Westminster Assembly

Westminster Assembly

Acts 6:4

"But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word."



1 Timothy 4:6-16

" If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach. Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." 1 Tim 4:6-16 (KJV)

Open Air Preaching/Witnessing Rights by Shane C. Montgomery

Friday, December 17, 2010

You guessed it, that large bald guy is me!  The other large bald guy is my friend and brother in Christ, Mark. I am the goofy looking guy on the left.  This picture was taken during one of our Open Air Preachings from last year.  It is a good idea to have some knowledge on the Laws and your rights as a street preacher when you are confronted by the local authorities.  If you do any open air, it is only a matter of time before you will be confronted by the police, this is not a bad thing but you should know your rights, and I also suggest you contact the local officials and obtain a permit from the city prior to your outreach, and please keep this permit on your body, I cannot stress this enough!   The following is a list of rights you have, I have found it to be very helpful and I would encourage you to print this off if you plan to do any witnessing.  Keep it nearby and keep in mind, each state and city has different regulations.   Be careful and be obedient to your Commission to preach the Gospel!

                                             Open Air Preaching/Witnessing Rights

The following material outlines a religious citizen’s right to speak in public streets and parks and in other government controlled venues. 

In Public Streets and Parks 

Public streets and parks are considered a “traditional public forum.” This is the classic place where citizens have always shared their beliefs and ideas with one another. 

The “traditional public forum” is the most protected place for Christian witnessing and literature distribution. All citizens have an absolute right to share their faith in the “traditional public forum” of streets and parks. This absolute right is subject only to limited controls in the interest of public safety and order. 

To preserve safety and order in free wheeling public discourse, the government retains the right to enact reasonable regulations in only three ways: time, place and manner. For instance, two parades could not march down the same public street at the same time. Therefore, the government may require that citizens obtain a permit in order to conduct a parade. This is a reasonable time, place and manner restriction. The government may also require a permit in order to hold a large public rally. This is a reasonable time, place and manner restriction to alert police and provide for public order and safety. 

Courts have held that prohibiting a noisy demonstration outside a hospital or school is a reasonable regulation. Courts have also held that people who distribute literature in a public forum may be required to remain in a designated area in order not to impede traffic flow. However, the designated area must be reasonable--that is, it must actually allow access to the public. 

Witnessing and Gospel tract distribution are protected activities because courts treat them as a right of free speech, not because they are a right to free exercise of religion. All regulation of free speech activities must be reasonable and must allow real communication. Regulations must be “content neutral” and must not be any broader than necessary. A “content neutral” regulation is one that controls all speech in the same way. For instance, the government could not prohibit Christians from distributing Gospel tracts in a park and then allow peace demonstrators to distribute their literature in that park. 

A city may enact a permit system to control some types of public free speech. The permit process must be based on objective criteria and must not be discretionary. A public official may not be given discretion to decide which individuals or groups will receive permits. Permits must be distributed through a fair and objective process such as “first come, first served.” Any fees must be reasonable and not discriminatory or excessive. 

There is a difference between “distribution” and “solicitation” which governmental regulations of free speech activities must recognize. Distribution is the free handing out of literature such as Gospel tracts. Solicitation, on the other hand, is selling literature or other items for a donation or for a fixed price. Regulations may sometimes prohibit “solicitation,” but they may never totally restrict “distribution.” Courts have noted that the free distribution of literature does not interfere with public traffic flow in the same way that solicitation does. It takes only seconds for someone to hand out free literature to a willing recipient. But when passersby must reach in their wallets or solicitors must make change, a different situation exists. Christians who hand out free Gospel tracts are always considered to be distributors; they are never solicitors. 

Christians are free to witness and distribute Gospel tracts in public streets and parks. Generally, in a high traffic area, distributors should keep moving while speaking or distributing literature in order not to create a traffic hazard. Christians are also free to preach, sing, or present dramatizations which might collect a crowd as long as that crowd will not block pedestrian or vehicular traffic. Permits may sometimes be required for crowd generating activities. 

Practical Guidelines: 

1. Do not disrupt the traffic flow. Stand near a building or other stationary object such as a lamp post. 

2. Do not interfere with ingress or egress to buildings. 

3. Maintain a reasonable noise level for the situation. 

4 Do not use words that would provoke a riot or other “clear and present danger” to public safety. 

5. Identify yourself to law enforcement officials if you are in a “bad” neighborhood so that they will not think you are a drug dealer or are offering other illicit materials. 

6. If hassled by police or other citizens, be polite, explain your rights, but consider moving to another location rather than cause a confrontation. 

7. Consider picking up any Gospel tracts passersby drop near you in the street. This practice may also save you money since you may be able to reuse some of the tracts. 

