Greetings to as many as will read and ponder these words. This commentary about the recent arrest of my brother and me in Hickory, NC should be a boisterous alarm to all Bible-believing Christians in America who still think we live in a land of freedom. Articles in the news media and recent public statements by City Officials demand a response. Please circulate this information around to as many Christians as possible, especially those living in the Hickory area. We need to continue to put pressure on the city to insure that this does not happen again to us or to you. I will not now recap the actual events that transpired on June 27th. For more information on this, review my previous blog entries.
True, there have been several positive developments since my last entry, but the matter is far from resolved. One must understand that there are two issues inextricably linked to this arrest. The first concerns the charge of trespassing on public property. The second and more important aspect, concerns infringement against the First Amendment Rights of believers attempting to share their faith. This past week, the District Attorney dismissed the charges of trespassing against Matthew and me, stating that his actions were in the best interest of “justice.” Strangely, the press knew about it long before we did. The D.A. also promised my former attorney that he would make sure our records are expunged. I still await confirmation on this one. This is definitely cause for rejoicing, and thank you for your prayers to that end. The City was dragging its feet, trying to justify the actions of its rogue police officers, but apparently, the District Attorney, when the matter reached his desk, saw that the City had no case for its frivolous charge. We did nothing wrong the night of June 27th, and no police officer has the right to arbitrarily run someone off of public property, just like he/she has no right to arbitrarily search your vehicle or your house. So, the issue of trespassing seems to have been resolved, though we still wait to have our records officially expunged. Praise the Lord for a District Attorney in Hickory, NC who knows the law and does the right thing. It cannot be said enough: thanks for all your prayers regarding this matter. I also believe all your phone calls and correspondences to the City expressing concern were a contributing factor. These, in a way, put pressure on city officials and forced the hand of the D.A. Thank-you for taking the time. On a recent FOX News Channel report, one in which I declined to make a statement, it was stated that floods of emails and phone calls had come in from all over the Hickory area, the country, and the world. Wow! I am humbled.
Unfortunately, as mentioned, the matter is not fully rectified. There still remains the issue of First Amendment infringement and the protection of the religious rights of evangelical Christians. Based on the public statements made by City Officials and the Chief of Police since the dropping of charges, it is abundantly clear that these have no idea about the protections afforded to us by the Founding Fathers in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The mantra from these officials is like a broken record (These statements were cited in a news article that appeared in the Hickory Daily Record on July 18, 2008) :
“I believe the Hickory Police acted appropriately given the circumstances”
(Councilman Brad Lail).
“I think the police acted in the correct manner. The citizens’ safety was their chief area of concern. I stand firmly behind the Hickory Police Department”
(Councilwoman Jill Patton).
“I believe our officers handled the situation appropriately to maintain the peace”
(Chief of Police Tom Adkins).
Fellow-believers: Can’t you see that THESE ARE VERY DANGEROUS STATEMENTS, and such words indicate that we who attempt to share our faith on public property in Hickory, NC have no real First Amendment protection going forward. If the police officers acted “appropriately” the night of June 27th, then what is to stop these from doing the same to you?
So Chief Adkins, I guess you are telling us that it is appropriate to handcuff Christians, escort them down to a jail cell, and take their mug shots simply because they were peaceably handing out Gospel tracts in a traditionally public forum. I guess it is appropriate to frivolously order law-abiding citizens to leave a public place and cease doing what the United States Supreme Court has affirmed time and time again to be a Constitutionally protected act. It is also appropriate, I guess, to taunt Christians while they sit in a jail cell, to fail to read them their rights before demanding answers to personal questions, to deny them a phone call, and to hold them far longer than necessary until the event at which they were witnessing was done for the evening. Do your officers take teenagers to jail who are cited with trespassing along Highway 70 every weekend as many unlawfully loiter in private parking lots, or, do they only write them citations? Taking “trespassers” to jail is only for the Christians, huh?
