Ninth Circuit Forbids School Board Invocations and Censors Private Citizens

PRESS RELEASE

Tyler & Bursch, LLP July 25, 2018 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Desare Ferraro at 951-600-2733

Ninth Circuit Forbids School Board Invocations and Censors Private Citizens

Chino, CA —Today, the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the Chino Valley Unified School District board policy that allows invocations before the start of school board meetings is a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals came to a different conclusion in 2017 in American Humanist Association v. McCarty.

The Ninth Circuit further affirms the District Court’s injunction that enjoins the CVUSD school board members “from conducting, permitting or otherwise endorsing school sponsored prayer in Board meetings.”

“This requires the Board to censor or otherwise remove individuals who attempt to say a prayer, or anything that might resemble a prayer, during the public comment period,” said Robert Tyler of Tyler & Burch, LLP and legal counsel for CVUSD. “Such an overbroad injunction is a clear violation of the right of private citizens to address their local representatives in public meetings and is dangerous to the First Amendment.” Footnote 20 of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion makes this point more clear.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld ceremonial prayer at city council meetings in Town of Greece v Galloway. In that decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted the historical significance of such invocations. “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government…,” Kennedy wrote.

The CVUSD school board will be meeting in the coming weeks to determine its next course of action.

A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s Opinion can be found here.

The Riverside County law firm of Tyler & Bursch, LLP, represents CVUSD, with the support of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization.

Email info@faith-freedom.com to receive press releases. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others. To learn more about Advocates for Faith & Freedom, visit www.faith-freedom.com or Tyler & Bursch, LLP, visit www.tylerbursch.com

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. The firm, in association with Tyler & Bursch LLP, has represented clients across the country on matters governing land use and religious liberty in the public square.

Today's Supreme Court Ruling a Severe Rebuke to California Lawmakers!

Riverside County, CA (June 26, 2018)  Today, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of NIFLA and against the Reproductive FACT Act, the California law that would force faith-based pregnancy centers to advertise for abortion. Back in October 2017 in our case against this law, Scharpen Foundation v. Javier Becerra, a Riverside County Superior Court judge granted an injunction against the State, ruling it infringed upon free speech and therefore was a violation of the California Constitution.

After hearing about today’s concurring Supreme Court ruling, Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Tyler & Bursch’ LLP, commented, “After our victory in state court, and now this victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, our state case should be concluded and the judgment we received in our favor will no longer be subject to appeal by the State Attorney General. The California Legislature, Governor Brown and General Javier Bacerra should recognize this decision as a severe rebuke to their disregard for the Constitution.”

Nada Higuera, the Tyler & Bursch attorney who successfully argued the Scharpen case in Riverside County had this to say about the ruling, "The Supreme Court hit a home run and affirmed the principle that no American should be forced to speak a message that they disagree with. But this is not just a victory for free speech. It is also victory for the countless pregnancy resource centers and the women they serve. It is a victory for life!"

Both Robert Tyler and Nada Higuera will be available for comment and interviews today. Please call or text Desaré Ferraro at 714-348-0808 or email dferraro@tylerbursch.com.

About Tyler & Bursch, LLP and Advocates for Faith &Freedom: Tyler & Bursch’s attorneys have been serving businesses and individuals throughout Southern California for almost 20 years in federal and state trial courts, courts of appeal and arbitration. Tyler & Bursch provides legal and financial support to their non-profit law firm, Advocates for Faith & Freedom in defense of constitutional and religious liberty.

School District Appeals Federal Injunction on School Board Prayer

Advocates for Faith & Freedom Press ReleaseMarch 17, 2016   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:  Lori Sanada (951) 304-7583

 

School District Appeals Federal Injunction on School Board Prayer

Chino, CA. Late yesterday, Chino Valley Unified School District filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal from an Order of the United States District Court (Central District) that prohibits the school district and its school board members from continuing to allow a ceremonial prayer at the beginning of its school board meetings.

The school board decided to appeal that portion of the federal court’s order that enjoins the school board’s policy because, as the federal court ruled, the policy of allowing a prayers at the school board meetings “constitute unconstitutional government endorsements of religion in violation of Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights.”

