetings are being held in a residence. Along with this government definition comes mandatory commercial upgrades that most homeowners are unable to afford. According to online information, the entirety of Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and Kentucky, among other states, all have enacted the “Use and Occupancy” code of the International Code Council.
Phoenix code officials also outlined to Christian News Network that if a person lived in a residential zone, and they were meeting regularly with others for prayer or Bible study at a residence, it would be a violation of the applicable zoning ordinances, since the activity would then be considered to be commercial. Commercial activities are not allowed in residential zones.
In June, a couple in San Juan Capistrano, California had been fined $300 for violating the city’s zoning ordinance, which prohibits “religious, fraternal or non-profit [home] gatherings” of 4 or more people without a permit. However, due to the public outcry over the case, the city council changed its zoning code to remove penalties against those who host home Bible studies without government permission.
Physical Attacks on Believers
In July, the home of Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA was vandalized by pro-abortion protesters who despised his stand for life.
Profanity and images of coat hangers were spray painted all over the siding of the house, and a large rock was thrown at the front door, shattering glass onto the porch and throughout the living room. The children’s toys and items for the new baby were covered in shards of glass.
Two days later, Everett Stadig, a volunteer with Personhood USA, was attacked while collecting signatures for the pro-life organization outside of a local grocery store. Stadig, who suffered multiple injuries, was hurt so severely that he had to be hospitalized, including for a broken hip.
“It is shocking to consider that someone would be so cruel and heartless to attack a home with a pregnant woman and small children inside,” Mason stated. “Apparently, the pro-choice crowd has no more compassion for born children than they do for the preborn.”
In August, Christian News Network reported on a street preacher named Gene Duffy, who was threatened with a knife and gun by two bystanders that despised his message.
Duffy, 67, said that he was singing Christian songs with his guitar on an outparcel near the Semmes, Alabama Wal-Mart when he was approached by Sandra Jarman, 53, who was wielding a knife, and Jesse Reid, 26, who was carrying a pistol. The two began to rail on Duffy that they did not like the message he was presenting.
“They hated it. They hated God,” Duffy told Christian News Network. “[They said] that I should be arrested for trying to put that stuff on people.”
After holding the gun to Duffy’s head, Reid beat Duffy with the pistol and took off.
Two bystanders who observed the incident approached Jarman and Reid to rebuke them for their behavior. Both were stabbed repeatedly by Jarman. Both survived, and one of the men, Kenneth Cushman, a Wal-Mart employee, was hospitalized for several days.
Days later, an incident in Washington, D.C. made national headlines as a homosexual activist arrived at the Family Research Counsel armed and prepared for a massive attack.
Police state that Floyd Corkins III entered the headquarters of Family Research Council with a 9 mm Sig Sauer pistol that he had purchased recently from a gun shop in Virginia. He was also carrying a backpack that contained two loaded magazines of bullets with fifteen rounds in each. Additionally, reports state that four boxes of ammunition were found in his car.
Corkins was stopped by Leo Johnson, a maintenance worker that doubles as a security guard, who was then shot in the arm as Corkins opened fire.
Johnson and others immediately tackled Corkins and disarmed him. He was held until police arrived.
“Don’t shoot me, it was not about you; it was what this place stands for,” Corkins pled after his pistol was confiscated, according to eyewitnesses.
“The security guard here is a hero as far as I’m concerned,” said Police Chief Cathy Lanier. “He did his job. The person never made it past the front.”
This month, Christian News Network reported on an Illinois man who plotted to bomb 48 churches in Ottawa County, Oklahoma.
According to a filed affidavit, Gregory Weiler II had compiled notes that included information on what nights the congregants met at church and how many people are generally in attendance.
Police state that they also found a journal on Weiler’s bed that provided information on his motivation behind the attacks.
One of the entries read, “Self-promote for the next 4 years while beginning list of goals written out in Oklahoma having to do with destroying and removing church buildings from U.S. a tiny bit at a time — setting foundation for the years to follow.”
“I have not opened a Bible in a while, and I haven’t stepped foot into a church building in quite some time — and though I may be very lonely right now, I am hoping that someone, and maybe someday in the future, someone will take notice,” Weiler wrote online days prior to his arrest.
He is currently facing charges under the Oklahoma Anti-Terrorism Act, and may also face federal charges as well.
Other Notable Headlines
Many of these stories are just the tip of the iceberg of what has occurred throughout 2012 across the United States. In addition to these incidents, others could point to the numerous lawsuits that have been filed against Obamacare’s abortion pill mandate and sterilization coverage requirement, as well as the story of a photographer in New Mexico that was forced to pay $700 in fines for declining to shoot a same-sex commitment service. Elaine Hugenin and her husband were ordered by Judge Tim Garcia that she must “must accept the reasonable regulations and restrictions imposed upon the conduct of their commercial enterprise despite their personal religious beliefs that may conflict with these government interests.”
Mennonite pastor, Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, was also convicted of aiding and abetting kidnapping after helping Lisa Miller, a former lesbian, travel to Canada, as she wished to avoid threatened court orders to transfer custody of her daughter to her former lesbian partner if she did not allow visitations.
Stories such as the baker who came under fire for declining to make a cake for a homosexual “wedding” also made headlines, as well as the hotel owners who settled a lawsuit with two lesbians who were told by an employee that they could not hold their commitment service on hotel property. Christian congressmen in the state of Pennsylvania were sued this year for the declaring 2012 “The Year of the Bible,” and the Grove School District in Oklahoma passed a resolution banning the distribution of Bibles to students on school property. The same city had just made headlines for tearing down signs from a local church property that used the name of Jesus.
In these times, some may point to 2 Timothy 3:13 and Matthew 24:14: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse … And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
For others, who are apprehensive about making any hasty statements regarding the signs of the times or the end of the age, they still agree that persecution is indeed here.