8. Check with city officials to see if you need a permit for safety or public order reasons to conduct a particular activity. 

9. Cooperate with a fair and reasonable permit process. 
10. Don’t force people to take your literature if they obviously do not want it. 

11. If you engage someone in conversation about the Gospel, move to the side of the street in order not to block traffic. 

12. If you might gather a crowd by engaging in preaching, drama, or singing, check your location ahead of time to make sure that a crowd will not block traffic flow or interfere with ingress and egress to buildings. 

13. Work in teams as much as possible to ensure safety and to vouch for each other if confronted by police. This is particularly important in “bad” parts of town 

14. Be careful of getting caught up in a “police sweep” of an area. You may want to identify yourself to authorities ahead of time so they know what you are doing. You could carry a letter from a pastor or evangelist vouching for your legitimate activities. You might also carry along a list of names of court cases that give you the right to do what you are doing. 

15. You may want to consult ahead of time with a local attorney or bail bondsman in case you are unjustly arrested or picked up in a general police sweep. Memorize the telephone number or carry it with you so you can call for help if needed. 

16. If you see a companion being arrested, do not interfere with the arrest. Observe from the sidelines and then call a local attorney or pastor for help. 

17. Do not resist if arrested yourself. If your letter of introduction and list of court cases do not help, go along peacefully and call a local attorney from the police station. 

18. If you are confronted or harassed by police, seek an appointment with a high city authority such as the police chief, mayor, or city manager. 

19. Choose a time and place for street preaching which will not interfere with neighboring businesses or with the peace and quiet of a residential neighborhood. 

In Public Streets and Parks 
Hague v. C.I.O., 307 U.S. 496 (1939). 

The United States Supreme Court held that citizens have a “guaranteed access” to streets, parks, and other “traditional public forum.” The privilege to use the streets and parks for communication of views may be regulated in the best interests of all, but it must not, under the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied. Mere inconvenience to the government will not outweigh free speech interests. The government must use the least restrictive means of achieving legitimate, content neutral objectives. 

Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989). 
Time, place and manner regulations must be narrowly tailored and must not be substantially broader than necessary to achieve a significant government interest. 

Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 (1938). 

An ordinance may not prohibit all distribution of literature. Such an ordinance violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press by subjecting literature to licensing and censorship. 
Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 147 (1939). 

The United States Supreme Court did not allow cities to completely forbid leaflet distribution in order to prevent littering. The objective of keeping the streets clean does not outweigh the right to distribute literature in public. 

Heffron v. ISKCON (Krishna Society), 452 U.S. 640 (1981). 

Time, place and manner regulations on literature distribution or solicitation in public places must be content neutral and authorities may not exercise discretion in issuing permits. The state was permitted to assign free speech activities to booths which had reasonable access to crowds in order to regulate traffic flow at a state fair. 

Cox v. New Hampshire, 312 U.S. 569 (1941). 

The United States Supreme Court permitted a city to require a permit for parades and public rallies as a reasonable means of maintaining public order. 

Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51 (1965). 

Public officials may not be given overly broad discretion to grant or deny permits or licenses. 

Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940). 

Speech may not be prohibited merely because it offends some listeners. 

Kunz v. New York, 340 U.S. 290 (1951). 

The United States Supreme Court did not allow a permit to include any restrictions on a speaker’s right of free expression. Permits may not be used as a prior restraint on free speech activities. Inappropriate or illegal activities may only be punished after they have occurred. 

Forsyth County v. The Nationalist Movement, 112 S.Ct. 2395 (1992). 

Permit applicants may not be required to pay a fee to meet expenses of a city for allowing a free speech activity. A city may not consider the listeners’ reaction to a speaker when drafting a content neutral ordinance. If a fee is charged it must be reasonable and uniform for all speakers. 
Cox v. Louisiana, 379 U.S. 536 (1965). 

Hecklers may not be allowed to veto a speaker’s right of free speech. Police must control a crowd rather than arrest the speaker in order to maintain order. Regulations may be imposed on free speech to control traffic flow. 

Gregory v. City of Chicago, 394 U.S. 111 (1969). 

Peaceful marching, chanting, and singing is protected by the First Amendment. 
Grayned v. Rockford, 408 U.S. 104 (1972). 

Free speech expression may be regulated for noise content in appropriate places such as schools while classes are in session. The general test is to ask whether the expressive activity is basically incompatible with the normal activities of a particular place at a particular time. 

Be Holy! 


{ Eddie Eddings } at: December 18, 2010 at 12:39 AM said...

Wise advice, brother bald one on the left. Praise God for your love for Christ, your love for lost souls and "takin' to the streets"!

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