“The District’s appeal to the Ninth Circuit will focus on the issue of whether a school district can continue with the long tradition of allowing a ceremonial prayer at the beginning of school board meetings,” said Robert Tyler, Managing Partner of Tyler & Bursch, LLP and attorney for Chino Valley Unified School District. He further stated, “The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that prayers in Congress date back to the first Continental Congress. The High Court has concluded that the well-established tradition of permitting prayer at beginning of city council meetings, Congress and state legislative sessions does not violate the Establishment Clause. Likewise, the courts should follow the Supreme Court precedent and allow the same to occur at the beginning of school board meetings.”

The school district recently retained the law firm Tyler & Bursch, LLP to represent the school district on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Tyler & Bursch’s services are being provided without charge to the school district. Advocates for Faith & Freedom is working in association with Tyler & Bursch, LLP to help underwrite the costs of the appeal.

Tyler & Bursch, LLP is a “for profit” law firm that dedicates a portion of its legal work to pro bono representation. Its website is www.tylerbursch.com.

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to protecting the integrity of the U.S. Constitution in the courts. You can visit its website at www.faith-freedom.com.

Email info@faith-freedom.com to receive press releases. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the progress in this case and others.

 

Mobile Pregnancy Clinic Sues State Over New “Bully” Law

Advocates for Faith & Freedom Press Release December 7, 2015 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Lori Sanada (951) 304-7583

 

Mobile Pregnancy Clinic Sues State Over New “Bully” Law

 Temecula, CA  ICU Mobile Riverside County, a mobile medical pregnancy clinic based in Wildomar, Calif., has filed a lawsuit against the California State Attorney General and other appropriate authorities saying the Reproductive Fact Act requiring nonprofit pregnancy care clinics to promote abortion not only violates their religious freedom, but also their free speech and free assembly rights.

ICU Mobile Riverside County is a subsidiary of the Scharpen Foundation, Inc. (“Foundation”), which is a foundation that also does business as and is publicly known as Go Mobile For Life. The organization is licensed by the State as a medical clinic and provides advocacy and free ultrasound services to pregnant women.

The Act was signed into law two months ago by Gov. Jerry Brown after the California Assembly and Senate passed Assembly Bill 775, which forces all licensed pregnancy care clinics to either post prominent signs in their lobbies promoting abortion or to include the information on their websites or clinic literature. The law is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

Prolife supporters have opposed the law, calling it the “Bully Bill” because it compels workers to promote a state-mandated message that violates their personal and corporate religious beliefs.

“I will not post that notice in our clinic. I would rather close the clinic than post that notice,” said Scott Scharpen, a volunteer pastor and president of the Foundation. “Now, by law, we are required to provide referral information to a woman for services that we find morally and ethically objectionable, namely abortion.”

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is working with Scharpen and the Foundation’s clinic.

Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom said: “Article 1, section 2 of the California Constitution provides greater protection for free speech then does the First Amendment. This is why we brought this case in state court as opposed to federal court.” He further stated, “Under the ‘liberty of speech clause’ in the California Constitution, the government has no right to compel individuals or corporations to adopt the government’s view on abortion and has no right to compel them to advertise and promote abortions.”

Advocates for Faith & Freedom, through its legal counsel, Tyler & Bursch, LLP, are seeking a preliminary injunction, which, if granted, will block the law from being implemented while the case is in the court system. They are attempting to have the preliminary injunction heard before the end of the year. A hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction is currently scheduled to occur on December 23, 2015 in Department 07 of the Riverside County Superior Court located at 4050 Main Street, Riverside, Calif.

In the injunction, the Foundation’s attorneys argued that the Reproductive FACT Act is compelled speech in violation of the California Constitution. They additionally argue that the Act does not just compel ICU Mobile Riverside County to speak in a way that may stigmatize its services, but it goes so far as to force the clinic to expressly advance the availability of free abortions, which are contrary to their religious and moral beliefs.

Nada Higuera, co-counsel with Tyler & Bursch, LLP stated, “As a woman, this case is important to me because the services offered by ICU Mobile provide hope and real help to women who need it. It is frightening that our government is forcing ICU Mobile, a pro-life organization, to advance abortion.”

