Now you see me . . . Wisconsin City Tries to Make First Amendment Disappear
- By Alliance Defending Freedom
- Posted Sep 20, 2013
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By Jon Scrruggs
Everyone enjoys a good magic trick. Pulling a rabbit out of a hat. A card trick. Finding a coin behind someone’s ear. But this past Labor Day Weekend, Greenfield (WI) tried a trick that even David Copperfield wouldn’t dare. Greenfield tried to make the First Amendment disappear on its public streets.
But this trick was not entertaining to Pastor Dan Lawrence and his church. You see, Dan’s church has a “biker ministry” where Dan and his friends go to biker festivals to distribute Bibles and talk about the Gospel. On August 28, they tried to do this very thing at a Harley-Davidson festival. Although this festival was on a public street and was free and open to the public, Greenfield police officers quickly stopped Dan and his friends from distributing Bibles because, according to the officers, the public street had become “private property” owned by the festival organizers. Therefore, Dan and his friends were trespassing.
And here’s the trick. Greenfield tried to snap their fingers and turn a public street into private property, thereby abolishing the First Amendment on this public street. But the First Amendment is not as easily manipulated as a card in magic trick. The First Amendment does not allow the government to declare a public street off limits to Bible distribution merely by saying so. Because the festival remained free and open to the public, the public streets in the festival remained just that–public streets where citizens could robustly exercise their First Amendment freedoms.
Thankfully, Pastor Lawrence was not distracted by Greenfield’s sleight of hand. He knew his First Amendment rights and strongly desired to achieve the Church’s mission: to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples. So Dan quickly contacted Alliance Defending Freedom, and Alliance Defending Freedom immediately sent a letter to Greenfield officials on August 29, demanding that Lawrence be allowed to distribute Bibles in the festival. Seeing the overwhelming legal proof cited in this letter, the Greenfield Police Chief responded to this letter the very next day and acknowledged that Dan would be allowed to distribute Bibles at the rest of the festival. Seizing this opportunity, Dan and his friends went out and distributed Bibles to many people at the festival the rest of Labor Day Weekend. Thus, in the span of 48 hours, the door was shut and then pried open for the proclamation of the Word in Greenfield.
And this result did not occur because of smoke and mirrors. It occurred because of Pastor Lawrence’s commitment to preaching the Word and because of Alliance Defending Freedom’s commitment to keeping the door open for the spread of the Gospel. Most importantly, it occurred because of God’s commitment to his church–to see that His church accomplishes His mission to the world through the proclamation and magnification of the riches of Christ.
Author: Alliance Defending Freedom