Christians' Lawsuit Alleges Philadelphia Officials Conspired Against Them
By Allie Martin
October 19, 2005
(AgapePress) - A lawsuit has been filed against the city of Philadelphia on behalf of 11 Christians who were arrested when they tried to preach on a public street during a homosexual pride event.
Last October, 11 members of the group Repent America took to the streets during "Outfest," a homosexual event held on the streets of Philadelphia. Shortly after they arrived at the event, police arrested all of them, charging them with three felonies and five misdemeanors. Eventually all charges were dropped after a judge reviewed videotape of the event and said members of Repent America did nothing wrong.
Ted Hoppe is an attorney for the Christians who were arrested, who are also known as the "Philadelphia 11." Hoppe says police officials and organizers of the pro-homosexual gala were engaged in a conspiracy.
The attorney explains he has obtained "quotes from Chief [Inspector James] Tiano [of the Philadelphia Police Department] and from representatives of Philly Pride that they actually met three or four times in advance of the Outfest event" where discussions included "how they were going to deal with the Repent America members [and] what they were going to do to interfere with this group."
Hoppe explains the rationale behind the suit filed by his clients against the City of Brotherly Love.
"It was one thing to get the criminal charges [that were filed in October] dismissed," he says. "But what we need here -- and the reason why the civil suit is important -- is because part of what's being sought here is an affirmative finding by the court that what the city of Philadelphia did was wrong -- that their actions were illegal, and that they illegally violated our clients' constitutional rights."
The attorney is hopeful that the lawsuit, if successful, will make it clear that those who do not agree with Repent America's message do not have the right to interfere with the group's constitutionally protected rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. "The city's action at the Outfest event demonstrated a clear hostility toward Repent America and the content of their message," says the group's attorney.
Hoppe points out that members of Repent America were harassed by a militant group of homosexuals known as the "Pink Angels" as they tried to preach the gospel on the street. Before the charges against the Repent America members were dropped, they eacg faced up to 47 years in prison and $90,000 in fines.
Allie Martin, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.
Vice Chairman of Voter Education