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Dod Dah Parade, Pt. 2: Dealing Politely with Police

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This may sound shocking but I’m going to write it out, here and now. There is no need to get arrested while preaching the Gospel in America. That’s right. At this current time there is no need for anyone to go to jail for evangelizing. The time will come when that may have to happen, just not now. (Click here to start at PART 1)

Watch this recent encounter at the 2011 Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, when a police officer wanted me to stop preaching to the crowds lined up waiting for the parade to start. You’ll notice that when I hear the policeman interrupt my sermon with “Sir! Sir!” (off camera at the 2:30 mark), I lift up my index finger to ask him to let me finish my presentation. He did. Watch how I handled the situation. (Below, read the reason why I think Christians don’t need to be arrested. For now.)

There is a reason why American evangelists get hassled by police and carted off to jail. This is a general observation that may not apply to all heralds of the Good News, but it’s something I’ve seen way too often in the streets and in the press releases of Christian defense institutes. Too many evangelists suffer from……”Preaching Pride.” This is a malady that can sometimes manifest itself as arrogance which produces an entitlement mentality where our rights are concerned.

I’ve been guilty of this; maybe you have too.

There are great protections guaranteed to us by our Constitution, yet it’s quite understandable that Enforcers of the Law may not always understand those protections, those nuances of the First Amendment, and may even trample on them. Others may have more nefarious motives, like wanting to stifle our free speech on purpose because they do not like our message.  Some may just be cranky on a given day and don’t want to hear you shouting at the top of your lungs atop a soapbox.

As Christians we are called to lay our rights down. We seem to forget that.

I read of one man who was standing on a sidewalk in Georgia shouting the Gospel out when an officer told him to stop, which was wrong. The preacher argued with the cop, who then arrested him. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to stop and move and preach somewhere else?

Every time we have been told to stop preaching our message by law enforcement, we would clarify their position, then move on, usually resulting in a bigger crowd elsewhere.

There will come a time when our rights will be clearly tread upon and we’ll have to take action. The time isn’t now.

Please continue to preach—and loudly.

But just be nice about it.

And polite.

Click here to see the
videos of our preaching to
the Atheists United marchers
in Part 3.

Read another important article on this subject called “On Dealing with the Police.”

21 Comments

  1. Folks, let’s hear it for Steve Sanchez. Despite his wavering (“The time may come, but it isn’t now”), it’s refreshing to hear an evangelist who doesn’t clutch their martyr complex tightly to their chest, and actively seek out any mild recrimination to shriek “Oppression!”

    (I’d like to think we had something to do with that, but maybe he’s just actually reasonable, deep down.)

    We’re quick to jump on him when he errs. I think we should congratulate him for getting this one (mostly) right.

  2. How timely! Just this weekend we were preaching at a festival just blocks from our house when the local police shut us down and wouldn’t state a reason. We obeyed but were really bummed. Although, it encouraged us to know we weren’t the first and at least [some of] the Word got preached. We’ll be heading out again and soon so this was good to know. Thanks!

  3. I love this video. Perfect example of how to handle the Police and why there is no need to get arrested (yet)

    I rather see these kinds of videos than handcuffs, lawsuits, and all that kind of non-sense. It is not time for that now.

    Anyways if you decide to get arrested – you just took yourself out of the game. Kind of counter productive in my opinion.
    Can just move along and talk to people 1 to 1 or continue handing out tracts.

  4. What about the incident with the Calvary Chapel Hemet guy that was an Amassador leader at the DMV that was Arrested on the spot? But in most all other cases I agree with Steve.

  5. @Dennis

    Just like the civil rights leaders of the past, whenever they faced being arrested they simply just complied with whatever demands the police officer stated, right?

  6. Great advice. I’ve had a brother argue with cops on a couple of occasions and it never went anywhere good! I like your approach to just smile and move along.

  7. I appreciate brother Steve’s faithfulness to share the good news, however on this isssue having personally been cited and also “moved along” I can honestly say I beleive it is an issue of conscience. There is TODAY a time and a place for not moving. When I read “As Christians we are called to lay our rights down.”.. okay lets apply that to Communist China that says you can only have one baby. Would you comply and “laying down your rights” for that? A few quotes to consider from people I beleive Steve would respect:

    Spurgeon speaking about the King of France who had got it in his head that he would not allow preachers to come over the boarder and preach in his country, this was his word to the king of France: “The Daughter of Zion MOCKS YOU! She cares nothing of your decrees. For she has been authorized by the King of Heaven to trespass every boarder to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ!”

