Having lived in New Orleans a number of years and having spent a lot of time observing Jackson Square, where all the Tarot and Palm readers hang out, I have seen a great many Christian street preachers at work. Many of them are obnoxious and some are positively toxic and flout the law left and right because the “rightness” of their faith has convinced them that they can do no wrong in the service of their god.
On the other hand many are sincere, faith-feeling folk with a great inner love and compassion for their fellow man; whether I agreed with their message or not, such people were never offensive to me. But, other than the few who flouted the law, like the fellow with the megaphone from Radio Shack who already knew it was illegal but used it for over an hour until TOLD by the police not to use it, only then did he comply; and repeated this tactic with another shift of police later in the day! Then there was the man who stood on the steps of the Saint Louise Cathedral during service and preached (to the square, back to the church, I guess this made it ok in his mind) a hellfire and damnation rant that included just about everyone in the square, including the parishioners in the building behind him, as hell-bound sinners in need of his message for their soul’s sake.
The fun thing about freedom of speech though, others were free to answer back! It is not right to disrupt someone’s legal speech, but responding is certainly ok! I answered a few myself when they crossed the line. I went toe to toe with the megaphone man and with greater volume (thank you theater training) gave him hell for not having enough passion in Christ to preach the message with his own lungs, relying on devil spawned technology to shove his words into unwilling ears. Yes Virginia, I can have an attitude, but I always have fun! I have also stood BETWEEN an obnoxious but legal preacher and a bunch of immature Pagan types who wanted to mess with him in ways that were more obnoxious than what he had done himself… Hypocrisy is never fun to watch and the Square was my professional home and I defended it.
The thing is though, this was all verbal, in 8 years I never saw anyone who wasn’t obviously mentally disturbed or blind drunk every try, note I said try not succeed, in initiating violence or mob intimidation tactics. The video that follows shows something very different from anything I ever witnessed, regardless of the religion of the preacher or the crowd.
I would want to talk to a lawyer but, I do believe that the actions of the crowd, and its instigator/leaders, can be seen as an active, spontaneous, conspiracy to deny the preacher his civil rights! Recast the scene with a black man preaching to white townsfolk about joining his church in 1945 Alabama and it would appear a heinous violation of the preacher’s identity as a human being by a hateful, bigoted mob. The man even appears Arab, but, for daring to preach any “gospel” but theirs he is all but set upon and the mob is allowed to intimidate the man to leave a public space where he has been exercising his rights… If this video is not a bit Orwellian to you, then Virginia, you just have not been paying attention.
Act 17 Apologetics is, in my opinion a bit aggressive but, they come nowhere near crossing the line on first amendment rights to share religious “opinion” in the public square, as such they are to be defended in their rights as vehemently as any co-religionist of ALL Americans!