We have all heard the horror stories of people being harassed and even arrested for witnessing in public places and this tends to make us wary about sharing our faith.
But just knowing some practical information about how the law applies to witnessing can dispel these kinds of unfounded reservations. The Christian Law Association (CLA) has written an excellent book called Witnessing in Modern America. that gives you this kind of practical information.
One section of the book explains that public streets and parks are, "the most protected place for Christian witnessing and literature distribution." Here we find out that the laws governing public streets and parks deal mainly with safety and order. Therefore, with just a little courtesy and common sense you can successfully distribute literature in your town.
When passing out literature remember not to block sidewalks or business entrances. Pick up any literature that is dropped to prevent litter and hand it out again. Do not force literature on people who are obviously not interested.
If someone does want to speak with you about the literature make sure that you move to a spot where you will not be in the way of other people. Work together with a partner for added safety and protection.
If you are going to preach, sing, perform drama or conduct any other crowd gathering activity, check with the local officials so you can comply with their guidelines and obtain a permit if necessary. Remember to chose a place that will not disrupt traffic, school children or hospital patients.
CLA also recommends that if you are "hassled by police or other citizens, be polite, explain your rights, but consider moving to another location rather than causing a confrontation."
It is easy to explain your rights if you take just a little time to inform yourself by reading a book like Witnessing in Modern America. or talk with other people you respect who have experience with witnessing.
Witnessing in Modern America. covers other situations where you might have reservations about witnessing such as shopping malls, airports, post offices, military bases, sports stadiums, the workplace, public schools, jails and prisons, public libraries, your own home, and local neighborhoods. It also gives you a list of the United States Supreme Court decisions that apply to these places.
CLA reminds us that even though religious free speech may be regulated, it may not be entirely prohibited. "If religious citizens were forced to restrict religious activities to their homes and churches, America would sink to the level of the Soviet Union prior to the destruction of the Berlin Wall." As 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Don't be afraid of the unknown. Find a place you want to witness, educate yourself about the laws then use your courtesy and common sense to take your faith to the people around you.
If you would like a copy of the book Witnessing in Modern America. contact the Christian Law Association at P.O. Box 4010, Seminole, Fl., 33775, or call (727) 399-8300.