By Michele Herzog
See: The Day Free Speech Died in Winter Park, Florida – Part 1
Could it really happen in America? Could three citizens be arrested on the public sidewalk for reading a Bible, having a camera and holding a “Celebrate Life” sign? I want to believe that this could not happen in the country I love so dearly, but yesterday it did.
The city of Winter Park Florida thought that these three American citizens were dangerous enough to call in the city SWAT team to body search, handcuff and arrest fellow pro-life evangelists and friends Jay Rogers, Professor Pat McEwen, and Cheryl Bischoff. They were then taken to the Orange County Jail for booking.
Editor’s note: The Winter Park SWAT team is often used on weekends to respond to calls as a matter of routine. We don’t know for certain that they thought these peaceful Christians were “dangerous.” Or did they? And why did they have to bring a machine gun? Of course, that makes the story more interesting!
Why did this city find it necessary to go to such measures to arrest three Christians on a public sidewalk? Let’s go back to last August when a group of peaceful Christians took to the streets and held a public witness in the neighborhood and residence of the newly promoted CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando, Jenna Tosh. This particular center performs on an average of over 100 abortions per week!
Almost immediately city commissioners of Winter Park went to the aide of Jenna Tosh and passed a 60-day emergency ban on residential picketing that targets a specific home. Later commissioners approved in a 4-1 vote an ordinance that would make the ban permanent, but not without a packed house of concerned citizens expressing their utter dismay and opposition to this ban that prohibits free speech. Mayor Ken Bradley was the only dissenting vote, expressing his opposition to the ban citing it as unconstitutional.
Since then, pro-lifers have gone back to publicly witness and share the truth of abortion in the neighborhood with police coming, telling the Christians they must leave, but never with the threat of arrest. The police on both occasions seemed to be confused as to what the ordinance really enacted.
This led to yesterday’s Awareness Campaign leading to the arrests of my friends, who love the Lord with all their heart, mind and soul. While they sat in the jail, we all stood outside of the jail holding signs, worshiping the Lord and praying that God would protect our brother and sisters in Christ and use them for the time they would be behind bars in jail, and that He did!
This is only the beginning, but I believe with all my heart that this is what Jesus meant when He said to be the salt and light of the earth. Please pray with us down here in Central Florida that God will use these unjust arrests to bring God glory and to challenge this ordinance that bans American citizens from their first amendment rights of free speech!