Gideons handing out Bibles on public sidewalk arrested after school officials complain.
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
Two men who are members of Gideons International, the Christian organization that is famous for, among other ministries, placing Bibles in motels and giving them to children, have been arrested after trying to hand out Bibles on a public sidewalk in Florida, according to a law firm.
Officials with the Alliance Defense Fund have confirmed they will be representing Anthony Mirto and Ernest Simpson, who were arrested, booked into jail and charged with trespassing.
Jeremy Tedesco, one of the ADF's lawyers on the case, confirmed to WND that the organization's clients were on a public sidewalk when they were handing out Bibles and school officials summoned police.
Yes, it reads public sidewalk and yes, it reads school officials. I hope you'll also notice that it doesn't say anything about sex offenders, child molesters or military funerals.
"The First Amendment protects the right to engage in religious speech on a public sidewalk," ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Cortman said. "Members of the Gideons have been highly respected for decades as peaceful providers of free Bibles to those who want them."
The arrest happened Jan. 19, when Mirto and Simpson were on the sidewalk outside of Key Largo School in Key Largo, Fla., and were distributing copies of the Bible to those interested.
"Neither man entered school grounds," the law firm said. "After the school's principal called police, a Monroe County sheriff's officer asked the men to leave immediately or face trespassing charges. As the men prepared to leave, the officer decided to arrest both individuals."
A hearing is scheduled March 5 in Monroe County Court in the cases, and ADF attorneys are preparing motions to dismiss the charges.
"Officials cannot use fear of arrest as a means of bullying law-abiding Christians into silence," Cortman said. "These men broke no laws when they decided to communicate their message on a public sidewalk."
Tedesco noted that sometimes school officials have a misconception about whether they can control activities on school grounds and adjacent public sidewalks. But the First Amendment does provide a protection for speech on those parcels of ground that are public, he said.
Lets see... public schools, public grounds, public sidewalks, public officials and public law enforcement.
"There's no reason why they should be put in jail," he said.
The ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the truth, through strategy, training, funding and litigation.
The Gideons, a group founded in the late 1800s, has as its "sole purpose" the goal "to win men, women, boys and girls to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through association for service, personal testimony, and distributing the Bible in the human traffic lanes and streams of everyday life."
Members of the Gideons, who pay their own expenses so 100 percent of the donations to the group go toward Bible purchases and distributions, have placed the Bible in 181 nations in 82 different languages over the years.
The organization focuses on hotels and motels, hospitals and nursing homes, schools, colleges and universities, the military and law enforcement and prisons and jails.
"The demand for Scriptures in these areas far exceeds our supplies that we are able to purchase through our donations. Much more could be done – if funds were available. However, we are placing and distributing more than 1 million copies of the Word of God, at no cost, every seven days in these areas" the group said.
The organization only gives away the Bibles with the Gideon logo on the covers, but plain Bibles are available for consumers to purchase at its distribution center at P.O. Box 140800, Nashville, Tenn., 37214-0800. Information about the products is available on the group's website.
The Gideons serve as an extended missionary arm of the Christian church and are the oldest Christian business and professional men's association in the United States.
Great! Get those laws keeping sex offenders away from our school kids and daycares overturned. Get those laws that permit our loved ones to grieve and honor our dead in peace, overturned.
But get them Christians, handing out Bibles, in jail. Got to protect the kids and...
Did they legalize drugs in Florida or are they putting something in the water? The Dixie County Ten Commandments issue, immigration raids in Miami, and now this.
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