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'Philly 4' Case Hits Prime Time with O'Reilly

by Ed Thomas and Jody Brown
January 4, 2005

(AgapePress) - The right of Christians to assemble and preach the gospel in public is under examination in Philadelphia. Four of the eleven Christians who preached at the "gay pride" event "Outfest" in early October -- all of whom were arrested -- are now facing prison time of up to 47 years.

The "Philadelphia Four", as they have come to known, are facing felony charges -- and are accused of using "fighting words" -- for preaching against homosexuality. Video footage of the group's appearance at the pro-homosexual event shows Christian activist Michael Marcavage, founder of the Philly-based group Repent America, with a bullhorn attempting to sing and speak the gospel. He is accompanied by several other Christians.

The video also shows the "Pink Angels," a group of homosexual activists, using 10-foot tall Styrofoam boards, surrounding the Christians as they blocked the group's signs, impeded their movement, and prevented people from seeing them. None of the homosexual activists was arrested, cited, or warned for their actions.

Speaking on the Fox New program O'Reilly Factor on Monday night (January 3), an attorney for the four Christian activists said one of the issues in the case is an abuse of power by authorities in the City of Brotherly Love.

Brian Fahling
"Now, when you speak in the public square -- at least in Philadelphia -- you will be sent to prison, if they have anything to say about it," said Brian Fahling, an attorney with the American Family Association's Center for Law & Policy. "That's frightening, that's chilling -- and every American ought to be astonished, stunned, and outraged that this is happening in Philadelphia."

Fahling said all his clients were doing was "peacefully evangelizing" -- and that they were doing "what every evangelist does -- and that's bring the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who don't know Christ. There's no crime in that." His group calls the incident "the clearest example of anti-Christian bigotry by city officials in the last century."

Also appearing on the Fox News segment was Outfest legal advisor Charles Volz. The felony charges of criminal conspiracy, ethnic intimidation, and inciting a riot seemed to be echoed in his accusations of the 11 Christian activists who were originally arrested.

"I think we've got to draw a line between where is freedom of speech and where is it 'fighting words,'" Volz said.

The AFA attorney implied much is at stake in the case. "Forty-seven years in prison for preaching the gospel?" he asked. "This is a historic case. This is the natural evolution of the systematic removal of the symbols of Christianity from the public square."

According to Volz, the eleven Christians were arrested in October not for preaching the gospel, but for refusing to abide by the rules established by local law enforcement authorities. He stated he did not expect the maximum sentence to be handed down. "They might get six to twelve months probation," he said. "Nobody's going to jail for 47 years."

Fahling says his group is planning to ask for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into the case.

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