    “We must wag our head in disgust at anyone who tells us we cannot preach in a certain place.” – Paul Washer

    “Christians should be the finest citizens possible but at the same time when it comes to violating the command of Jesus Christ that is when we obey Christ and disobey the government.” – John MacArthur

    Again this should be an issue of conscience. I would not make my preference a principal in this matter, nor judge a brother as being is sin if he chose to disobey the governing authority if you have been given the freedom to preach and then you are being told you cannot.

    Just a few thoughts. Thank you for your hard work brother!!

    David

  8. Robert, is that the guy who failed to get permission that every other group out there freely got on a daily basis, then complained about how persecuted they were, that we already thoroughly discussed in a previous thread?

  9. Aww, Davey, you make me sad.

    But let’s get to the meat of your response. You quote the sinner Spurgeon saying “The Daughter of Zion MOCKS YOU! She cares nothing of your decrees” – and then John McGovern – “that is when we obey Christ and disobey the government.”

    Really?

    Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)

    Why do you hate Jesus, Davey?

  10. @ Vintango

    Not sure how what you are saying relates to topic at hand?
    We are talking about Christian Evangelists when stopped by police officers while open air preaching.

    Not sure how that relates to civil rights leaders and what they were up against. Apples and Oranges my friend.

  11. “There is TODAY a time and a place for not moving.”

    Steve has made some great comments about preaching ‘in the Spirit’ rather than ‘in the flesh.’ If you are asked to move along and yet you feel sure that you shouldn’t, is it because your ego doesn’t like being told what to do or because God is calling you to preach exactly in that spot? That Steve looks into this and admits to times when he got it wrong is a credit to him. That Steve can also tell the difference between the U.S. and China is also to his credit.

    “What about the incident with the Calvary Chapel Hemet guy that was an Ambassador leader at the DMV that was Arrested on the spot?”

    Did they try to get a permit first? At least one other group did.

    In January 2010, Praise Chapel in San Jacinto was granted a three-day permit to speak and to distribute Bibles and fliers at the same DMV office. They were told not to disrupt the activities of the office. No problems were reported.

    “…arrested on the spot.”

    You make it sound like this was their first time there, they’d never been told to get a permit, and they hadn’t been going on for a while when it happened.

    Soubirous said the men had gone to the DMV repeatedly in the weeks prior to their arrest and were warned that they couldn’t preach without a permit. He said they have not returned since.

    “In their preaching, individuals would get within five to 10 feet and literally get in people’s faces,” Soubirous said. “It was animated preaching, like, ‘If you don’t repent, you’ll go to hell.’ It wasn’t a calm nature. It was preaching to them as their captive and telling them what they want to tell them.”

    So, they changed tactics by ‘reading’ the Bible out loud – pointedly to everyone standing there. I have to wonder if they were doing this in order to have a confrontation.

    According to California Penal Code 602.1 (b), the offense is listed as: “intentionally interfering with any lawful business carried on by the employees of a public agency open to the public, by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business, or those persons there to transact business with the public agency, and who refuses to leave the premises of the public agency after being requested to leave by the office manager or a supervisor of the public agency, or by a peace officer acting at the request of the office manager or a supervisor of the public agency.”

    To be honest, I’m not sure if this will hold up to the lawsuit (yes, there is a lawsuit). But on the outside looking in, this looks very ‘fleshy’ to me.

    According to the preachers:

    Further, they were not interfering with any business of the DMV and were not yelling or disturbing the peace.

    Well, they were in fact yelling and disturbing the peace. They were ‘reading’ the Bible directly to the people in line. How does this not count as preaching?


    Steve, if ever that day in the future comes it won’t be just Christians in trouble. Our civil protections must be for everyone – or none of us are free.

  12. @Dennis

    Just saying is that if you were being oppressed you shouldn’t be afraid of going to jail. If you really want things to change you must stand up to those in power, Gandhi did it, so did King.

  13. Interesting responses to my post.

    Nameless- I’m aware of Romans 13… that is what MacArthurs commentary was on. I’m sure his interpretation of it is pretty accurate. There are places in scripture where there is “tension” of the Christians role and Government IE-Daniel being told not to pray.(Daniel 3:16-15, 6:7,10) or the Egyptian midwives being asked to turn over the Hebrew babies to their death (Exodus 1:17)… they did NOT submit. It could be argued that “Daniel could have just prayed in secret” or “moved on to a place where he could have” but he didn’t for a reason… God told him to.

    Which leads me to perida’s question: “is it because your ego doesn’t like being told what to do or because God is calling you to preach exactly in that spot?” That is a fair question to ask. God will judge my motives on that final day. But the real question is does scripture ALLOW for not submitting to the law of the land if they are asking you to violate God’s command? When those times are… I’m still working out.

