Prosecutor Won’t Drop Case Against Christian Ticketed for Posting Scripture Sign on Vehicle

ZapataENGLEWOOD, N.J. — A Christian in New Jersey who was ticketed last year for posting a sign on his truck that cited Scripture states that the prosecutor who is handling the case has refused to drop the charge because of the events in New York where protesters have questioned the judgment of police.

“The prosecutor stated that he was not going to drop the case because he wanted to respect the authority of police,” Luis Zapata, whose defense attorney spoke with the prosecution last week, told Christian News Network on Wednesday. “Especially with the events with the police officers in New York City—the protests and the negative view of the officers—he was going to stand by the officer.”

As previously reported, for nearly the past two years up until last August, Zapata, a Columbian-born Christian who lives just outside the town of Englewood, has posted Scripture and other messages on his vehicle as a means to witness to the public about Christ.

“Two years ago, the Lord said to me, ‘Start praying. Go out into the streets and go preach the gospel. Put signs on your car. Tell everybody that I’m coming soon,'” he recalled.

So he did. Among other locations, Zapata joined area Christians in preaching the gospel at Metropolitan Medical Associates, one of the largest abortion facilities in the state, to help saves lives and reach abortion-minded mothers. He also created Scripture-based signs, which he affixed to his truck and drove through a number of cities without issue—until last summer.

Zapata and his co-laborers for Christ state that for the past two years they have been met with regular opposition from the Englewood Police Department for their outreach outside of the abortion facility, being threatened them with tickets and arrest for preaching on the public sidewalk, parking their car at the library across the street, or other alleged infractions.

“I feel that the city of Englewood got together with the abortion mill to try to drive us out of there by giving us petty citations,” he said.

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Last August, the sign on Zapata’s truck became the latest source of contention. According to Zapata, Englewood police officer Mark Van Wormer approached him as he was exiting his truck, and demanded that he removed his signs, which quoted John 8:24 and Numbers 32:23. He told Zapata that he needed a permit to display the sign on his vehicle and that he would have to take it down.

“I said, ‘Permit for what? … It’s a religious sign,’” Zapata told Christian News Network last year following the incident. “I said, ‘It’s screwed into the truck.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care. You have to take it down.’”

One of the men with Zapata then called an attorney, who advised that they move the vehicle for the time being.

“I asked the officer, ‘Can I move the truck a block away from the clinic?’ He said, ‘Move it,’” Zapata explained. “So, I got in the truck a and moved it a block away from the clinic.”

But some time later, Van Wormer returned with another officer and ordered him to provide his license and registration as he proceeded to write a ticket, threatening to write a second ticket if he sees the vehicle again.

So, the men left and contacted their attorney for further assistance. Zapata stated that Van Wormer did not cite any law that he was violating until he wrote it on the ticket. The men then looked up the ordinance and discovered that it was under a section entitled “temporary permits for advertising on vehicles.”

Zapata's sign affixed to his truck
Zapata’s sign affixed to his truck

“No person shall operate or park on any street any vehicle for the purpose of displaying advertising,” the ordinance reads, “provided, however, that the Council may issue temporary permits for such advertising display on vehicles for public, charitable, benevolent and religious undertakings. The Council may impose limitations and restrictions as may be conducive to the public welfare upon the issuance of temporary permits.”

But Zapata does not believe that his sign constitutes advertising. His attorney sought to have the case dropped, but last week was advised that the matter would move forward in court as the prosecutor did not wish to second-guess the police because of the criticism that they have been receiving lately over the Ferguson and New York City matters.

Zapata said that he will fight for his rights no matter how long it takes as he believes that it is important that the word of God is not labeled as being “advertising.”

“What it’s going to come down to is, is the word of God advertisement or is it free speech?” he explained. “If they conclude that the word of God is advertisement, it is going to set the stage for even pastors and their local congregations to not be allowed to put up any religious symbols or any Bible verses [because] they will be considered advertisement, and they will have to charge money for that. Or, towns and cities will pass an ordinance against advertisement and they will be restricted from putting crosses, signs and Bible verses up.”

