Appeal Filed on Behalf of ‘Philadelphia 11′ Christian Sidewalk Witnesses

By Allie Martin – February 19, 2007

( – Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund have filed an appeal on behalf of 11 Christians who were silenced on the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during a “gay pride” festival. The Christians, part of an organization called “Repent America,” were arrested in October 2004 after quoting the Bible during a public protest at a pro-homosexual event called Outfest.

At first, the Repent America members were brought up on a number of criminal charges, but those were later dropped. Subsequently the group filed a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated.

Last month, however, a federal judge dismissed the arrested Christians’ lawsuit against the Philadelphia officials. Attorney Joe Infranco of Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which represents the group, says the judge’s ruling was inconsistent.

“Speech cannot be silenced simply because one person or group does not agree with it,” Infranco asserts. “We’re looking to hold city officials accountable for their decision to violate the First Amendment rights of Christians who wanted to do nothing more than engage in peaceful assembly in a public street,” he says.

In his ruling, the judge said the homosexual activists at Outfest had the right to ban free speech because they had permits for the event. However, the plaintiffs’ attorney says the Repent America volunteers, sometimes referred to as the “Philadelphia 11,” were arrested because of the content of their speech.

“The interesting thing was that, when these Christians showed up, they were surrounded by people from the homosexual event … disrupters who were blowing whistles and screaming and waving signs,” Infranco notes. “The police did nothing about that; they let that go on for quite a while,” he says.

And eventually, the ADF attorney notes, the Repent America volunteers were told that they had to leave that part of the Outfest event. Also, he adds, they were told that if they did not go to the one spot to which they were being pointed, they would be arrested.

Infranco says Philadelphia officials are intent on silencing the free-speech rights of conservatives. ADF has appealed the judge’s decision to dismiss the case, and a ruling on the appeal is expected to come later in the year.

By Allie Martin, – Copyright, 2007. All Rights Reserved.