PHILADELPHIA (BP)–In a victory for pro-family demonstrators, a Philadelphia judge Feb. 17 dismissed all criminal charges against four Christians who had protested a homosexual-themed event last October.
The protesters for Repent American had been arrested during Outfest, a public celebration of homosexuality held annually in Philadelphia. The protesters were charged with eight crimes, including ethnic intimidation.
The case received national attention, particularly when videos of the event surfaced that apparently showed the protesters doing nothing wrong. Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe watched the videos and agreed with Repent America’s lawyers.
Noting the protections the First Amendment provides, Dembe said, “We cannot stifle speech because we don’t want to hear it, or we don’t want to hear it now,” the Associated Press reported.
Lawyers for the protesters applauded the judge’s move. Alliance Defense Fund-allied attorneys represented the group.
“The judge saw this case for what it is,” ADF attorney Joe Infranco said in a statement. “This was the right response to an outrageous abuse of power to silence speech that some people didn’t like.
“What took place here was a government crackdown on disfavored speech. The Outfest participants staged a national coming-out day on a public street using public funds, and then they tried to say it’s a private event. That didn’t make any sense, and neither did the actions of the police who arrested our clients.”
In addition to ethic intimidation the protesters were charged with rioting, criminal conspiracy, reckless endangerment, possessing an instrument of crime, highway obstruction, failure to disperse and disorderly conduct.
The protesters carried Bibles, a bullhorn and signs. One of the prominent signs read: “Homosexuality Is Sin, Christ Can Set You Free.”
Originally, 11 Repent America protesters were arrested. But charges against all but five of them were soon dropped. Charges against one of the protesters, Lauren Murch, still stand. She will appear in juvenile court Feb. 18, according to Repent America’s website.
With reporting by Kelly Boggs.