Arrests of proselytizers violated spirit of Independence Day - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Arrests of proselytizers violated spirit of Independence Day

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Posted: Monday, July 7, 2003 11:14 pm | Updated: 1:37 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Talk about your basic irony: Two guys were arrested in Chandler on the Fourth of July for daring to be free. And a crowd of red-white-and-blue Americans — patriots who had just celebrated the idea of human liberty — not only let it happen, but applauded it.

The two young men are members of The Door Christian Center, one of several religious groups that, to the annoyance of some, take their ministry to the public rather than waiting behind closed doors for the public to come to them.

No doubt, being confronted unexpectedly by someone else’s religion can be surprising, even offensive. Further, it seems to be in the nature of modern Americans to beg the government for protection against someone else’s free speech; this explains the soaring popularity of the government’s do-not-call list, which is designed to shield helpless people from the machinations of carpet-cleaners.

Anyway, these two guys were out late on Friday night, talking about religion. They approached a group of people waiting for a bus after a fireworks display at Tumbleweed Park. Because these people were waiting for a bus, they considered themselves a “captive audience” with absolutely no recourse but to stay there and be pummeled by words.

Someone called the cops. The cops arrested Jonathan Cornell, 24, of Gilbert. Then they arrested another church member, whose name was not released (great: secret arrests of American citizens in Chandler) for the heinous crime of videotaping the first arrest and refusing to give the tape to the cops.

Here’s hoping some judge has the constitutional fortitude to throw this stupid case out on its ear and, in the process, give the police and complainants a stern lecture on the meaning and purpose of freedom.

What follows is part of a unanimous 1940 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a landmark case called Cantwell v. Connecticut. It, too, dealt with the topic of zealous — some might say offensive — religious proselytizing. It contains logic and multisyllabic words, so Chandler police and members of the bus stop crowd might want to read it slowly and repeatedly, with a dictionary in hand:

“In the realm of religious faith, and in that of political belief, sharp differences arise. In both fields the tenets of one man may seem the rankest error to his neighbor. To persuade others to his own point of view, the pleader, as we know, at times resorts to exaggeration, to vilification of men who have been, or are, prominent in church or state, and even to false statement. But the people of this nation have ordained, in the light of history, that, in spite of the probability of excesses and abuses, these liberties are, in the long view, essential to enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of a democracy.”

It would appear that Chandler police and a number of its citizens have spat in the face of that ringing endorsement of liberty.

On the Fourth of July.

What a shame.

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