In February 2011, three Christian men from Hemet, California, went to the local DMV. They stood about 50 feet from the door to the business and, while people waited in line for the DMV to open, one of the men read aloud from the Bible.
Within about 30-40 minutes, a CHP officer arrived, grabbed the Bible from the hands of the Christian reading, and arrested him, saying, “You can preach on your OWN property.” The other two men asked the officer, “What law was he breaking?”…but the policeman could not give an answer. While they were still trying to figure out why an arrest had occurred, another CHP officer arrived and arrested the other two as well.
Later, the CHP decided that the charge against these men was “impeding an open business”. However, the DMV was not open at the time they were there AND they were standing far away from the entrance.
Advocates intervened in this case to protect the freedom of speech that these men are guaranteed by our Constitution, as well as to recognize the false arrests that they endured. We stood in defense of our clients' freedom of speech and filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court against the CHP for an unlawful arrest. The CHP then filed a Motion to Dismiss in response to our lawsuit, after which we filed a brief in opposition to their motion. We anticipate that the judge will decide on the CHP’s motion very soon.
The three men are now being criminally prosecuted for not having a permit. We believe the charges are unfounded because no permit is clearly required by state law. Interestingly, the criminal charges were not filed until after we initiated the federal lawsuit.
We are praying for favor from the court and that the judge will see the validity of the arguments we presented in our written brief.
We appreciate your support and encouragement in this important case. Not everyone will agree with the approach or the type of outreach these men performed, but we should all recognize their Constitutional right to read from the Bible out loud in public. If this is not protected speech, then the Free Speech Clause would be of little value.
If you would like to see the whole story as it actually played out, you can watch a video of the arrest here.