Alexander Roman, who ministers with Zapata regularly, told Christian News Network that he believes hostility toward Christianity is beginning to mirror the days of the apostles when civil leaders used the law in an attempt to silence the proclamation of gospel.

“There’s an anti-Christian sentiment that continues to grow on a daily basis that mocks and ridicules Christ,” he said. “We’re heading toward the times of the Book of Acts, where if you preach, you’ll be persecuted.”

“It’s coming to where people hate God so much that they want to silence his people; they want to silence His word. And if they make the word of God an advertisement, [it will have negative consequences for all Christians],” Roman continued. “But regardless of what label they give it, heaven and earth will pass away, but His word will never pass away.”


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  • Fundisi

    Using such signs is “witnessing,” it is protected as freedom of religious expression under the 1st Amendment, unless it can be said to endanger the public. If we are not free to express our faith in the public square, then the 1st Amendment is meaningless.

    • Frank

      I would imagine the backlash against the prosecutor and police department should be in the magnitude of what happened to the mayor in Texas that demanded the sermons from those pastors.

      • Fundisi

        I would hope, but in New York, maybe not.

        • Frank

          Time will tell.

      • Robert Zimmerman

        New York….New Jersey… these are the people who vote for folks that want to regulate the size of their soda. They probably won’t make a peep about this.

    • Fundisi

      For my Christian friends here, please go to this article, it will encourage you: http://www.wnd.com/2015/01/holocaust-survivor-booted-from-public-schools/?cat_orig=faith

      • WorldGoneCrazy

        Thank you – quite excellent! I’m forwarding that on!

  • Frank

    It wasn’t just the Christians during the apostles’ time that were persecuted. Christians have been persecuted all through history. Catholics have a huge long record of persecuting Christians. Even the reformers have persecuted Christians at times just because they didn’t goto their mainline group and because they didnt agree with certain unbiblical doctrines and practices. History is a wonderfully enlightening subject.

    • pax2u

      The 1559 bills made English Catholics guilty of high treason—a crime English law punished by hanging, drawing, and quartering offending men, and by burning offending women. The bills made a political offense out of a matter of conscience—belief in a universal church under God. in Elizabethan England, Catholics were killed because they did not believe an act of Parliament changed what a fifteen-century-old Christian tradition told them: that the Church was a universal institution and the Bishop of Rome was its spiritual leader. To say or attend the Catholic Mass became a criminal act punishable by fines and imprisonment.

      • Frank

        Catholics are not Christians. And you missed the point I was making.

        • pax2u

          frank I will always pray for you, and ask God to forgive you your hatred of Christians

          May my Christian God Jesus Christ forgive you your hatred and may our Christian God Jesus Christ give you eternal peace, amen

        • pax2u

          so Frank since you decide who is and who is not a Christian, do you have a denominational church, or are you just alone with your hatred of everyone else?

        • James Grimes

          Hi Frank. Pax2u’s two replies to you below are his oft repeated replies to anyone who calls him out. I guess I’ve seen them at least 100 times, word-for-word. His intellectual ability is very limited, so he copies and pastes these comebacks whenever he needs them. He is usually incoherent. Most times you will shake your head trying to figure out his gibberish.

        • Shirley Ujest

          No, Frank – some are. It’s the RCC and hierarchy (from the new Pope on down) who have become apostate…if they deny the godhood of Jesus Christ, pray to Mary (a wonderful human being, but someone who herself admitted her need for a Savior in the Magnificat), refuse to admit sin (in any area, not just the homosexual thing), they are WRONG. There are many charismatic, godly, SAVED Catholics. And there are a whole bunch of “Christians” out there who don’t have a clue about the lordship of Christ. Corrie ten Boom’s father said it best: “just because a mouse lives in the cookie jar doesn’t make him a cookie.” Christians are Christ-ones: those who obey and follow the Lord Jesus. He knows his sheep; you need to worry only about yourself and the log in your eye. GBY.

        • pax2u

          Frank I will pray for your eternal soul to by Christian God Jesus Christ, amen

          do you allow your hatred to consume you

      • Christian Elder

        Must not have heard of Bloody Mary.

    • Magister_militum_praesentalis

      Playing the Who Killed Who game again?

