- The two evangelists that were arrested for preaching Christ at one of Philadelphia's largest mosques this past Fourth of July weekend near the University of Pennsylania were vindicated Friday in Philadelphia Community Court. Municipal Judge Charles Hayden declared Michael Marcavage of Repent America
(RA) and evangelist Kenneth Fleck "not guilty" on all criminal counts at the end of an intense, lengthy trial, which lasted for four and a half hours.
As reported in the previous news release, Marcavage and Fleck had been arrested on July 3, 2010 outside of "Masjid Al Jamia" in Philadelphia after being told that they could not preach on the public sidewalk. They were charged under Pennsylvania's "disorderly conduct" statute, 18 Pa. C.S. § 5503(a)(4), "Creat[ing] a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor," and also 18 Pa. C.S. § 5507, "Obstructing highways and other public passages." The evangelists pled "not guilty" during their arraignment on July 6. Their initial trial on August 10 was delayed at the request of prosecution, who moved the court for a continuance, stating that at least two hours were needed to present their lengthy "case" against Marcavage and Fleck.
The government's case during the trial was based upon the argument that Muslims outside of the "Masjid Al Jamia" were "agitated" by the evangelists, who preached that Jesus was the only way to God. Assistant District Attorney Joseph McCool, who maliciously prosecuted Marcavage and Fleck on the trumped-up charges, paraded several police officers to the stand, including the instigating officer, Nicole Michel. Not surprisingly, Officer Michel continually impeached herself as her testimony conflicted heavily with her previous representations made during an internal police investigation. Additionally, her own patrol partner, Officer Gary Cooper, provided testimony that was directly opposite of her claims during the trial. After the prosecutor rested his case, Judge Hayden allowed McCool to add additional false charges from the "disorderly conduct" statute's subsections, including § 5503(a)(1), "Engag[ing] in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior'" and § 5503(a)(2), "Unreasonable noise.'"
Attorney C. Scott Shields
then presented the evangelists' defense, which included testimony from a private security officer, Nicole Culmer, who witnessed Marcavage and
Fleck's arrests. Culmer testified that the evangelists were not behaving as the police officers alleged, but were simply preaching about Jesus. Shields also presented the mosque's video surveillance from the night of their arrests, which clearly showed that they were in no way creating any type of blockage as charged by police. Additionally, Shields sought to present a video that had been recorded by Marcavage outside of the mosque on the night of the arrests; regrettably, it was not permitted to be used as evidence by the judge. However, Marcavage and Fleck testified to the fact that the footage would have shown exactly what happened, if it had not been destroyed by police when they recorded over it. During closing arguments, Shields provided numerous case decisions that affirmed the evangelists' right to publicly preach outside of the mosque.
At the end of the trial, Judge Hayden asked McCool to address the charge of "Obstructing highways and other public passages." McCool, realizing that the evidence dismantled every element of his argument, dropped the count altogether. Soon thereafter, Judge Hayden declared the evangelists "not guilty" of the three remaining charges.
"This case was all about Marcavage and Fleck's speech," stated Shields. "If they had been outside of the mosque talking about anything other than Jesus Christ, they would never have been arrested. The evidence presented cleary demonstrated that the government silenced their speech because of its content," he concluded.
"The Lord will not leave him in [the enemy's] hand, nor condemn him when he is judged." - Psalm 37:33
The University of Pennsylvania's Long-Forgotten Christian Heritage
Ironically, the University of Pennsylvania's heritage is deeply rooted in the Christian faith, and a number of individuals that were involved with the university were instrumental in the founding of our nation.
According to their own website,
before the university became an educational institution, its original facility was a large preaching hall that was built for evangelist George Whitefield, a street preacher whose booming voice was known to attract mass crowds. Whitefield sold the hall to Benjamin Franklin, who turned it into an academy which taught both Christianity and professional skills. Franklin then chose Pastor William Smith to be the school's first administrator, and a long line of preachers followed Smith as provost. Eleven signers of the United States Constitution were also associated with the university. Years after its establishment, the school was named the University of Pennsylvania.
Another document found on the university's website, Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania, outlines Benjamin Franklin's vision for founding a public college. In the document, Franklin spoke of his desire "to have in view the glory and service of God," and stated that it was his goal to "show the necessity of a public religion, from its usefulness to the public, the advantage of a religious character among private persons ... and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others ancient or modern."
"It is a shame that the rich historical and Christian heritage of the University of Pennsylvania continues to be marred by the actions of their police department and administration," stated Michael Marcavage. "It is intriguing to look back at history and see how influential the Gospel of Jesus Christ was in the founding of America and its early institutions. At the same time, it is grievous to see how the Gospel has been removed," Marcavage stated.
A CALL TO ACTION: Don't let this unlawful and egregious behavior go without your voice of opposition! Please act by doing the following:
1) Contact Assistant District Attorney Joseph McCool and express your heartfelt disgust over his wrongful prosecution of the evangelists simply because Muslims were "agitated" by the message of Christianity.
Phone: (215) 686-8000
2) Contact University of Pennsylvania Vice President of Public Safety Maureen Rush and respectfully express your heartfelt disgust over the unlawful actions of Officer Nicole Michel, and ask that she be immediately terminated. Furthermore, request that a full investigation be conducted into the destruction of the evangelists' video footage after it was confiscated and in police custody.
Phone: (215) 898-7515
3) Contact University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and express your heartfelt concerns over what happened to the evangelists and over the direction she is leading the university.
Phone: (215) 898-7221