A copy of the complaint filed by Tyler & Bursch, LLP can be found here, while a copy of the preliminary injunction can viewed here.

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts and is providing support to the law firm Tyler & Bursch, LLP. The law firm services are being provided pro bono. The website for Advocates for Faith & Freedom is www.faith-freedom.com.

Email mailto:info@faith-freedom.com to receive press releases from Advocates for Faith & Freedom. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.

Is Jesus Allowed In School? Advocates for Faith & Freedom Files Suit

Advocates for Faith & Freedom Press ReleaseSeptember 8, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Victor Bermudez or Lori Sanada (888) 588-6888

Is Jesus Allowed In School? Advocates for Faith & Freedom Files Suit

West Covina, CA. Advocates for Faith & Freedom filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Monday, September 8th 2014. The federal complaint comes after the parents of Isaiah Martinez felt their son’s right to freedom of religious speech was revoked in his classroom. Last Christmas, Isaiah Martinez took Christmas gifts intended for his first grade teacher and classmates to Merced Elementary in the West Covina Unified School District. Each gift consisted of a traditional candy cane with a message attached that recited the legend of the candy cane. The legend references a candy maker who created the candy cane to symbolize the life of Jesus Christ.

Isaiah’s older sister told him about the legend of the candy cane and Isaiah asked if he could share it with his teacher and his classmates. His sister then purchased candy canes, and helped Isaiah printed the candy cane message and tie a copy to each candy cane.

 

When Isaiah brought his Christmas gift to school, his teacher took possession of the candy canes. At the direction of the school principal, the teacher told Isaiah that “Jesus is not allowed in school” and ripped the candy cane message from each candy cane, threw the messages in the trash, and handed the candy canes back to Isaiah for delivery to his classmates. Isaiah then nervously handed the candy canes to his classmates in fear that he was in trouble for trying to bring a little Christmas cheer and “good tidings” to class.

Isaiah’s parents reached out to Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a non-profit public interest law firm, to learn whether the school and administration’s actions were lawful.

Advocates immediately sent a letter to the West Covina Unified School District demanding that the school apologize for how Isaiah was treated and adopt a policy prohibiting school officials from discriminating against or intimidating Christian and other religiously-affiliated students. Ultimately, Isaiah wants to be able to hand out his gift in class like all the other students in the future.

In January the story garnered attention from major news outlets including FoxUnivision, and NBC.

The school conducted an investigation and substantially confirmed the facts as presented, but the school district believed that their actions were warranted. Advocates then appealed to the school board requesting once again that Isaiah be allowed to hand out the candy canes and that the school board revise its policies. After the school board failed to adopt a new policy, Advocates appealed to the California Department of Education but the CDE has not yet responded.

Robert Tyler, lawyer and General Counsel, explained their decision to file a law suit saying, “the school has neglected to correct its actions, and after exhausting all options to avoid a lawsuit we were left with no choice but to file a complaint in federal court. We are asking the court to protect Isaiah's rights and the rights of others like him from having their religious speech censored. Students do not shed their First Amendment rights just because they enter into a classroom”.

If successful, the law suit will secure the right for Isaiah to share his Christmas gifts with his fellow classmates.

A copy of the original demand letter can be found here. A copy of the federal complaint can be found here. A picture of Isaiah and his Father, Alex Martinez, can be found here.

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. You can visit our website at www.faith-freedom.com.

Email info@faith-freedom.com to receive press releases from Advocates for Faith & Freedom. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.

Teacher to First Grader: "You're Not Allowed to Talk About the Bible in School"

Advocates for Faith & Freedom Press Release January 13, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Lori Sanada (951) 500-7854, (888) 588-6888

Teacher to First Grader: You’re not allowed to talk about the Bible in school

Temecula, CA., First grader Brynn Williams' presentation of her family’s Star of Bethlehem was shut down because she’s “not allowed to talk about the Bible in school."

