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Lost Liberties: Arrested Outside a Mosque

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This falls into the “What did you expect?” category. For the record, I wouldn’t do what these evangelists did. What’s interesting is that one of the men in this group is a friend of mine, Mike “Mad Mike” Stockwell, who was profiled here a couple of years ago when I first met him at the Ambassadors’ Academy. (Read about him here.)

This is a press release from “Repent America,” so the coverage will be, of course, one-sided.

PHILADELPHIA – Two Christian evangelists plead “not guilty” yesterday to false charges relating to their arrest for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ at Philadelphia’s largest Islamic mosque over the Fourth of July weekend. Their case now heads to trial.

On the night of Saturday, July 3rd, evangelist Michael Marcavage of Repent America (RA), and evangelists Ken Fleck and Mike Stockwell were compelled by God to witness at “Masjid Al Jamia” in Philadelphia. Upon arrival, they sang a hymn and began their outreach activities of open-air preaching and witnessing to the Muslims on the public sidewalk that were leaving the building. However, as they ministered, the evangelists were soon approached by a security officer from the University of Pennsylvania who told them that they could not preach on the public sidewalk outside of the mosque. When Marcavage stated that they were not leaving, the security officer radioed university police.
Within minutes, a swarm of security and police officers descended upon the evangelists. One of the officers, Nicole Michel, immediately confronted Marcavage, who was videotaping the situation, and assaulted him by grabbing his hand and forcibly turning off his video camera. The officer’s demeanor then escalated into extreme hostility to the point that Marcavage became concerned and called 911 to ask for a supervising officer to come to the scene.

When Officer Michel saw Marcavage videotaping the situation again, she declared, “He’s going [to jail],” and placed him in handcuffs while another officer stated, “All three of them are going.” When the supervising officer, Sergeant Andrew Malloy, finally arrived, he consented to the evangelists’ arrests. Marcavage and Fleck were subsequently taken into custody. Stockwell, however, was not arrested, but was commanded to leave immediately. As he left the scene, he heard Officer Michel stating, “I’m concerned about what’s on the video” to another officer. The video camera was not brought into the police station with the evangelists’ other belongings.

After the evangelists were released from jail and their belongings were returned, they discovered that police destroyed their video evidence by completely recording over the footage that had been captured. The mosque’s video surveillance, which is being subpoenaed for trial, will hopefully be produced and show the unlawful actions of police.

“Hostility is rising against Christians in America and police interference with the proclamation of the Gospel is now commonplace, which will only continue to escalate with the rise of Islam,” Marcavage stated. “Regardless of those who wish to silence and harm us, we will be faithful in preaching the cross of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation,” Marcavage concluded.Marcavage and Fleck have been charged with two summary offenses for preaching “disorderly conduct” and “obstructing a highway.” A trial date is set for August 10th at 9:00 a.m. in Philadelphia Community Court, 1401 Arch Street, 2nd floor, Philadelphia, PA 19102. Take action by clicking here.

“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto Thy servants that with all boldness they may speak Thy Word …” – Acts 4:29

13 Comments

  1. I would bet my bottom dollar that these police officers were not Muslims nor were they atheists.

    Steve, while I don’t think you were obligated to do so, I do appreciate your disclaimer at the top of the article.

    Of course, if Muslim or atheists acted the same way as these evangelists, I wouldn’t have a problem with them being arrested… assuming that the police’s version of events is accurate (and I generally assume that it is, especially the “obstructing” charge).

  2. This is interesting because I know Mike and had just talked to him over the phone that day before this happened. I don’t know what I think about the situation as of yet. I think that if the Lord lead them to preach they could only obey. But on the other hand if they did not comply with officers I do not agree with that. There is of course that fine line. May God grant me the wisdom to know that fine line in the future.

  3. What I don’t get is: how can they be arrested for preaching on a PUBLIC sidewalk in America, the “land of the free”?

  4. Until I can get other accounts from numerous sides, I withhold an opinion. The cops could be crooked guys just looking to show off their limited power on people. The Christians could, like Steve, have a persecution complex and actually did not understand that not everything on a public sidewalk is kosher (you can’t block people from getting to other places or disturb people with noise). The Islams may have had their own part in it and exaggerated the actions of the Christians.

    In such a case I’d err on the side of caution and protect liberties against government abuse. But, Steve has already stated that the article he posted is biased, so it’s hard to say. Would it kill ya to post an article from a newspaper?

  5. Paul wrote: “What I don’t get is: how can they be arrested for preaching on a PUBLIC sidewalk in America, the “land of the free”?

    Well, Paul, as Steve said, “This is a press release from “Repent America,” so the coverage will be, of course, one-sided.

    In other words, I’m betting that there’s a bit more to this story.

  6. I agree with Azou. How about posting a non-biased article from a newspaper?

    The persecution complex does seem to raise its ugly side sometimes. Some of the reporting is exaggerated simply to cause controversy and to stir up hatred, which in my opinion, does not honor God.

    Not everything done on a public sidewalk, even if legal, is right to do. Where are the morals?

    Someone doing the criticizing of our freedom may not even be an American citizen? We need to be careful in judging without complete facts.

  7. Elizabeth wrote: “How about posting a non-biased article from a newspaper?

    I’ve been searching for one, and I can’t find one anywhere; not even an AP report.

    That’s interesting.