    The point of my China example was IF the government tells you that you must violate what God had commanded; what do you do? Steve’s argument of “laying down your rights” seemed to be painted with a BROAD brush. Does that apply to every situation? If not what determines the line?

    When I read the book of Acts I see men that proceeded into a hostile world proclaiming the Good News no matter what. Which landed them in prison many times for NOT moving (Acts 5:27-29) where they would then share Christ with the prisoners, guards & rulers trusting God’s sovereignty as they were obedient to what their conscience dictated.

    This is not in the spirit of any antagonism towards Steve, these are issues of great importance. You’re my brother Steve and I love you and I’m glad to be serving with you on the Great Commision!!

    David

  14. “God will judge my motives on that final day.”

    This sounds like a cop-out to me. It’s much more difficult and uncomfortable to honestly judge your own motives. Also, there’s a danger that a lot of bad behavior can be justified by telling yourself this. (To clarify – I’m speaking in general and not accusing you or anyone else of anything.)

    “The point of my China example was IF the government tells you that you must violate what God had commanded; what do you do? ”

    While an interesting question, I think it bypasses Steve’s point. Steve’s post, and advice, is for the here and now in the US. There is enough in the post to indicate that if the situation changes then his advice would change. I can’t imagine Steve as someone who would tell Christians in China to just knock it off already and be good little party members.

    But the real question is does scripture ALLOW for not submitting to the law of the land if they are asking you to violate God’s command?

    I’m sure you can find passages that allow it and other passages that don’t (Romans 13 was used to support the divine right of kings), but that’s not my problem 🙂

  15. Some quick responses to perdita,

    “This sounds like a cop-out to me. It’s much more difficult and uncomfortable to honestly judge your own motives.”

    Not really a cop out as much as being honest with the deceitfulness of sin. We should examine ourselves (in light of scripture) but at the end of the day do think you can honestly judge you own motives? “Would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.” – Psalm 44:21

    Being that I have personally been told by the police to move and I did, told to move and I didn’t, and cited with no warning for just handing out tracts… believe me you examine yourself. I do agree with Steve that PRIDE is a factor in many people not moving. This post is a good reminder for me to pray against that in my own heart. Isn’t evangelism great for exposing your lack of wisdom,love, patience and many other areas of weakness? By God’s grace I just repent and keep preaching!

    “Steve’s post, and advice, is for the here and now in the US. There is enough in the post to indicate that if the situation changes then his advice would change.”

    I agree with this and if I’m not mistaken Steve actually trains people in evangelism in China… Praise the Lord for that!

    I would just be careful not to make our personal convictions a principal. Paul used his Roman citizenship card to avoid a beating. Now if we were to “lay down our rights” in every case… Paul would have been wrong to do that… keeping in mind he wrote Romans 13. If Paul used his Roman rights to avoid a scourging than personally I see no problem in using our US rights(or privileges) to keep preaching somewhere and take a stand for that.

    But I would not lay on a brother that he should or shouldn’t move in every situation… he is acting on his conscience whether he is right or wrong. But I see biblical grounds for both decisions.

    Thank you for stretching me and blessings to your evangelism,

    David

    • David,

      Good points I whole-heartedly concur, my friend! My article was about pride.

      There are times when a little holy push back is required. At our upcoming street fair, I will be contacting a lawyer who will be advising the city that we have a right to share the Gospel and we will be doing so. I don’t plan on backing down if told to stop, but will graciously reason with whomever the powers are… and show them the lawyer’s letter.

  16. Steve P. – I agree passionately ! The primary goal/motivation should be to preach the Gospel !! Do we need to be ‘doormats’ and allow our rights to be trampled on/ignored ? = No ! But let’s not play the ‘victim,’ and look at me, I’m being persecuted for the cause, etc. – especially, ESPECIALLY where you can mess things up for future seed-sowing, Gospel proclamation, because you (with possibly impure motive) wanted to make a scene and not obey those in authority…. great points !

  17. The future is now in Illinois. No ….the police are not friendly or care anything other than their Police State rights. If you did what you did at the parade, you would have been arrested…period.

    You guys are spoiled in Cali.

    • I live in Illinois. The police are fine, calm down.

      • I have been told by the police that I would be arrested if I “scared people”, “raised my voice”, “told people that they were going to die”, “said anything about Hell”. This is not about location…moving down the street is not the issue. They are stopping content. A while back I noticed they were helping the “Occupiers” cross the street and guarding their loud protests.

        We have a Federal Lawsuit against the City Of Rock Island because they will not allow any preaching of any kind anywhere in town. The police are fine?

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