Following Councilman Lail’s above statement, he said: “but I’m glad the charges were dropped . . . I support the Boyd’s right to distribute religious material.” Thank-you sir, but how can you have it both ways? If you support our right to hand out Gospel tracts, how could the actions of the police on June 27th have been appropriate? Which is it? Talk about riding the fence.
Let’s talk a moment about the issue of “citizens’ safety” and “maintaining the peace.” On the night of June 27th, whose safety was threatened, Councilwoman Patton? Chief Adkins, how was the peace disturbed? If we were causing a public disturbance of any kind, why didn’t your officers arrest us for disturbing the peace, inciting a riot, or harassment? Where was the concern for public safety the week before? On June 20th, we were also out at Hickory Alive trying to witness. A group of rowdy teenagers kept following us and shouting blasphemies in our presence. They lit Gospel tracts on fire and screamed terrible things about the Lord Jesus Christ. One young man physically pushed me twice. A young lady spit in my face. Paul Langford and I tried to walk away from this bunch, but the teenagers followed and surrounded us. Never did we respond in anger or with threatenings. We only spoke Scriptural truth and the Gospel message calmly. The police did nothing to stop this. One officer confiscated my driver’s license and then ordered me to leave. I explained that he had no legal right to confiscate my identification, and I would be glad to keep moving as soon as he returned my personal property. He flicked the license back at me. They blamed us for the actions of those teenagers despite the fact that the Hickory Code of Ordinances clearly says in Section 22.30: “It shall be unlawful for any person to physically interfere with processions, marches or meetings, or with the persons lawfully engaged therein in the use of any street, sidewalk or other public place, or to address profane, indecent, abusive or threatening language or other fighting words to or at such participants which would tend to provoke such participants or others to a breach of the peace.” We were not a parade, procession, march, or a meeting, but surely this principle would apply to all citizens. Why didn’t the police arrest these teenagers for threatening our safety and disturbing the peace? Furthermore, why have we been blamed for it, when all we did was tell someone about the reality of hell and divine judgment but then try to explain that there was escape through Jesus Christ? Hey, the message of Jesus Christ is exclusive, and the Gospel offends; but offensive speech is exactly what the First Amendment protects. By the way Chief Adkins: What happened on the night of June 20th (i.e. hoodlums harassing and threatening us, not vice-versa as your officers claim) has nothing to do with what transpired on June 27th. There was no peace being disturbed that night. Many people took tracts appreciatively, and there were several good conversations before your officers approached and violated Constitutional Law. “Our officers handled the situation appropriately to maintain the peace.” Man, what fabrication. It’s almost comical.
In actuality, some bigwig with the Jaycees, possibly the individual listed on the arrest report as the “owner” of Union Square (This description in and of itself is laughable. How can a single person own public property built with taxpayer money?), probably hated the Gospel message and screamed loudly to the off-duty officers that his organization hired for the night. Then, these officers with authority complexes, likewise disdaining the Gospel message, thought it would be worthwhile to intimidate and religiously discriminate against us while acting like Hitler’s Brownshirts or the Soviet KGB. Wait a minute, you might say: “Religious discrimination”? Those are strong words. Friends, this is clearly what was involved. The taunting statements by the police officers following our arrest (i.e. statements disdaining the Bible, Jesus Christ, and our faith) and the fact that they told Kent and Paul we could stay if we ceased handing out “those tracts” are proof enough of this. This line coming out of the city that we were told we could stay as long as we distributed outside the “yellow line” (i.e. the area roped off to keep people from bringing alcohol in and to insure the Jaycees would make money selling their booze) is an utter lie. We were told the entire public square was “private property just like Wal-Mart.” Kent asked where we could do it, and they told us “nowhere.” What about the arresting officer who came outside the police station where a group of Christians had gathered to pray for us as we sat in a jail cell? While believers were quietly praying, he walked around whistling obnoxiously loud with the intent to disturb and intimidate. There were numerous eyewitness accounts to this, by the way. And, they want us to believe this was not religious discrimination??? This was appropriate action to maintain the peace??? Come on, we are not that dense. These were rogue officers using bully tactics, not good men who handled a difficult situation appropriately. There was no “situation” that night. There was no run-in with anyone that night. Those officers ordered us to leave. They refused to look at the 2006 letter from the Christian Law Association explaining citing Constitutional Law and our right to witness in Union Square. They refused to look at the City Ordinance that I had in my backpack that night. Is this doing one’s best considering the circumstances?