      • Frank

        Nope. Just pointing out that Christians have been horribly persecuted all this time, just as bad as the time of the apostles.

        • Magister_militum_praesentalis

          By Christians you mean all non-Catholics whose theology you happen to agree with, right?

          • Frank

            I mean Christians.

          • Magister_militum_praesentalis

            Do you accept the description of Christians that I gave?

    • James Grimes

      I’m not sure what Pax2u ‘ s copy and paste response has to do with your comment or with the story. Do you see any connection?

      • Frank

        Nope. He missed the point.

        • James Grimes

          He always does. He’s usually incoherent when he tries to respond on his own. There isn’t much there.

    • Wendel ‘BlackWolf’ Kurz

      Oh so I guess the holy wars had no Christians involved huh?

  • James Grimes

    For those who live close by, a boycott of ENGLEWOOD, N.J. would be in order. Letters to the mayor and other bad press would help too. Unfortunately, people who are not Christian would not give a hoot.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      How do you boycott a city?

      • WorldGoneCrazy

        Don’t shop there. Pretty easy, huh?

  • robertzaccour

    I would like to see the people of Englewood, NJ clear out and make it a ghost town. Nobody should put up with this.

  • Kathy

    Seek council from Jay Sekulow….he fights for our Christian rights. http://jaysekulow.com/

    • Kathy

      May God Bless you with a favorable outcome.

  • christoph

    “to witness to the public” Well perhaps there are better ways. But all depends on the local laws. We had weekly open air preaching n a particular country. We needed a permit. Each time police came and asked for our permit. Result there was no problem. Should I done it without a permit and be “persecuted” by the police?

    • Fundisi

      In this country Christians have full access to the public square as long as they are not placing anyone in danger, they should not need a permit to engage in free exercise of their faith. Street preaching is a very long tradition that until recent years has NEVER been opposed by the State.

  • Tommy Ferrugia

    While posting texts from ‘the bible’ to bear witness to a deity in space is as useless as posting quotes from Jack & The Beanstalk to witness a giant in the clouds, I’m not sure how this is an advertisement. He isn’t selling anything. He is just showing everyone how dumb he is; not sure that’s a violation.

    • Galaxy Cat

      Grow up!

      • Tommy Ferrugia

        Choke on a ham sandwich, fatso!

  • Michael Eade

    Oh the irony!

  • William Tyndale

    The local ordinance is a clear violation of the 1st Amend. to the US Constitution which prohibits all laws prohibiting or restricting the free exercise of religious belief. That includes in public. A slam dunk, and the prosecutor should be sued for malicious prosecution and his obvious anti-Christian bigotry.

    • Wendel ‘BlackWolf’ Kurz

      No it is not, free exercise of one’s religious believes does not include intentionally parking in front of abortion clinics and telling women going in and out of there that they are going to hell and/or calling them murders and such.

      • William Tyndale

        Your comment is nonsense and unworthy of a substantive response.

        • Wendel ‘BlackWolf’ Kurz

          Yeah whatever, in other words you have no response. It’s OK I’m use to so called ‘christians’ not being able to reply to my comments, it’s hard to argue against the truth. But hey have a blessed day!

          • William Tyndale

            Nuttier than a fruitcake. But thanks, anyway.

          • Wendel ‘BlackWolf’ Kurz

            Like I said no response, so I will offer a little friendly advice, if your gonna represent ‘Christianity’. You might wanna do a little research so that it will at least appear that you know something.

          • LarryECollins

            I’ll reply. They weren’t accused of harassing ANYONE, so your comment is inflammatory and spurious. They were accused of having an ‘advertising’ sign on their truck, which is all that the ordinance forbids. The police were ‘stretching it’. There was no advertising for a church or any other group, just quotes of 2 scriptures from the Bible. That 1st Amendment-protected free speech. CLEARLY it is not ‘advertising,’ and the prosecutor knows it, but doesn’t want to face the ;good ole boys; down at the police station. This case should be thrown out of court by the judge on first reading.

