HOLLY RIDGE, N.C. — A missionary to South Asia was arrested last night while conducting a gospel outreach at an Independence Day celebration in Holly Ridge, North Carolina.
Jesse Boyd of Full Proof Gospel Ministries told Christian News Network that he had just returned to his home state from a 13-month missions trip two weeks prior, where he had been preaching in Johannesburg, South Africa; Kathmandu, Nepal; Dhaka, Bangladesh and 15 other countries worldwide.
Boyd preached in the open air, witnessed one-on-one, and distributed approximately 150,000 pieces of gospel literature during his mission, which he states is one of many evangelistic trips that he has conducted over the past decade.
The center of Boyd’s outreach was in Kathmandu, where he and his wife and three young children lived, along with fellow missionary Ricky Springer from Oklahoma.
Boyd says that he and Springer were invited by a local Christian to last night’s Fourth of July celebration in Holly Ridge to share the gospel with the attendees that would be gathering in the public park.
He states that he and Springer distributed tracts to many people, and then Springer decided to preach the gospel. As there was loud music playing, Boyd explained that Springer utilized a small amplification device, which was clipped to his belt.
“[Y]ou will never look across this world and see a perfectly righteous man. I’m not perfectly righteous; I will guarantee you that,” Springer preached to the crowd, many of which were consuming alcohol. “But, no drunkard will enter the Kingdom of God, and I can assure you of that, too.”
Boyd stated that Springer preached for approximately 30 minutes without issue from police. He said, however, that when a man who had been drinking began to take issue with Springer’s message, the police turned against them.
“He tried to get me to ‘step outside’ and fight him, but I replied, ‘Sorry sir, I didn’t come here to fight people; I came here to love people,’ Boyd explained. “As soon as I said these words, Sergeant Keith Whaley of the Holly Ridge Police Department made a beeline for Ricky and told him that he would be arrested if he didn’t shut the microphone off and stop preaching.”
He states that although he and Springer inquired numerous times as to what law they were violating, Whaley would not provide an answer, and only made threats of arrest if they continued. He reportedly left in a huff of anger.
Boyd said that as Whaley departed, the national anthem came over the speakers and the fireworks display began, so they ceased preaching out of respect for the program.
“At that time, we were not preaching or anything because fireworks were going off — only standing around and conversing with some local believers we met,” he explained.
Boyd said that he also called 911 to request that a supervising officer be called to the scene, as he was concerned that Whaley was violating their constitutional rights.
Approximately 10 minutes later, Whaley returned with a man that identified himself as the police chief. Whaley again informed Springer as he was conversing with fellow believers that if he used the amplification device, he would be arrested. Boyd said that he began to discuss the local noise ordinance with the officers in an attempt to ascertain how they could comply with the law.
“I continued to press for an explanation of how the law was being transgressed, but these officers scoffed and then rudely walked off, again threatening arrest,” he stated.
Boyd explained that he also had outlined to the officers, “I didn’t just come out of the Third World, having battled all sorts smoke, fire, and a beating for the gospel, just to be treated like this in a country that is supposed to have freedom of speech.”
“I called to the officers as they were walking away and openly rebuked them: ‘This is the USA, not the Soviet Union,” Boyd said. “Shame on you, you need to repent . . . I am not disrespecting you; I respect your office, but not your manner. This is America.'”
He stated that when uttering the word “repent,” the officers basically turned around and placed him in handcuffs.
While Springer was attempting to record the situation with his camera, the man who identified himself as the chief reportedly prohibited him from doing so and grabbed Springer’s arm to stop him. He also threatened that if Springer did not produce identification, he would also be taken into custody.
Boyd was then transported to the Onslow County Jail, where he was held for two hours and released on $500 bond.
He was charged under North Carolina’s disorderly conduct statute for “making utterances and using abusive language, intended and plainly likely to produce immediate violent retaliation” against the police.
“I wasn’t aware that the words ‘repent’ and ‘shame’ are considered abusive language that incite violence,” Boyd told Christian News Network.
“This bogus charge is nothing more than a thug policeman venting his hatred for the gospel and abusing his authority, and a police chief choosing to back said officer instead of respecting the law and someone’s freedom of speech,” he added.
A hearing is scheduled for August 30.
“[I spent] 13 months in Communist, Muslim, and various other countries without freedoms, and only in America on Independence Day do I get arrested and charged with some bogus charges over preaching the gospel,” Boyd said. “Sheer profundity.”
Chief Maiorano and the Holly Ridge Police Department refused comment. However, Mayor Elmer Padgett, who was reached at his home, remarked that the attendees did not come to hear Boyd speak, but to see the fireworks.
When asked about the government’s duty to protect freedom of speech, Padgett stated that police have “the right” to stop people from speaking “if someone complains.”
Boyd and Springer were beaten by an angry crowd earlier this year while preaching on the Ten Commandments in Nepal. They suffered multiple injuries from being battered with boards, stones and bare fists.
Editor’s Note: Those wishing to express concern may contact Mayor Elmer Padgett at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Holly Ridge Police Department at 910-329-4076, Police Chief John Maiorano at email@example.com and arresting officer Sergeant Keith Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org. District Attorney Ernie Lee, whose office will decide whether to pursue prosecution, may be reached at 910-478-3699 and via email at email@example.com