Two Christians who were arrested and charged after reading the Bible outside of a DMV location in Hemet, Calif., have been found not guilty. As TheBlaze previously reported, Mark Mackey, 60, a member of Reconciled Christian Fellowship and Pastor Bret Coronado, 44, were facing misdemeanor charges after reading the gospel outside of the public building back in 2011.
The men have now been cleared of these charges, according to the Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a non-profit law firm that represented them. On Tuesday, a judge ruled in favor of Mackey and Coronado, as prosecutors failed to prove that the men needed a permit before reading the Bible to a line of people waiting outside of the DMV (they were charged under a trespassing law).
After Mackey began preaching on Feb 1., 2011, it only took about 15 minutes before a California Highway Patrolman grabbed the Bible and arrested him. His crime? Preaching to a “captive audience.”
Video of the original arrest can be viewed, below:
Considering that there was no proof that the men intended to hold a “demonstration or gathering” — a requirement in order to hold them accountable for not obtaining a permit before preaching — the case is now closed.
“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,” said Attorney Robert Tyler, who represented the men.
Attorneys for Mackey and Coronado noted that the men were simply displaying their First Amendment right to free speech. Considering that their Bible reading was done on public property, Advocates for Faith and Freedom has argued that no charges should have been filed in the first place.
The case is far from over, though. The law firm had already filed a federal lawsuit against the California Highway Patrol before the criminal case unfolded. Although it was stayed until the end of the criminal case, that complaint will now move forward.