          • William Tyndale

            “I’ll reply”. You call that a reply? Back to the debating school for you, my friend. The fact remains the ordinance itself is a clear violation of the 1st A to the US Constitution on its face regardless of the specifics of a particular instance.

          • LarryECollins

            You and are in agreement.

          • Wendel ‘BlackWolf’ Kurz

            Umm inncorrect the person was seen parked outside an abortion clinic yelling at the females entering the building and was also yelling at them when they came out. Just because he was parked across the street on the park side doesn’t make it legal nor acceptable.

          • LarryECollins

            Yes and the law protects that speech even if you don’t like it. He was not charged with yelling he was charged with advertising without a permit. Did yoU READ the whole article?

          • Wendel ‘BlackWolf’ Kurz

            Yes I did read it and yes he was charged with advertising which was a violation of local ordinance. His sign on his truck along with his actions proved his intent to advertise his religious believe by yelling them at people he had no business doing it do.

      • lynn

        I guess you think it shoul also be against the law to have a Christian bumper sticker on your car.

        • Wendel ‘BlackWolf’ Kurz

          No I do not you can have whatever you want on your car house and body if you want, what I don’t agree with is when you tell others what they can and can’t do, especially if it is religious based.

  • Gmiester

    R U freaking kidding me…ADVERTIZING? What type of moron calls proselytizing advertising? Proselytizing is the act of attempting to educate or convert people to another religion or opinion. Unless there is a law that say it is illegal to proselytize or witness it is over reaching and direct violation of free speech. Had he of written on his sign “for $$$$$$$ I will do _______ (add your own whatever) for services rendered.” I can see advertising. This is a direct attack against religious freedom.

  • http://www.OpenAirSeattle.blogspot.com/ OpenAirSeattle

    Fine tak’em to court and sue the pants off of them. The public prosecutor as well as the out of bounds police department. That will “question his wish not to second-guess the police because of the criticism that they have been receiving”. What their doing is illegal.

  • Gary

    Many police will abuse citizens rights. Many courts will also. I have seen many examples over the years. The legal system is broken. Whether it can be fixed is a question.

    • RDH1988

      The cool thing is that God is not broken and he will honor this man for his witness! Amen?

      • LarryECollins

        AMEN!

  • Dwayne N Tiger Wilson

    In this world you will have tribulations but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world!

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Is this for real? Why has the beloved America become a nation that hates Christians and the Biblical message? America needs the Word of God now the most.

  • Anton Viljoen

    civil leaders used the law in an attempt to silence the proclamation of gospel.>>> you vote for these bastards of hell … they and the “police force” are wicked and deceiving enemies of The true word of Christ !!! ……… watch your backs !!

  • S.A. McClellan

    And where does “Freedom of Speech” & “Freedom of Religion” figure into this? It doesn’t matter, in N.J.? I do, however, recall that when I lived there briefly, in the 60’s, that there were more weird zoning laws and all sorts of peculiarities…(along with the mafia, I might add.) at the time! A person could be violating the laws there, just breathing, I think; and it’s gotten about as bad, in lots of places…here in Oregon, too..where it’s thought there’s a great deal of personal freedom….maybe~but, not if you ain’t kinfolks, “hun”!

  • Gary

    If the man had been supporting abortion with his signs, the police would have never said anything to him about removing them.

  • MZ13

    This fellow needs to go and take photos of every vehicle and city bus with ads imprinted on them. Then demand that they all be ticketed or he will sue for discrimination.

    • LarryECollins

      Buses are city owned. Others probably have the permit. The real defense here is that quotes from the Bible are not ‘advertising’ under any possible definition. Unless of course they accuse him of advertising for God Almighty!

  • Ryan Anderson

    Instead of bucking the system, why don’t Christians get together to support him with the financial means to continue his ministry? If they want to pin him with a ticket for illegal advertisement, regardless of whether it’s fair or not, he could have his truck professionally “wrapped” and carry the appropriate permits in the glove compartment with him at all times to ensure that this will not happen again. In complying and working with the “city” to do it the legal way, he has an entirely different opportunity to witness to an entirely different group of people- the city officials. Patience and kindness and gentle perseverance will only shine the light of His Glory on the very thing he asked this man to do.

