A legal group says an incident in which church leaders in California were arrested for reading the Bible aloud in public will be a critical case for religious free speech.
The trial began this week involving three men who were told they could not preach in front of a Department of Motor Vehicles office in Hemet has begun. The case, which is being heard in Riverside County Superior Court, stems from a February 2011 incident involving an assistant pastor and two leaders from Calvary Chapel of Hemet who read aloud from the Bible at a DMV office. (See earlier story)
The men were instructed by a security guard to stop reading aloud to the line of people outside the DMV office – and when the church leader refused, the security guard summoned a California Highway Patrol officer who then arrested the pastor. The other two men were arrested shortly afterwards by another officer.
Robert Tyler, general counsel with Advocates for Faith & Freedom, argues the men were simply sharing their faith on public property – something they have a constitutional right to do.
"It will be an important case as unfortunately it reflects upon the increasing discrimination that Christians are facing to the extent, even in some cases, of persecution for engaging in their faith – and that would include witnessing and sharing the gospel,” the attorney explains.
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The three men were subsequently released, and AFF filed a lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol after the arrests. The trial is expected to last for a few days.