RIVERSIDE (CBS) — Lawyers for leaders of a Hemet church say their constitutional rights were violated when police arrested three men for reading aloud from a Bible outside a local Department of Motor Vehicles office.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court, attorneys from Advocates for Faith & Freedom say an assistant pastor and two elders from Calvary Chapel Hemet reportedly went to the DMV on Feb. 2 before the office opened for business hours when one of the men began to read passages from the Bible.
Shortly after, a security guard approached Mark Mackey and instructed him to stop reading and leave the premises. The men say they had a First Amendment right to free speech, claiming that they were standing on public property and not interfering with any DMV business.
Approximately ten minutes later, a California Highway Patrolman approached Mr. Mackey as he read, took the Bible out of his hands, and arrested him for “impeding an open business” under Penal Code Section 602.1(b).
“This is an abuse of power on the part of the CHP,” said Jennifer Monk, Associate General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom. “The arresting officer could find no appropriate penal code to use when arresting these men. The purpose of the arrests appears to have been to censor them.”
The legal group has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the men — who were subsequently released after their arrests — for violation of their right to free speech and for unlawful arrest.