FORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas preacher and a member of his congregation have been found not guilty of ‘interfering with public duties’ for crossing a police barricade that was meant to separate them from attendees of a homosexual pride festival.
As previously reported, Joey Faust and other members of Kingdom Baptist Church in Venus, Texas, were physically blocked by police in October 2012 while attempting to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with attendees of the Fort Worth “Ride the Rainbow” pride parade.
Faust states that as he and others were preaching and distributing tracts to those in the parade, suddenly, the police formed a human blockade across the public walkway.
“The police lined up [across the street] and said, ‘You can go no further,” he told Christian News Network. “We were forbidden to cross the street and they wouldn’t tell us if we were being detained.”
Faust said that as he stood for some time watching others being allowed to pass by the human blockade, except for anyone that was present to witness to attendees, it became obvious that the police had an agenda.
“Christians who were in support of homosexuals were allowed to cross the street,” he stated. “A Christian walked by me right in front of the officers, and said, ‘I’m here with my family and some of them are homosexuals.’”
Faust then asked police why they were specifically restricting those that oppose homosexuality.
“I asked, ‘Why are they allowed to pass?’” he said. “They were just quiet.”
“At that point, I took a step and attempted to cross,” Faust outlined. “Once I stepped into the street, [the officer] put my hands behind my back.”
Faust and a second member of his congregation, Ramon Marroquin, were then charged with “interfering with public duties,” a class B misdemeanor. He was jailed for 20 hours and held on $1,500 bail.
In May of last year, a judge found both Faust and Marroquin guilty of the charge and sentenced them to two days jail time and a $250 fine, plus court costs. Since the men had already spent time in jail following their arrest, the sentence was pronounced as time served.
Faust and Marroquin then appealed the sentence, and on Thursday, the Second District of Texas Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s ruling, finding the men not guilty and concluding that their First Amendment rights had been violated.
“The skirmish line prohibited all members of the church from exercising their right of free speech merely because of their association with the church,” the court concluded. “This is far too broad a limitation.”
Attorneys for the Rutherford Institute, which represented Faust and Marroquin in court, said that they were pleased with the outcome of the case, but found it concerning that the men were blockaded in the first place.
“For police officers to take it upon themselves to prevent American citizens from exercising their First Amendment rights on public sidewalks simply because the officers don’t like their message or the brand of their particular religious beliefs moves us out of a constitutional republic and into a police state,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State.
“Thankfully, the Texas Appeals Court recognized that the beauty of the First Amendment rests in its tolerance of all viewpoints, no matter how politically incorrect, unpalatable or inappropriate they might appear to others,” he said.