Last Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, Michael Marcavage and a few others went into the crowded streets to preach the gospel and to warn people against the dangers of witchcraft. Marcavage had a microphone and a small sound system. The city's ordinances clearly state that the use of such equipment is lawful within certain hours for non-commercial purposes. Marcavage met all the statutory requirements to use his sound system. Nearby, some street performers were also using a sound system and without let or hindrance. However, the police moved in to stop the preaching of the gospel. A police Lieutenant, Paul Lemelin, tried to remove the microphone from Marcavage's grasp and failing to do that, physically laid hold of the preacher, wrestled him to the ground, took his microphone and arrested him on a charge of disorderly conduct. The prosecution offered to drop the charge if the arrested preacher agreed to pay $100 court costs. He refused and the case went to trial. It should have been an open and shut case. Marcavage had broken no local ordinance. He had caused no riot. He had exercised his right of free speech. The only illegality that took place was that perpetrated by the Salem police. The real crime was their denial of a U.S. citizen the freedom to exercise his constitutional rights. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, when the case recently came to court, the judge found against the defendant and condemned his street preaching as disorderly conduct.
This is an alarming case. When the police are free to break the law and Christians can be found guilty when they have committed no crime, we have a serious situation. When a judge can declare the preaching of the gospel on the streets of an American city disorderly conduct-and remember this was not because of noise pollution, for other street performers were permitted to make as much noise as they wanted without police intervention-we have cause to be deeply concerned.
Contrast what happened a few years ago in San Francisco when a crowd of homosexuals attacked a Baptist church because it had invited a speaker to come to one of its service to show the Bible's teaching on homosexuality. The sodomites hurled missiles at the church. They besieged it and held the congregation hostage in their own sanctuary. All the while the police stood by. They made no arrests and excused their cowardly capitulation to the sodomite gang by saying that the protesters were exercising their constitutional rights. There is no constitutional right for anyone to assault or intimidate but that was the police story. However, when it comes to a street preacher lifting up his voice to quote Scripture and to tell men of the grace of God in Christ and of His wrath against evils such as witchcraft, it is a different story.