Saturday, Dec. 18, 2004 Posted: 2:53:07PM EST
On Tuesday, the Philadelphia federal appeals court denied an emergency appeal to halt prosecution of 11 Christians. While charges were dropped against 7 of the participants, four of the Christians are facing trial where they could receive up to 47 years in prison.
On October 10, eleven Christians with Repent America were arrested during the annual “Outfest”, a gay pride event held in Philadelphia. The Christians were singing, praying, and reading passages from the Bible.
Efforts to block their prosecution were denied last week by U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker. At a preliminary hearing on December 14, an emergency appeal to block the prosecutions was also denied.
Municipal Court Judge William Austin Meehan ruled that four of the Christians will face felony and misdemeanor charges, for preaching what the prosecutor Charles Ehrlich calls “hate speech” from the Bible. Charges against the other seven individuals were dropped because they were not seen participating in reading scripture.
Video footage of the incident shows that the Christians cooperated with the police, while a group called the Pink Angels, a gay pride group, continually harassed them to stop their preaching.
Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy and attorney for the Christians, says that the last option will be an appeal to the Supreme Court to stop the prosecution.
Said Fahling of the recent rulings, “First, symbols of Christianity are removed from the public square, now, Christians are facing years in prison because they preached the gospel in the public square. Stalin would be proud.”