    • KenS

      No, that would be giving in to them and admitting that hey did something wrong when he didn’t and it would also set the precedent that they would need to establish that soul winning is now advertising and it would make it harder for all Christians to obey the Great Commission.

  • Howard Taylor

    Thanks for accepting my friend request. Here is my website and to let you know that I am a serious Christian. God BLess all your work for the Lord.

    ATTENTION ALL WHO HAVE AN EAR TO HEAR. THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY

    IS GIVING FORTH THE CALL FOR REPENTANCE REVOLUTION TO ALL MEN

    AND THIS INCLUDES ALL HUMANKIND. PLEASE PAY HEED FOR IT IS HIS TIME OF

    MERCY LEST MORE OF HIS WRATH BE BESTOWED UPON THIS NATION AND ALL

    THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH. IT IS THE CALL TO ALL, INCLUDING CATHOLICS,

    PROTESTANTS,

    AND ALL RELIGIOUS AND NON-RELIGIOUS PEOPLES.

    REPENTANCE REVOLUTION

    If you die and go to hell, you’ll look back on your earthly life now in great regret. NOW is the time to change things before it is too late! NOW is the time to tell your family and others to REPENT.

    Looking back on your week, how many precious opportunities slipped through your fingers to witness about salvation or at least hand out salvation literature? Our days are dark and desperate. Many people are without hope and many others have a false hope. People need ETERNAL TRUTH. They need God’s word. You are to be LIGHT in your area!

    Friend of Jesus Christ and desperate to introduce him to others.

    http://www.aggressivechristianity.net

  • Shirley Ujest

    Everyone concerned about the legality: send this message to Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ – lawyer and group who supports and defends constitutional right to freedom of speech especially with regards to our “free expression thereof” and religion outlined in First Amendment. And then send an e-mail to Englewood, NJ City Council and Police Dept. This IS unconstitutional…Period.

  • john arlow

    ” Judge NOT ” simple. ” Let him that knows NO sin ” simple. False prophets !!!! simple

    • James Grimes

      You obviously do not know Scripture. Quoting Matthew 7 : 1 out of context is usually done by Atheists. They don’t know enough to use the Bible as a weapon.

      • john arlow

        using the bible as a weapon is far from the point I was trying to make.
        Surley as a christain, one (every christain) should know that only god shall judge ??. As for knowing the scriptures, well I was not quoting directly. but if you would like to point out where I was out of context and how it may justify the chaps actions this responce may not of been a waste of my time.

        • James Grimes

          Matthew 7 : 1 does allow us to judge – but only in a righteous manner. In other words, we can only judge in the same way that we would expect to be judged. As we are all sinners, we have to be careful about this. If the Bible condemns something, we have the right to judge accordingly. Not only is it a right, it becomes an obligation.

  • john arlow

    The guy has no right to pass judgement and use the scriptures to condem anyone, let him take the moat out of his own eye first.

  • thoughtsfromflorida

    I can’t imagine how this would fall under the laws regarding “advertising”. It would seem that Mr. Zapata has a pretty strong case.

  • Rev Donald Spitz

    Don’t give up.

  • jennylynn

    Praise God! If every christian did their part and preached the gospel the world would be a very different place. People are dying and hell is for real. Jesus preached hell more than anyone in the Bible to keep people from going there.

  • Saintpi

    Pray for God’s grace that will reveal the demonstration of the power of God! Men sometimes will work with the devil to oppose the spread of the Gospel. But thank God that there is Spirit and Power in the word of God as revealed in 1 Corinthians 2:4.. “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”:… An example is in the case of Elymas the sorcerer who withstood Paul.. but see what happened next…
    Acts 13:11 (KJV)
    And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
    God bless America!!

  • OldArkie

    Remember, the world hated Jesus, and it will hate His followers.

    ¶ That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
    John 1:9-11

  • AK

    Why is his rights to express his beliefs infringed?

  • Mr. Avatar

    The first amendment has already been hi-jacked and that needs to go before the
    supreme court again. Nothing there about a separation. All it says is
    Congress cannot establish a religion and not impede the free exercise of
    religion and they are impeding the free exercise of
    religion.