Update on Hemet DMV Bible Reading Arrest & Two Important Pro-Life Bills

Advocates for Faith & Freedom has filed a legal brief in support of religious freedom before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Mark Mackey, the Riverside man who was preaching the gospel when he was arrested outside the Hemet DMV for what a CHP officer deemed “interfering with an open business through obstruction or intimidation.” Last year, though, a Superior Court judge absolved Mackey of the crime saying that the street preacher did not violate the law. During the course of the criminal trial, the judge also suggested that the law used by the CHP officer was unconstitutional.

Mackey and two other men were reading the Bible outside the DMV when Officer Darren Meyer accused them of preaching to a “captive audience.” The officer hemet-screengrab2-39later amended the allegations, citing them instead for intimidation. At the time the men were approached by the officer, however, the DMV office was closed and the men were standing 50 feet from the entrance as citizens waited outside the door. The men never approached the crowd. After insisting that they were exercising their constitutional rights, the officer arrested Mark Mackey and Brett Coronado.

The federal suit—stayed while the criminal case played out in state court—alleges that there was no probable cause to arrest Mackey and that his First Amendment rights were violated. Even though our client has been criminally cleared, we are seeking a federal remedy to further clear his name and to protect other individuals who seek to peacefully express their faith. The federal district court found that the CHP officer did have probable cause. We will keep you apprised as this Ninth Circuit Appeal advances.

In addition to our legal cases, Advocates is also carefully monitoring two important pro-life issues that are making their way through the state Legislature. The first, Assembly Bill 775, is dubbed the “bully bill” because it compels operators of Pregnancy Care Clinics to promote free and low-cost abortion services in their lobbies, websites, and literature. This is clearly in violation of the operators’ personal and religious briefs. The bill has already passed the Assembly and is waiting for a floor vote in the state Senate at any moment. For contact information for your state Senator click here. To find your state Senator, click here.

Assisted SuicideThe second bill deals with life at the other end of the spectrum and involves a resurrected attempt to legalize physician-assisted suicide statewide. After not having enough votes to get Senate Bill 128—the original assisted suicide bill—out of the Assembly Health Committee earlier this summer, lawmakers decided to bypass the full committee by piggy backing their bill through an “Extraordinary Session” called by Governor Jerry Brown. Extraordinary Sessions are a tool used by governors to deal with pressing issues on a specific topic. In these sessions, the scope of action is limited and the committee rosters are usually much smaller than in the general session.

In this instance, Brown called for the special session to deal with health financing for the poor. Since the deadline to introduce new bills had already expired for the year, proponents seized upon a state law that allows the introduction of new bills if they are related to the topic of Extraordinary Sessions, in this case healthcare financing. In introducing the new bill, ABX2-15, author Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), tried to justify the move by saying assisted suicide would make “healthcare work better” a claim that caused Gov. Brown to call the approach inappropriate.

“This important issue merits careful consideration,” Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the Governor told the San Jose Mercury News. “The process already well underway with the two-year bill, SB 128, is more appropriate than the special session.”

By using this special session, the bill’s sponsors will be able to take advantage of a much smaller Assembly Health Committee, which has been reformed without many of the Democrats who originally opposed the bill. Now is the time to contact your elected officials to voice opposition to the special session tactic and the bill. You can find contact information for your Assembly member here.  To find out who your Assembly representative is, click here.