Even Intolerant Fools Deserve Free Speech

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 8, 2008 — 6 Comments

On Monday, the city of Salem will be hearing the case of Michael Marcavage, founder of Repent America, who was arrested on Halloween night on charges of disorderly conduct.

“A “Witch City” trial is scheduled Monday for a street preacher who was arrested and accused of disorderly conduct for expressing his belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ on a public street in Salem, Mass., on Halloween night in 2007. “Michael [Marcavage] is guilty of nothing more than preaching the Gospel,” said Ben DuPre, an attorney with former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, who is representing Marcavage.”

Michael Marcavage

Let there be no mistake, Marcavage is an intolerant caricature of true Christianity, an annoying hate-monger who hopes to “win” people to Jesus by threatening them with hellfire and damnation. Marcavage travels every year with a cadre of followers to harangue and cajole the thousands of Witches, Pagans, and merry-makers at Salem’s yearly Halloween festivities. An activity that has seen him come into conflict with local Christians, and made him a part of the circus-like atmosphere of the city. This along with other inconceivably stupid statements concerning God’s wrath, have made Marcavage something of a folk-hero among ultra-conservative born-again Christians.

However, if the video posted by Repent America accurately portrays the (alleged) events of Halloween night, then Marcavage’s First-Amendment rights were indeed violated.

Freedom of speech means that Repent America can publicly expound on our sinfulness all they want, so long as they don’t break other laws in transmitting that message. This freedom, in turn, grants Witches, Pagans, and other idealogical opponents of Repent America (a long, long list) the right to vociferously disagree. If on Monday the evidence truly points to the narrative portrayed in that video, all charges should be dropped, and the officers in question should be investigated for misconduct.

Of course, there is always the chance that there is more to this situation than meets the eye. We have no idea what transpired before that video clip, it is entirely possible that these would-be Christian crusaders did indeed engage in “disorderly conduct”. Many of these street-preaching/protesting organizations knowingly push at the boundaries of the law, engaging in activities that are little better than group harassment and intimidation. Then, once arrested, portray a monolithic government out to silence Christianity in order to boost monetary contributions (and status within certain Christian circles).

So whether Marcavage was “calmly preaching the gospel”, or spitting hellfire at the crowds of heathens, even intolerant fools deserve free speech. However, if Repent America was breaking the law, painting yourself as a First Amendment victim will only work for so long.

Jason Pitzl-Waters