Brynn’s incident at Temecula Valley Unified School District comes on the heels of a candy cane case involving West Covina Unified School District first grader Isaiah Martinez who was told, "Jesus is not allowed in school.” A copy of that press release was sent out by Advocates for Faith & Freedom last week and may be found here.

 On Wednesday, December 18, 2013, Brynn Williams brought home a “share” bag as part of a school assignment.  Brynn’s teacher had given every child in her class a canvas bag with verbal instructions to find something at home that represents a family Christmas tradition, put it in the bag, bring it to school, and be prepared to share the family tradition.

Brynn took the Star of Bethlehem from the top of the family Christmas tree to represent her family’s tradition of remembering why Christmas is celebrated.  Brynn worked diligently on a one minute presentation in order to explain to the class that her family’s tradition is to remember the birth of Jesus at Christmas time.

Brynn Williams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brynn began her presentation on December 19, 2014:

“Our Christmas tradition is to put a star on top of our tree.  The star is named the Star of Bethlehem. The 3 kings followed the star to find baby Jesus, the Savior of the world. John … [teacher interrupts Brynn].”

Brynn’s teacher said, “Stop right there! Go take your seat!” Brynn was not allowed to finish her presentation by reciting the Bible verse, John 3:16.  Brynn was the only student not allowed to finish her one-minute presentation. After Brynn took her seat, the teacher explained to Brynn in front of all the other students that she was not allowed to talk about the Bible or share its verses.

Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom said: “The disapproval and hostility that Christian students have come to experience in our nation's public schools has become epidemic. I hope that TVUSD will take the lead role in adopting a model policy to prohibit this abuse that has become all too common place for religious-minded students.”

Advocates for Faith & Freedom sent a demand letter to the Temecula Valley Unified School District demanding that a new policy be adopted to prohibit school officials from expressing disapproval or hostility toward religion or toward religious viewpoints expressed by students. The letter also demands that TVUSD provide a written apology and allow Brynn the opportunity to complete her speech during class.

A copy of the demand letter from Advocates for Faith & Freedom can be found here, which provides more depth to the facts and law as asserted by the Williams family.

Attorney Nic Cocis serves as co-counsel in this case. Mr. Cocis experienced religious persecution as an elementary school student in communist Romania before his family immigrated to the United States. "The censorship of Christianity was something I came to expect in Romanian schools, not here in the United States," said Mr. Cocis. “I don't want my kids to experience what I experienced as a Christian in Romania."

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. The website is www.faith-freedom.com.

Email info@faith-freedom.com to receive press releases from Advocates for Faith & Freedom. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.

Not Guilty – Pastor and Elder Acquitted After Bible Reading at DMV

August 14, 2013FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:  Lori Sanada (951) 304-7583, 500-7854 Robert Tyler (951) 897-1473 evenings

 

Murrieta, CA. On Tuesday, August 13, Superior Court Judge Timothy Freer found two men “not guilty” after they were charged and tried for reading the Bible aloud in front of a line of people waiting to enter the DMV in Hemet, California.One of them is a Pastor Bret Coronado of Reconciled Christian Fellowship in Hemet, California and the other is an elder of the church.

 

View the video of the arrest. This story was widely covered by Fox News and many other news outlets shortly after the arrests: Fox News Video.View our previous press release that outlines the facts and charges.

The prosecution needed to prove that the men were required to obtain a permit before engaging in their expressive activity of reading the Bible. After the prosecution rested, the defense team made a motion for directed verdict and Judge Freer entered a verdict of “not guilty” before the defense was required to present its own witnesses and evidence.Attorney Robert Tyler, one of the defense attorneys and General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom stated, “The prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof that our clients committed a crime when they read the Bible aloud in front a line of people.”

Nic Cocis, defense attorney and co-counsel, remarked, “These men were exercising their First Amendment right of Free Speech. They were simply sharing their faith on public property and the criminal charges should never have been filed.”

In order for the prosecution to prove that a permit was required under Title 13, Section 1860 of the California Administrative Code, it was required to prove that the defendants were engaged in a “demonstration or gathering” as defined in Section 1851. Judge Freer ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the men conducted either a “demonstration or gathering.” Both definitions require that the conduct of defendants was such that it had “the effect, intent or propensity to draw a crowd or onlookers” and the prosecution couldn’t prove that to be the case.

