On October 10, 2004, eleven Christians with Repent America, now known as the Philadelphia Eleven, were arrested and jailed for ministering at the annual taxpayer-funded celebration of homosexuality called “OutFest”. Charged with hate crimes and a host of other charges, the eleven faced up to 47 years in prison and $90,000 fines each. After Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe dismissed the case as having no merit, the Philadelphia Eleven filed a federal lawsuit against the City of
On January 19, 2007, United States District Court Judge Lawrence F. Stengel sided with the defendants in his summary judgment, claiming the police were permitted to discriminate against the Christians because of safety concerns and the securement of a permit by Philly Pride. Although Stengel agreed that “OutFest 2004” did take place in a “public forum” and “was a public place,” he failed to conclude that the Philadelphia Eleven’s civil rights were violated.
“Judge Stengel’s ruling in this case is a tremendous step backwards in the fight for freedom. The unconstitutional positions contained in his written opinion will be used as a precedent to eliminate the First Amendment rights of others by citing that police and event organizers can use a ‘permitting scheme’ to ‘exclude persons expressing contrary messages’ in public areas and at public events,” stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage. “Judge Stengel did not follow the law, and therefore, his opinion should simply be rejected. As always, police should uphold the federal and state Constitutions by protecting the rights of the people to freely speak in public,” Marcavage continued. The Stengel decision is now on appeal.
Although Repent America was present at “OutFest” in 2005 and 2006, this will be the first time they will be returning since Judge Stengel’s decision. Earlier this month, attorneys for RA sent a letter to Philadelphia City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz, Jr. requesting assurance that the ministry team would be free to move throughout the public streets during this year’s “OutFest.” Mr. Diaz, an open homosexual himself, stated that the Philadelphia Police Department’s Civil Affairs Unit would be on hand at the event, and they would “rely on the police professionals on location at the time of the event to use their best professional judgment to ensure that the rights of all persons are protected.” The same “police professionals” that arrested and jailed the Philadelphia Eleven? The same “police professionals” that as recent as June 10, 2007 responded to RA’s witnessing efforts by having officers lineup to deny the ministry team access to the public streets at another homosexual event? Very little reassurance can be gained from behavior that is scarily reminiscent of police actions during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.
In spite of resistance from so many, Repent America will continue with its mission. Marcavage states, "Ours is not a message of hate as the government would have you believe. We are motivated by the love of God to warn sinners of the judgment to come and to speak the truth of God’s Word regardless of the consequences. There is freedom from sin through Jesus Christ, and this is the hope for those ensnared in the homosexual lifestyle, but they, like any other sinner, must repent and believe the Gospel before it’s too late.”
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:19-20)