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L. Neil Smith's
Number 475, July 6, 2008

"What was left to celebrate?"

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When They Came for the Philadelphia Christians
by Doug Newman

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Tyranny is a lot like cancer. Early detection is a great thing.Stopping cancer and tyranny in the early stages can prevent a world of hurt, pain and death down the road.

In America, we enjoy a measure of freedom. However, we are not nearly as free as we think we are. Our liberty is under assault from multiple directions every day. This assault is not being waged by some dorko in a cave in Afghanistan and his scary brown minions. Rather, it is being waged by our own government. Already, "the land of the free" has the world's highest incarceration rate. There is so much creeping tyranny and so little time to address it all. And millions of Americans are in total denial.

On October 6, 2007, Michael Marcavage, who heads up a group called Repent America (RA), was arrested right in front of the Liberty Bell Center in downtown Philadelphia while preaching. Park Ranger Alan Saperstein approached Marcavage and asked him if he had a permit. Marcavage replied that, under the First Amendment, no such permit was required. Saperstein then issued Marcavage a "verbal permit" and demanded that he relocate to a "free speech zone" some distance away. Marcavage continued to preach and was led away in handcuffs.

Watch the YouTube video of the arrest right here.

The following is from the RA press release detailing Marcavage's arrest and conviction.

"Under the direction of Ian Crane, chief ranger of Independence National Historical Park, supervising ranger Alan Saperstein repeatedly approached Marcavage to demand that he and the ministry team move to a 'free speech zone' on the other side of the Liberty Bell Center, which was nowhere near those entering or exiting. Adding insult to absurdity, Saperstein stated that in the future that RA would need to obtain a written permit to even speak in the 'free speech zone,' but given a 'verbal permit' to go there for the day, which Marcavage refused, citing that constitutional protections were sufficient. When it became apparent that Marcavage was not going to yield to the unconstitutional demands, Saperstein arrested Marcavage and ordered the other members of the ministry team off the public sidewalks. Ironically, Marcavage was then physically escorted into the Liberty Bell Center for questioning and charged with violating the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, § 1.6 Permits (g)(2), which states that he violated the terms and conditions of a 'verbal permit'—a permit that Marcavage never accepted, nor is such a permit even listed under the regulations. Subsequently, Marcavage was issued a citation nearly six months later by certified mail concerning the same matter for violating the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 36, § 2.32 (g)(1) + (2), which states that he was 'interfering with agency functions' by preaching and ministering to people on the public sidewalk.

"On June 13, 2008, Judge Rapoport found Michael Marcavage 'guilty' on both charges under the Code of Federal Regulations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Goldberg argued that Marcavage's defense was 'propaganda' and that he was a 'clear and present danger' and asked the judge to send a message not only to Marcavage, but to anyone who would dare stand on public property and share their beliefs without government permission. In response, Judge Rapoport fined Marcavage $445, including costs, and placed him on probation for one year, which restricts his travel to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and bars him from entering the park or being on the public sidewalks surrounding the park for any reason without first notifying park authorities. He also cannot return to engage in free speech activities without first obtaining a permit, and only then in the designated 'free speech zone'. Directly following the trial, Marcavage was escorted by U.S. Marshals to be booked for his 'crimes'.

A German proverb states that "Freedom dies in little pieces." When someone else's liberty is attacked, your liberty is placed at risk. I recently did a mass e-mailing urging people to oppose the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine. You don't have to agree with Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. I certainly don't. You just have to realize that the same First Amendment that protects them protects you and me.

And if Uncle Sam can get away with violating Michael Marcavage's God-given and constitutionally protected rights, then he can get away with violating anyone's rights anywhere. And it isn't just the rights of evangelical Christians. The "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment protects the rights of Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Shintoists, New Agers and believers in Mungabunga. It protects atheists too.

The Old Testament prophet Daniel was thrown into the lion's den for defying the decree of King Darius against praying to any god other than King Darius—Daniel 6. I once heard someone say that way too many contemporary preachers would respond such a decree by saying things like "you can still pray in your heart" or "it is only for 30 days." Indeed, the Bible is full of civil disobedience.

Daniel knew what so many contemporary Christians refuse to acknowledge: when you give your government an inch, they take a mile.

America is not Nazi Germany. At least not yet. However, millions of people are in total denial about their vanishing liberty. The case of Michael Marcavage is not an isolated incident. Indeed, in 2004 RA activists were threatened with 47 years in prison under a "hate crimes"statute for publicly preaching against homosexuality.

There is a big fat lie going around nowadays about how Romans 13 commands blind obedience to secular authority. NO IT DOES NOT! (1) This is America. Power does not lie in Washington or Harrisburg or in the whims of every petty functionary sporting a badge and leeching off of your and my tax dollars. The "supreme Law of the Land" is the Constitution. Under our Constitution power resides in "We the People." As John Marshall wrote in Marbury v. Madison, "All laws repugnant to the Constitution are void of law."

Actually, America has two constitutions. One was ratified in Philadelphia in 1787. The other resides in the hearts and minds of the people. And if "We the People" are nonchalant about our liberty, our written Constitution becomes just a piece of paper.

We can either act now in defense of Michael Marcavage when the cost is quite minimal. (2) Or we can act later when the stakes will be much higher. Marcavage is appealing the discrict court's decision.

Always remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller: "When the Nazis came for the communists, I did not speak out because I was not a communist. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak out because I was a not a Catholic. When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out because I was a not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me."

Are you going to remain silent because they are coming for the Christians and you are not a Christian? Are you going to remain silent because Michael Marcavage is a Philadelphia Christian and you are, say, a Colorado Christian? I hope not.


(1) Paul, who wrote Romans 13, was an incorrigible jail bird. In fact, his letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon were written in Roman jails.

(2) Contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives and ask them to be a voice against this injustice and the ban on freedom of religion and speech on the public sidewalks at Independence National Historical Park. You may do so at Also, forward this to your family and friends so that they can do the same.

If you would like to post this, please e-mail me and include >this URL.

Posted also at Freedom4um.


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