  8. It seems like aloot of people are uneducated on the laws. first i like to comment on the preaching at the mosque . Mohammed stood infront of the Kabaal where all the pagan worship was going on in mecca for 8 years . He would preach against the pagan Gods he got converts that way . Second of all the mosque is in philly the sidewalk is public property . For them to go out there and preach the gospel to the muslims is boldness and love . Now the police officer in philly abuse the law many times i will be more then happy to send anyone a video of the police choking a christian while another police officer trys to block our camera . Sorry to say you are wrong here . Preaching infront of porta pottys is the same thing as preaching infront of a mosque Steve .

  9. There is nothing wrong with preaching in front of a Mosque, but there are rules. If they are intimidating people or preventing people from getting inside, then they will be asked to stop.

    We don’t have all the facts here: we have one perspective and one biased article. Feel free to post video evidence if you have it.

  10. I received a comment on Facebook from Michael Marcavage who thought I was discouraging his evangelistic efforts. The way I worded the intro to this post, I can understand that. Here is my response to him clarifying my intent. After that, see his response to my clarification.

    Greetings Michael,

    I want to set the record straight regarding your comment so as to clarify my position because I think you misunderstood my intention.

    I don’t think that what you did was unbiblical at all. What I meant by that comment was that I wouldn’t do this because I wouldn’t have the guts to try it. (I have thought about it though. If you take a look at my blog I do a lot of things evangelistically that others wouldn’t do either.

    I applaud your boldness.

    My statement about the “What did you expect?” category had to do with the sad state of freedom in America in general, and the Muslim favoritism in general. It’s sad that the police did that to you and I hope you have your triumphant day in court.

    I hope you now understand that I’m encouraging, not discouraging you. May God bless your efforts in the future.

    Steve

    Here’s Michael’s response to my clarification:

    Steve,

    Thank you for the response, and I do appreciate the clarification.

    I do believe, however, that the way your “disclaimer” (as one commenter put it) reads is leading people to think as I did. The evangelists did it all wrong, shouldn’t have been there and got what they deserved, and by-the-way, here is their “one-sided” story. I’m thankful that this was not your intention.

    For years, we have been fighting against police injustice in Philadelphia in order to freely proclaim the Gospel at all different kinds of events and in different venues, and the Lord has given us much success for His glory. I do not take the position that we must stop doing what God is commanding and compelling us to do, even if law enforcement orders us to (e.g., the recent Liberty Bell federal criminal case victory has opened up the door to preach to thousands of tourists at the historic site). We should not be afraid of going to jail or facing public scrutiny for the cause of Christ. Of course, we must be wise and respectful to police, but I do not believe in bowing down to every demand they make of us, and they should be challenged when they become a law unto themselves. They are to be ministers of God to us for good, not evil. Those “guys with guns” won’t win in the end. I pray in concert with 2 Thessalonians 3:1.

    With this being said, I do appreciate your labors for Christ and have read a number of your blog entires in the past and pray that the Lord would continue to use our small efforts for His Kingdom.

    – Michael

    P.S. UPENN’ student newspaper just covered the story:
    http://www.dailypennsylvanian.com/article/preachers-take-u-court

  11. Thanks for the article, Steve. I guess it boils down to getting that video evidence.

  12. Michael wrote:

    I do believe, however, that the way your “disclaimer” (as one commenter put it) reads is leading people to think as I did.

    Since I’m that commenter, I’ll defend Steve here and say that it didn’t lead me to think as Michael did.

    If he read for context, he’d realize that I was saying that I appreciated the disclaimer because it was a purely one-sided version of the event.

    That’s the only reason I mentioned it. It’s not because I thought Steve disapproved of Michael’s actions. Just the opposite, in fact, which is the exact reason why I appreciated Steve’s disclaimer. I’ve been talking with Steve long enough that I had a pretty good assumption that Steve approved of the action of evangelizing outside of a masjid (aka mosque).

    So, please don’t jump to conclusions, Michael.

    Maybe he thought I was something other than a non-believer?

    [It lead people to think that] the evangelists did it all wrong, shouldn’t have been there and got what they deserved,

    Wow… an evangelist trying to read my mind. Thank goodness that like totally never happens and stuff. 😉

    As I mentioned above, that might be Azou’s or my opinion, but I never thought that was Steve’s opinion.

    And when I, an unrepentant non-believer, understands what Steve writes better than a fellow evangelist like Michael, yikes! What have things come to?? 🙂

    and by-the-way, here is their “one-sided” story.

    Well, it was completely and utterly one-sided, and filled with more spin than a washer-and-dryer combo.

    As I wrote, I appreciated Steve recognizing that and just making that point known, as I don’t think he was obligated to do so; I saw it as a service to the reader.

    I don’t think that changed his opinion that he supported it.

    And if anyone was going on about it being one-sided, you can blame me, and leave Steve out of it.

    I’m thankful that this was not your intention.

    Which was somehow obvious to the non-believers but not the evangelist.

    Some people take the persecution complex a bit too far, when they feel persecuted by other evangelists.

    Kooky.

  13. Michael wrote: “I do not take the position that we must stop doing what God is commanding and compelling us to do, even if law enforcement orders us to

    Oh, that’s just lovely. 😛

    I wonder how far he takes this idea, and I hope at some point reality gives him a strong slap to the face; this does not fly in civilized society.

    So, an evangelist is talking about breaking laws, and yet it’s “secularism” which has “the world falling to pieces”. Riiiiight.

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