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NC Police Claim Christian Carrying Cross Violates "Dangerous Weapons"" Law

Thanks to Christian News Network for covering this story:

Cross-Boyds1

MORGANTON, North Carolina – A Christian evangelist witnessing at a public festival in North Carolina this past weekend was forced to put away a wooden cross that he was holding as police asserted that it could be considered a “dangerous weapon.”

Brothers Jesse and Matthew Boyd, along with friend Kent Blalock, attended the 32nd annual Historic Morganton Festival on Saturday to open-air preach, distribute Gospel literature and hold Scripture-based signs as a witness to attendees. Matthew carried a small 3-pound wooden cross that bears the question “Are You Ready?” and folds away when not in use.

The men state that even before they attended the event, they became aware that there could be problems in light of the festival rules, which barred free speech activity on the streets. In turn, Jesse contacted City Attorney Louis Vinay to express concern, sending him a compilation of relevant case law that protected free speech activity at public events.

Most notably, the evangelists–and anyone else who wished to engage in free speech–would have been required to stand in a “free speech zone,” which was located two blocks outside of the event and away from the crowds.

The free speech zone established for the festival.

The free speech zone established for the festival.

“We saw these rules being promulgated online, and they were clearly egregious and unconstitutional violations of free speech, so we did everything in our power to alert the authorities about our position on the matter,” Jesse told Christian News Network. “I believe that if we had just gone in there without raising concerns ahead of time, they would have tried to stop us, and perhaps arrest us.”

However, when the men arrived at the festival, they soon learned that organizers and police had a problem with more than just the evangelists’ presence inside the event. Approximately 30 minutes after setting up at a busy public intersection, the Boyds and Blalock were approached by the festival organizer, who said that it was against the rules for the Christians to hold signs and distribute tracts within the festival.

“It was just very politely stated to her that we were not going to stop, and that the rules did not supersede our rights as American citizens under the Constitution,” Matthew explained. “We’re on a public street; you can’t just make [your own] rules.”

weapons

The organizer then convened with police, and after a while, she approached the evangelists with a man that identified as the chief of police.

“The chief then focused in on the cross, saying that it was a violation of the [city's] sign ordinance, and we just kind of went back and forth, … [explaining that] the language of the ordinance did not apply here,” Matthew recalled, as Jesse noted that the law pertained to poles and other objects used to hoist signs that could be sharp or injurious.

However, what the chief contended next shocked and baffled the men.

“He kept referring to [the cross] as a dangerous weapon,” Matthew said, “or a possible dangerous weapon.”

“I responded to the chief and said, ‘To be honest with you chief, you’re right,’” Jesse recalled. “The cross, spiritually speaking, is a deadly weapon in terms of of the sin nature and the devils who want to overthrow Christ and his reign. So, yes, it is a deadly weapon.”

But he also told the chief that his assertion was absurd in a practical sense.

“I said to the chief, ‘Sir, you know we’re out here peacefully. Our entire approach is peaceful, and just because something could be used as a deadly weapon doesn’t mean it is,’” Jesse explained. “I said, ‘That walkie-talkie attached to your shirt could be a deadly weapon if you swung it and hit somebody in the head with it.’”

The evangelists stated that they were also perplexed as to why they were being targeted when numerous attendees–including children–were walking around with wooden Samurai swords that were being sold by a vendor.

“We train with these at my Aikido club, and they are deadly weapons,” Jesse noted. “There were people with light sabers and plastic swords and all kinds of things that could have been a deadly weapon, and yet the police chose to zero in on this ‘Are You Ready’ cross.”

As the evangelists continued to disagree with the application of the statute, the officers convened for approximately a half an hour to discuss the matter. During this time, the festival organizer again approached the Boyds and Blalock to advise that the evangelists could either put their tracts and signs away and only speak to people, go to the free speech zone to conduct their activities, or leave the event altogether.

“And Kent made the statement to her that we’re not putting our signs up and we’re going to continue to hand out tracts, and we’re not going to follow your suggestions,” Matthew stated. “And that’s when the major came up with the chief and said that the cross had to go. He said, ‘This is your last chance.’”

At this point, the men then agreed to put the cross away and continue with their other evangelistic activities, but commented how they believed it was foolish for police to exert their efforts on a wooden cross being held by Christian missionaries.

“[There were] people who were clearly drunk, and the officers are focusing an hour or more of their time convening, trying to figure out what they’re going to do with some street preachers,” Matthew said. “To me, it’s just absurd.”

“This was just a classic case of [police] trying to appease some festival organizers who chose to zero in on the preachers and ignore all the other violations of their rules,” Jesse stated.

In the end, the evangelists said that God used their time at the festival, as a group of girls soon approached after witnessing the situation and joined the men in handing out Gospel tracts. Another attendee who had planned on attending a country music concert at the festival also fell under conviction, and likewise joined the evangelists in distributing tracts to the masses.

“That’s what it’s about,” Matthew said.

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2 Responses to “NC Police Claim Christian Carrying Cross Violates "Dangerous Weapons"" Law”

  1. Richard #

    Kudos to these brave souls for sticking up for Christ. Those that live in the darkness are hate the light. Jesus nailed it in John 15.

    18“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’b If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ – John 15:18

    September 12, 2013 at 3:32 AM Reply
  2. Rose Vosburgh #

    What if a couple of gays had been standing on the street at the same festival with a big sign advocating their perverted lifestyle…would they have been hassled by police, too? Would their sign have been considered a dangerous weapon? Would they have been told to go to the ridiculous 'free speech zone' blocks away from the festival where noone could see or hear them? The answer I am certain is no. In fact, no police officer would have even batted an eye lash at them.

    But Christians…holding a big sign that says "REPENT" and a cross with the words, "ARE YOU READY?" …that was really offensive to these festival people…they went right off their groud over it. They just had to get the police involved to do something in hopes of intimidating the offensive Christians to make them GO AWAY. What we have come to in America…and in the so-called 'Bible Belt' no less? God bless these brave souls for being out there to share the gospel and for standing up for their rights as American citizens.

    September 12, 2013 at 3:46 PM Reply

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