Three Christians in New Jersey were charged with violating the state’s anti-bias intimidation statute, specifically for “shouting homophobic rhetoric directly in front of Allure Salon,” based on the citing officer’s wording, after the trio preached to the salon owner and an employee who are both openly homosexual.
Kombe Sefelino, Daniel Stephen Courney and Lydia Ortiz were all charged under two different sections of the state’s “bias intimidation” statue during an outreach outside of the notorious Metropolitan Medical Associates abortion facility, also known as “The Englewood Center for Women,” in Englewood, NJ.
The Allure Salon is nearby Metropolitan Medical Associates—a facility where late-term abortions occur. In an expose published by Priests for Life in 2018, the facility was caught on tape explaining how they will murder healthy babies “up until 24 [weeks]” if it is “something that you want.”
Christians, as well as others, have been gathering outside of the facility for years to oppose abortion and to engage in other speech activities. In January, Sefelino, Courney and Ortiz had spread out on the sidewalks nearby to effectively communicate the word of God and gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible in the area which happened to be outside of the salon.
According to one of the citing officer’s summons’, the Christians “targeted … the owner, Rogelio Molina, who is homosexual” by preaching against homosexuality. On another citation, a salon employee, John Cacella, was written as the “target” of “homophobic rhetoric.”
N.J. attorney Demetrios Stratis, who is representing the Christians in the proceedings, told Christian News Network that his clients were there to be a voice for the voiceless and to preach the word of God to all, not just homosexuals. He explained that his clients’ delivered “a message of love” for Molina and Cacella’s souls and that only by repentance and faith can men be saved from the wrath to come, and he also cited that their actions were legally protected First Amendment activity.
The charging Englewood police officer, marked as “P. O Layne” on one of the summons’, wrote:
“Within the jurisdiction of this court, with purpose to intimidate an individual or group of individuals because of race, color, religeon (sic), gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity, specifically by, on numerous separate occasions, shouting homophobic rhetoric directly in front of Allure Salon, targeted at the owner, Rogelio Molina, who is homosexual, in violation of N.J.S. 2C:16-1A(1), a crime of the fourth degree,” a summons reviewed by Christian News reads.
According to Stratis, if they are convicted of this fourth degree charge, they can each be sentenced up to 18 months in prison.
The citation further documented N.J.S. 2C:33-4A under New Jersey’s harassment law, which is what enabled the anti-bias charge.
“Within the jurisdiction of this court of this court, with purpose to harass another, make or cause to be made a communication or communications in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm, specifically by, on numerous separate occasions, shouting homophobic rhetoric directly in front of Allure Salon, targeted at the owner, Rogelio Molina, who is homosexual, in violation of N.J.S. 2C:33-4A, a petty disorderly persons offense,” the summons states.
Stratis said that he spoke to the prosecutor assigned to the case—identifying her as “the head of the Bias Crimes Unit in the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office”—and attempted to reason with her by explaining that his clients do not solely focus on homosexual sin. Stratis said that he told her that all sin “prevents us from having a relationship with Jesus Christ.” However, according to Stratis, the prosecutor fully intends on moving forward with the charges as homosexuals are a “protected class” under the statute.
In a call to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, a representative stated that Vered Adoni is in charge of the “Bias Unit” and is an assistant prosecutor. Christian News Network, however, was unable to reach anyone for comment by press time.
A hearing date has been set for March 4.