Recent Court Cases Approve Public Witnessing
A couple of obscure cases were decided in court recently providing precedents for soul winning protection in public places. One case involved a group of "Christian Evangelists" who confronted a Muslim festival in Dearborn, Michigan in 2012. Their approach involved abusive signs and a pig's head. Of course, the response quickly turned violent requiring police intervention. (Searching "Dearborn" on the Chick.com website brings up other BATTLE CRY articles posted at the time.)
Instead of providing protection from the rioters, police escorted the Christians from the scene. They sued, and after several appeals, the full 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found in their favor and awarded them damages for violation of their First Amendment rights.
As described in a July 2012 BATTLE CRY article, soul winner Tim Berends infiltrated the same festival quietly wearing an "I ♥ Muslims" T-shirt, and offering everyone a Chick Tract. Moving gently through the crowds of the three-day festival, he salted in 4,000 copies of the tract, Unforgiven, with no hassle. Media pictures show a smiling woman wearing a Muslim head scarf accepting a tract graciously offered by Tim.
The "wise as serpent, harmless as a dove" approach seems to work the best. Nevertheless, the court case won by the other group is important for all of us. It again illustrates the strength of the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of speech and religion in public places.
The other recent case involved church signs in the little town of Gilbert, Arizona. Pastor Clyde Reed was using small yard signs along a thoroughfare to direct people to his Sunday meetings. He placed them the night before and retrieved them after service the next day.
City fathers mandated that the signs not be up that long and threatened a fine. Other political and commercial signs were allowed. Reed asked for legal help from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who won the case, again on Constitutional grounds. Such cases don’t make front page headlines, but are huge for soul winners. They set legal precedents that can be used in future cases where overly zealous officials attempt to limit our right to witnessing in public places.
Many church leaders today are disparaging street evangelism, pointing to confrontive techniques used by some groups as discrediting the gospel. For some, the shock effect is necessary to divert them from hell. Others respond to the gentler approach. In any case, engaging gospel tracts extend the witness far beyond the event, carried home to quietly urge response when the heart becomes receptive.