New Jersey Police Ticket Christian for Posting Scripture Sign on His Vehicle

ZapataENGLEWOOD, N.J. — A New Jersey police officer ticketed a Christian who was sharing the gospel outside of a local abortion facility this weekend after the officer took issue with a sign displayed on his truck that cited two Scriptures.

Luis Zapata says that he has posted Scripture and other messages on his vehicle for nearly two years as a means to witness to the public about Christ.

“Years ago, the Lord put it on my heart to write a verse and put it on the truck,” he told Christian News Network. “I’m concerned about the salvation of souls … It concerns me that in this nation, there are millions and millions of persons thinking they are going to Heaven and the reality is they are not.”

Zapata, a Columbian-born Christian who lives just outside the town of Englewood, drives his vehicle through a number of cities throughout the area and has never had an issue with the display. Every week, he and other Christians preach the gospel at Metropolitan Medical Associates, one of the largest abortion facilities in the state, to help saves lives and reach abortion-minded mothers.

“Because of us being out there, I have testimonies of women not murdering their babies because of the preaching,” Robert Parker, one of the Christians that witnesses at the facility with Zapata, explained. “When I started going there, women were rushing in to murder their baby. But as the years went by, you could see the amount of women that were coming drop drastically.”

But Zapata and his co-laborers for Christ state that the Englewood Police Department regularly harasses them outside of the facility—threatening them with tickets and arrest for preaching on the public sidewalk, parking their car at the library across the street, or any other infraction they might assert.

On Saturday, Englewood police officer Mark Van Wormer approached Zapata as he was exiting his truck, and demanded that he removed his signs, which quoted John 8:24 and Numbers 32:23.

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“The policeman came to me right away and he said, ‘Who’s the owner of that car?” Zapata outlined. “He was very aggressive, so I said, ‘It’s my car.’ And he said, ‘Well, you are going to have to take the signs off from here.'”

Wormer than 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 recalled. “I said, ‘It’s screwed into the truck.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care. You have to take it down.'”

Parker then called an attorney on behalf of Zapata, 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.”

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

But some time later, Wormer returned with another officer and ordered him to provide his license and registration as he proceeded to write a ticket.

“After he came up to me and gave me the ticket, he said, ‘You have to remove the signs.’ And I said, ‘How? I don’t have any tools [with me] to take it off,'” Zapata recalled. “And he said, ‘You have to get it off. If I drive away and I find the car [again], I’m going to give you another ticket.'”

So, the men left and contacted their attorney for further assistance. Zapata states that 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.”

“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.”

Zapata disagrees that his sign had anything to do with advertising.

“It wasn’t even my opinion; it was Scriptures,” he said. “And I just express [through the sign] what the Bible says, not even only in Englewood, but also in other towns.”

Zapata said that he finds it ironic that the police will swear on a Bible in court, but then turn against those same verses when on the streets.

“What they told him is the same exact things the Muslims are doing over there in Iraq, where they say, ‘If you’re a Christian, pay a tax or leave,'” Alexander Roman, another one of the Christians that ministers with Zapata, stated. “We deserve to preach and not be harassed by law enforcement. We see it all the time. They come over here and drive by slow, and they look at our license plates to try to identify which vehicle we’re driving in. It’s all intimidation tactics to get us to stop going there.”

Zapata urged other Christians to take a stand for the word of God despite what obstacles they may face.

“[Many Christians] fear the government and they fear to tell people about truth,” he stated. “But I just encourage every born again Christian to get out and express what the Bible says, because Jesus said this: ‘If you deny Me here, I will deny you in Heaven. If you confess My name here, I will confess your name in Heaven.'”

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  • Jack

    Calling all Christians go to this site and customize your vehicles

  • Stephen J Nissley

    Would the cop give a ticket to a truck driver if he was parked there with the name of his company on the side? Go for it buddy and don’t stop until that cop apologizes to you publically.

  • It seems if you get a permit the problem would be solved. I’m not really sure how much posting random scriptures on a vehicle really does. The scripture comes to mind where someone asked do you know what your reading? The man replied how can I unless someone teaches? I hope I didn’t butcher what I was trying to say too much but too often I’ve had people want to hit and run. They hand me a tract and want to run away when I want to talk.

    • The lone Ranger

      There is a lot of truth in what you are saying but we do need to take careful consideration of the scriptures.

      2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

      Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

  • Webb

    Like Obama, Van Wormer makes his own laws and then acts like a lawless thug enforcing them. Storm Trooper of the Month.

  • Rev. James E. Ross

    In no way am I agreeing that the Officer was correct in his actions towards the owner of the truck, however allow me to give you something to think about;
    I think something like this may have happened;
    The management of the Clinic made a “call” to, maybe a good-friend in the local government, asking for them to do something to remove “those Christian Zeliots”.
    That “friend” in turn leans on the Police Dept.

    You can guess the rest of the story …….
    because it happens every day somewhere in our Country.

    Many people, in order to keep their jobs, have been known to do something that didn’t agree with …….

    Just a thought ……. What would you do if you were confronted with such a choice ???????

  • samuel boncales

    To: Rev. James E. Ross
    Your hunch may be true but I still admire the man who stood up for Jesus than the weak police officer.
    According to an African fable, four fingers and a thumb lived together on a hand. They were inseparable friends. One day, they noticed a gold ring lying next to them and conspired to take it. The thumb said it would be wrong to steal the ring, but the four fingers called him a self-righteous coward and refused to be his friend. That was just fine with the thumb; he wanted nothing to do with their mischief. This is why, the legend goes, the thumb still stands separate from the other fingers.
    This tale reminds me that at times we may feel we’re standing alone when wrongdoing surrounds us…ODB, 8/8/14

  • Greg Deane

    The policeman was probably a progressive humanist. Another one of these enlightened constables fined a motorist in England for draping the English flag over the rear of the cabin of his car. Such evil could not go unpunished by the self-righteous abusers of power.

  • meemaw

    After reading this article I decided to take a look and see if this police officer is on FB and it appears he is. Very unbecoming of a police officer to post the things he posts and by a few of the photos/memes it seems he has some animosity towards Christ/religion as well. I know several police officers and they are NOTHING like this, Thank God.