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For Immediate Release

Contact: Heather Clark, Repent America, 1-800-3-REPENT, Ext. 7

U.S. Appeals Court Overturns EVANGELIST's Convictions For PREACHing Near Liberty Bell


"If the government is looking for prejudice, it need look no further than its having sought and obtained Marcavage's conviction on a fatally flawed legal premise." - Judge Michael Fisher

A three-judge panel with the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has unanimously overturned the federal convictions of Michael Marcavage of Repent America (RA) for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the public sidewalk near the Liberty Bell. Judges Michael Fisher, Thomas Hardiman and Robert Cowen issued the opinion of the Court yesterday, striking down both of the prosecution's criminal claims against Marcavage, while upholding his constitutionally protected right to preach and speak on the public sidewalks surrounding Independence National Historical Park.     
The Scripture-inscribed Liberty Bell reads: "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof..." - Leviticus 25:10
Liberty Bell

Marcavage had been arrested by supervising U.S. Park Ranger Alan Saperstein in October 2007 after rejecting a "verbal permit" to move to an unconstitutional "free speech zone" away from where he had been preaching. As a result, he was charged under the Code of Federal Regulations for violating the terms of the so-called "verbal permit," even though he expressly rejected it, citing constitutional protections. Nearly six months later, Marcavage was issued a citation by certified mail with an additional federal criminal charge of "interfering with an agency function" for his preaching that day.

- Click here to watch a video of the encounter and
 Marcavage's arrest by the U.S. Park Service.
In June 2008, Marcavage was put on trial for two days and found "guilty" of two federal charges. Subsequently, Marcavage was fined $445, including costs, and placed on federal probation for one year. He was also barred from entering Independence National Historical Park or being on the public sidewalks surrounding the park for any reason without first notifying park authorities, and was ordered not to return to engage in free speech activities without first obtaining a permit, and only then in the "free speech zone." The ruling was immediately appealed, but was upheld a year later by U.S. District Court Judge Legrome D. Davis. The appeal then proceeded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  
As the three-judge panel heard oral argument at Marcavage's federal appeal hearing on April 13th, it was apparent that the court was unconvinced of the charges leveled against him. In fact, at one point, Judge Robert Cowen firmly stated to Assistant United States Attorney Richard Goldberg, who pursued the government's case against Marcavage, "[The Code of Federal Regulations] doesn't pre-empt the Constitution."
- Click here to view a video that contains the complete audio footage of the intriguing oral arguments that were presented before the court. -  


In the 52-page decision released by the Third Circuit, written by Judge Michael Fisher, the court held that "Marcavage's permit violation must be vacated because the verbal permit he was issued was invalid, and that his interference conviction must be vacated because it was obtained in violation of his First Amendment right to free speech." The court also reported that after the appeal hearing the government sent a letter to the court admitting that verbal permitting schemes "do not meet the definition provided in [the Code of Federal Regulations]."


Michael Marcavage being placed under arrest at Independence National Historical ParkAdditionally striking, the court held that the government's removal of Marcavage from the public sidewalk, and his subsequent arrest, was indeed content-based. The judges paid particular attention to the documented testimony of the park rangers, who admitted that the content of Marcavage's preaching and message in opposition to abortion, and their perception about the public's reaction to his message, was one of the main reasons why they repeatedly told him to leave. The decision then declared:  "[S]peech cannot be ...  punished or banned simply because it might offend its audience. The government cannot restrict speech out of a concern for the discomfort it might elicit in listeners. The government in effect ratified what it perceived as listener hostility to that speech when it silenced that speech. That act, coupled with its impetus, constitutes a content-based restriction on speech." 


Furthermore, the court refused each of the government's arguments that Marcavage posed any kind of safety hazard, which was the basis for his "interference" charge. Instead the judges took note that there were a number of similarly situated individuals who were never asked to move, and stated: "[W]hile maintenance of the public order is a legitimate objective, its pursuit does not license the government to deprive an individual of a constitutional right irrespective of the circumstances. To conclude otherwise would permit the government to cast off the First Amendment's protective cloak with no more than a scripted invocation of amorphous interests." 

The court also compassionately considered what Marcavage has wrongfully been through for the past two years, stating: "The weight of that conviction no doubt has taken its toll on him during the pendency of this appeal. The passage of time and the importance of correcting a criminal conviction that may have been obtained in error also counsel our resolution of this case one way or the other."


"I'm rejoicing and praising the Lord for this victory; this is not only a victory for me, but for all Americans," Marcavage stated. "The dangerous reality as evidenced by this case is that, even in the birthplace of American freedom in the shadows of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, the government is aggressively working to silence the truth," he continued. "The only thing that I was guilty of that day was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and against the mass murder of children in the womb," Marcavage stated. "I'm thankful to the judges who delivered justice and restored freedom with their unanimous ruling," Marcavage concluded.


Marcavage will now proceed with a civil suit that has been on hold pending this decision.


"But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." - Amos 5:24

About Repent America

Repent America (RA) is an evangelistic organization based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which zealously labors to further the Kingdom of God through Biblical evangelism. RA is a small operation with a BIG mission as it reaches out to tens of thousands of people each month with the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Whether it be the public proclamation of the Gospel message (Romans 10:14-15), opening thy mouth for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-9), preaching to the poor and comforting the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18), warning the wicked of their way (Ezekiel 33:8-9), or working to preserve our liberties to do so, Repent America continues to "fight the good fight of faith." (1 Timothy 6:12) Please join in the fight with us by clicking here to make a donation to keep us on the streets as we continue to impact America with the truth of God's Word!

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