Robert Tyler stated, “We were very pleased because Judge Freer also agreed that the law was unconstitutional because it gives too much unfettered discretion to law enforcement in determining whether someone’s speech or other expressive activity has the effect, intent or propensity to draw a crowd or onlookers.” He further stated, “Although Judge Freer’s final verdict did not include a finding on constitutionality, his comments certainly vindicate our argument that the law is unconstitutional.”

Advocates for Faith & Freedom had previously filed a federal lawsuit for unlawful arrest before these criminal charges were filed against the men. That lawsuit was stayed pending the outcome of this criminal case. The federal case will now proceed against the California Highway Patrol before the Honorable Dolly Gee in the United States District Court, Central District of California, which is located in Los Angeles.  A copy of the federal complaint can be found [here].

Attorney Nic Cocis emigrated from Romania at the age of 13 when the country was still being controlled by a communist regime. He remarked, “This case has particular importance to me because my family was persecuted for our Christian faith in communist Romania and I will fight to protect the freedom of speech and to ensure that the same persecution doesn’t occur in the United States.”

Articles covering this story: LA TimesPress Enterprise

Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. The website is www.faith-freedom.com.

Email info@faith-freedom.com to receive press releases from Advocates for Faith & Freedom. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.

Trial Begins – Pastor Prosecuted for Reading the Bible Out Loud in Public

Today, the case of two men arrested while reading the Bible - out loud and in public - is going to trial, over a year after the events transpired. One of them is a Pastor Bret Coronado of Reconciled Christian Fellowship in Hemet, California. View the video of the arrest. This story was widely covered by Fox News and many other news outlets shortly after the arrests: Fox News Video.

The men were arrested when they went to their local DMV in Hemet, California, and read from the Bible aloud as people stood in line for the DMV to open.  When the first California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer arrived on the scene, he grabbed the Bible away from the man reading it and said he could not “preach to a captive audience.”  There is no penal code that says such a thing, so the officer later cited them for violating California Penal Code Section 602.1(b) which provides:

“Any person who intentionally interferes 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 . . . is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days, or by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”

 This penal code is meant to protect businesses from protesters who intimidate patrons and block entrances.  In this case, the DMV was not yet open at the time the men were there, and they were standing approximately 40 feet away from the entrance of the building.  Obviously, this citation had no merit.

After Advocates for Faith and Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol for unlawful arrest, Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach decided to charge the men with “trespassing” on State property, a misdemeanor offense under Title 13 of the California Administrative Code, Section 1860(a): “No person shall hold or conduct any demonstration or gathering in or upon any state buildings or grounds unless a permit has been issued by the Department.”

Trial is scheduled to begin at 1:30 pm on Monday, August 5, 2013 in Department S-204 of the Riverside County Superior Court located at 30755 Auld Road, Murrieta, California. The trial is expected to last approximately 4 to 5 days. Criminal defense attorney Nic Cocis of Murrieta, CA, and Robert Tyler, General Counsel of Advocates for Faith & Freedom, will be defending Pastor Bret Coronado and Mark Mackey.

Robert Tyler remarked, “These men were exercising their First Amendment right of Free Speech.  They were simply sharing their faith on public property, and we will defend their constitutional right to do so. This prosecution amounts to nothing more than retaliation for our filing a federal lawsuit.”

The defense contends that the regulation being enforced is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment right to free speech and is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause. Additionally, however, the defense contends that the permit requirement does not apply because the men were not engaged in a “demonstration” or “gathering”.

Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.

Two Christians Prosecuted for Reading the Bible in Public

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  Two Christians Prosecuted for Reading the Bible in Public

Murrieta, CA.  Yesterday, a trial court in Riverside County, California, heard arguments why the prosecution's case should be dismissed in the case of People v. Brett Coronado.  Advocates for Faith & Freedom are defending Pastor Brett Coronado and Mark Mackey on misdemeanor charges after they were arrested in front of a California DMV while Mr. Mackey was reading the Bible out loud. The incident took place on February 2, 2011, in front of a group waiting for the DMV to open for business.

