First, it was the Christians snickering about that guy on the street awkwardly challenging passersby with his turn-or-burn sign. Now, those who still have the courage to continue what we call “street ministry” are coming under a new kind of pressure.
Matthew Meinecke, who calls himself the “Seattle Preacher” on Twitter, found himself recently surrounded by Seattle police officers as he was reading his Bible aloud in the Seattle Center. Details are sketchy, but he has videos of people grabbing his Bible and ripping pages out of it while abusing him with vulgarities.
One person shouted: “Forget about your imaginary fairy in the (expletive) sky.” The ruckus soon brought security officers who told him:
“So at this point, we can no longer stand by. The risk that you pose for public safety by remaining here can be mitigated if you leave.”
Ultimately, the mob got their way. Meinecke was arrested for being a risk to public safety and fingerprinted at the police station before released.
Increasingly, the bold Christians are denied their free speech rights by these lawless mobs. They are able to create such a disturbance that even the security people fear them and remove the Christian instead.
In Great Britain it is getting even more threatening to Bible believers. One recent arrest of a Christian made international news. It was a lone woman standing quietly across the street from an abortion clinic praying silently.
The posted video shows two police officers approaching and asking if she was praying. She agreed that she might be praying “in her head.” National Review reported that the “police then searched her and patted down her hair, before handcuffing her and escorting her to the station.”
So, what was her offense?
It seems that she had violated a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). This is a new kind of ordinance in the UK that can be applied to limit free speech in a specific geographical area. It allows local authorities to “counter unreasonable and persistent behavior that affects the quality of life of its residents.”
The ordinance fails to specify specific behaviors that violate this law. But some municipalities have used it to combat alcohol use, aggressive solicitations, or public defecation.
In this lady’s case it had been used to draw an area around an abortion clinic where any efforts against the clinic violated the ordinance. Her silent prayer was interpreted by the authorities to be forbidden in that PSPO.
Another recent incident occurred in Minnesota at the Mall of America in Bloomington. One bold Christian dared wear a T-shirt with the statements “Jesus saves” and “Jesus is the only way.” “Jesus is associated with religion and it’s offending people,” he was told by a mall security guard.
The guard then forcefully told him that if he planned to shop at the mall, he had to take the shirt off or leave. After some give and take with the security officer, another officer came and after the guards had a discussion, he was told that he was “good to go” in the mall while wearing the shirt.
This simply shows how fortunate we are in America to have a history of free speech. But it shows by the experiences in other countries that lack that history, we may be in danger of losing it if our culture continues moving in their direction.
While we do have that freedom of speech, we should cherish it and use every opportunity to exercise it. We need to remember that no-nonsense gospel tracts have been a major blessing in bringing the good news of Christ’s redemption to those who have not heard about it.