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FIRST-PERSON: The effort to ‘shut up’ Christians

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“We will shut you up,” she muttered under her breath.

“Excuse me?” I replied. “Did you say something to me?”

She glared as she answered. “One day we will absolutely shut you right-wing Christians up.”

The exchange above took place approximately four years ago. It occurred at a Portland, Ore., high school following a debate over the promotion of homosexuality in public education.

I felt I had done well in maintaining the position that homosexual practices are aberrant and unhealthy and should not be promoted at any level of public education. My opponent seemed to agree with my assessment of the debate. However, rather than focus on honing her argument, her solution to victory in future debates would rest in the silencing of her opposition.

As I left the debate that day, I realized that among homosexual activists there existed an element that fervently desired to outlaw any and all opposition to their lifestyle. If they could make it illegal to speak out against homosexuality, they would.

Fast forward to October of last year. According to news reports, 11 Christians associated with Repent America were preaching and singing at Philadelphia’s Outfest, a homosexual street event that had an estimated 30,000 in attendance.

Soon after the Christians began, they were surrounded by a homosexual group known as the Pink Angels. The group held up signs, shouted, blew whistles, and blocked the Christians. Police arrested only the Christians, who spent 21 hours in jail before being released.

Currently, five of the 11 Christians are being charged with seven crimes. If convicted, they face up to 47 years in prison. It should also be noted that one of the 5 is a 17 year-old girl.

According to World Net Daily, the charges pending against the “Philadelphia 5” are:

— Possession of instruments of crime.

There was no mention in any news reports of the Christians possessing any signs. So, what were the criminal instruments? Bibles?

— Reckless endangerment of another person. From the reports I have read, the Christians were significantly outnumbered. I have trouble believing that any Pink Angles were ever endangered.

— Ethnic intimidation. I will not even address the absurdity of considering homosexual behavior on par with ethnicity. However, is it possible for five unarmed people to intimidate a crowd of 30,000?

— Rioting. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, rioting is defined as: “An unlawful disturbance of the peace by an assembly of usually three or more persons acting with a common purpose in a violent or tumultuous manner that threatens or terrorizes the public.”

Well, five are more than three, but violent and terrorizing behavior was never indicated in any report I’ve read.

— Failure to disperse.

If officers ordered the five to move on and they did not, there might be merit to this charge. However, officers must have a legitimate reason in ordering people to disperse. They cannot arbitrarily harass citizens who are not breaking the law.

— Disorderly conduct. Black’s Law Dictionary defines this charge as, “Behavior that tends to disturb the public peace, offend public morals, or undermine public safety.”

I wonder if any “gay pride parade” participants have ever been cited for disorderly conduct?

— Obstructing a highway.

This really seems to be a stretch.

According to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the alleged violations of the law took place in 15 minutes. That’s right, five unarmed Christians preaching and singing threatened to wreak havoc on a gathering of 30,000 in a quarter of an hour. If you believe that, I have some stock in a company that produces 8-track tapes I would like to sell you.

I have been a part of, and have observed, Christian gatherings that have been protested by various groups. I have seen insulting signs and heard derogatory slurs. Never once have I thought, “These people should be arrested. They should be shut up.”

You may disagree with the tactics of the 11 Christians in Philadelphia, but they have a right to express themselves in public. In America, if you do not threaten violence and you keep your clothes on -– San Francisco being the exception to the clothing rule — you can say almost anything in public. There is an element within the homosexual community that desperately wants to restrict the First Amendment rights of those opposed to their lifestyle. That element is hard at work in Philadelphia, seeking to punish Christians for daring to take a public stand against homosexual behavior.

It was four years ago that I was told by a homosexual activist, “We will shut you up.” In Philadelphia, the effort has begun in earnest.
Kelly Boggs is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore. His column appears each Friday in Baptist Press.

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