RIVERSIDE (CBS) — A pastor and another member of a Hemet church who were arrested for reading Biblical passages outside a Department of Motor Vehicles office are set to be arraigned Jan. 6 on misdemeanor charges.
The pair’s arrest in February of this year resulted in a federal lawsuit against the patrolman who arrested them.
Brett Anthony Coronado, 42, and Mark Allen Mackey, 59, are charged with conducting a demonstration on state grounds without a permit. They were arrested Feb. 2 outside the Hemet DMV office at 1200 S. State St. and are free on their own recognizance.
Coronado, who is a pastor at Calvary Chapel, and Mackey, who works in the church’s evangelical ministries, were reading aloud passages from the New Testament in the DMV parking lot when a security guard ordered the pair to “go some place else.” After the men refused, they were approached by California Highway Patrol Officer Darren Meyer.
The officer confronted Mackey, snatched his Bible, handed it to Coronado and arrested Mackey on suspicion of trespassing, according to the video and court documents.
“What have I done wrong?” Mackey asked in the video.
“You’ve been asked to leave, and you didn’t,” Meyer replied. “You can preach on your own property. You can preach on a street corner. But you’re not allowed to preach here because this is a captive audience.”
When Coronado asked Meyer to cite the specific statute that Mackey had violated, the CHP officer replied, “You want to go, too?”
“I’m giving you the option: You want to leave, or you want to be arrested?” Meyer asked.
A few minutes later, another CHP officer arrived and arrested Coronado on suspicion of impeding a business. Another member of the ministry, Edmond Flores, was also taken into custody, but was not charged.
Coronado, Mackey and Flores filed a civil liberties lawsuit less than two months later, alleging Meyer, and by extension the CHP, had violated their First, Fourth and 14th amendment rights, as well as violated the “liberty” clause of the California Constitution.
Meyer, now the public information officer for the CHP’s San Gorgonio office in Beaumont, sought an immediate dismissal of the lawsuit, based on federal judicial findings that law enforcement officers acting within their official capacity cannot be sued for carrying out their duty.
In September, Los Angeles-based U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee suspended further hearings on the lawsuit until the criminal case against Coronado and Mackey is resolved.
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