This case has generated national news, such as the story that ran on Fox News Channel today.  View the Fox News video and article here. Additionally, a YouTube video of the incident and arrest can be viewed here. Both men have been spit on and threatened at other locations in the past when engaging in similar activities.  As a result, it is their practice to video their evangelism to protect them from false accusations - just as appears to be occurring in this case.

Initially, when Mr. Mackey was arrested, the CHP officer stated that it was illegal to "preach to a captive audience." After the defendants were placed in jail and upon learning that no such penal code prohibits preaching to a "captive audience,"  the officer issued a citation for "impeding an open business" with threats or intimidation under Penal Code Section 602.1(b). However, the district attorney again changed the charges claiming trespass after the government realized the business was not actually open and, presumably, saw the video showing no threats or intimidation.

Unfortunately, the trial judge declined to dismiss the case.  Advocates vows to appeal the decision because the trespass law the CHP is currently relying on is  unconstitutional.  In fact, other federal courts that have reviewed the same statutory language used in the California Penal Code have been declared unconstitutional. A copy of our brief can be found [here].

“This is an abuse of power on the part of the CHP,” said Robert Tyler, Associate General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom.  “The arresting officer could find no appropriate penal/ code to use when arresting these men.  The purpose of the arrests appears to have been to censor them.”

Advocates for Faith & Freedom has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of these three men for violation of their right to free speech and for unlawful arrest, but that case has been stayed pending the resolution of the state court prosecution.  A copy of our federal complaint can be found [here]. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.

Contact:  Lori Sanada  (951) 304-7583 weekdays, (951) 500-7854 weekends and evenings

Christian Arrested for Reading the Bible in Public - Caught on Video

Hemet, CA. On February 2, 2011, one assistant pastor and two elders from Calvary Chapel of Hemet, California, went to the Hemet DMV before it opened and one of the men started to read the Bible aloud. Less than thirty minutes later, he was arrested for "impeding an open business" under Penal Code Section 602.1(b). Shortly after the men arrived at the DMV and began to simply read the Bible out loud, a security guard approached Mark Mackey as he was reading the Bible and told him to stop. The men believed that they had a First Amendment right to free speech as they were standing in a planter within the parking lot and were located on public property. Further, they were not interfering with any business of the DMV and were not yelling or disturbing the peace.

About ten minutes later, a California Highway Patrolman approached Mr. Mackey as he read, took the Bible out of his hands, and arrested him. As the CHP officer was arresting him and putting him in his patrol car, the two men who were with him – Assistant Pastor of Calvary Chapel Hemet, Brett Coronado, and Ed Flores – asked the officer, “What law was he breaking?” Instead of identifying a legal violation, the officer asked, "Were you preaching too?" After continuing to ask the officer for the legal violation, Pastor Coronado and Ed Flores were also arrested by another CHP officer who had come to the DMV and were also cited for “impeding an open business.” Neither Pastor Coronado nor Mr. Flores ever read the Bible out loud anywhere on DMV premises.

The charge of “impeding an open business” was enacted in large part to protect businesses against protesters who block the doors of an open business. At the time of the arrest of these men, the DMV was closed, and they were standing at least fifty feet away from the entrance.

“This is an abuse of power on the part of the CHP,” said Jennifer Monk, Associate General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom. “The arresting officer could find no appropriate penal code to use when arresting these men. The purpose of the arrests appears to have been to censor them.”

After their arrests, these men were released, and the District Attorney has not at this time pursued any criminal charges. Prior to the arrest and during the arrest, Pastor Coronado and others videotaped the actions of the CHP, and a link to the edited footage can be found below. Advocates for Faith & Freedom has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of these three men for violation of their right to free speech and for unlawful arrest.

"Whether this was an intentional violation of our clients' constitutional liberty or whether this was an act of ignorance on the part of the CHP, this lawsuit is important in order to preserve the liberty to read the Bible aloud on public property without fear of criminal prosecution,” said Robert Tyler, General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom.

A copy of the complaint can be found here.

For an edited version of the video footage from this arrest, please click here.