Could the truth be that Mayor Rudy Wright was less than honest when he said: “Hickory is not anti-christian” (as printed in a July 17 Hickory Daily Record article). Maybe the city officials are not anti-churchianity. But, when they maintain that arresting two law-abiding citizens for peacefully distributing Gospel literature and hauling them down to a jail cell at the police station is “appropriate action,” one has to wonder. Lots of people call themselves “christian” but know nothing of what the Scripture says or what it means to be born again. Sure, maybe Hickory is not anti-“this type of christian.” But, the statements of city officials and their defense of rogue officers who were clearly imposing religious discrimination lead me to believe that it may be anti-Bible-believer or anti-evangelism. If what you say is true, Mayor Wright, come out and denounce the statements that maintain our arrests were appropriate action. Hold the officers that were involved accountable; censure them so that this does not happen again; rebuke them for the lies they are telling about what transpired that night.
Mayor, what about the Magistrate who sanctioned the phony charge of trespassing? Unbelievable. Shame on Mr. Roseman. Matthew and I heard him and the officers trying to concoct a charge to justify our incarceration as we sat there being denied a phone call. Read the arrest report, and you will see proof of this. Is this appropriate behavior? Come out and denounce such frivolous abuse of authority if you mean what you said in the news article, Mr Mayor.
In the same article, Wright also stated: “We are a very church-oriented city and we will stay that way.” If this is true, then it makes the arrest and the statements that such was appropriate action all the more ludicrous. Wright went on to say “Our police officers do not serve as judge, jury, defense attorney or the Supreme Court – they are simply there to keep the peace.” What peace was violated that night, Mayor Wright? If we were disturbing it, why weren’t we charged for this? Moreover, why weren’t all five of us arrested? Is it appropriate action to charge someone who is guilty of disturbing the peace with trespassing on public property? If so, I guess it is appropriate for the Hickory Police Department to frivolously arrest anyone for anything and charge them with whatever. The police officers may not serve as judge, jury, defense attorney, or Supreme Court; but they sure acted like it the night of June 27th. Shouldn’t your police officers know the law, Mayor? We tried to show them a 2006 letter from the Christian Law Association that explained the law and our right to witness in Union Square at Hickory Alive. They refused to look at it. I appealed to the Hickory City Ordinance that I had in my backpack. They wouldn’t look at it; instead, I was put in handcuffs. Watch the videotape, Mr. Mayor. At once, I am reminded of what a Hickory Police Officer said to me once: “Son, I don’t care what you think the law says. I will arrest your $%@& and let the courts decide what is the law.” Is this the way it is supposed to work? Is it the courts that make the law in this country, and is law enforcement able to arrest on a whim, defy constitutional law, and then plead indifference to that law? When I wake up in the Hickory area every morning, do I wake up in the United States of America or in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics?
Mr. Mayor, I urge you to denounce these statements and give us assurance that Constitutional Law does matter in Hickory, North Carolina. We are unconvinced. If you will not do this, then your political opponent in the next election would do well to take note.
In a July 12th Hickory Daily Record article, Mayor Wright said “We are not going to be anti-Christian here in Hickory. We’re simply not going to be that way.” Fellow Bible-believers, let’s hold Mayor Wright accountable for this statement and urge him to denounce the claims that these arrests were appropriate action. Such claims, especially by the Chief of Police, unavoidably make this a test case. If it was appropriate then, it will be appropriate next time. It will happen again. All the police have to do is claim a breach of peace for any ridiculous reason in the same vein that pro-abortionists throw around the “health of the mother” clause to justify all kinds of brutal slaughter, including partial birth abortion. I mean “health of the mother” is applied to the “inconvenience” of having a child, mental stress, financial stress, and all sorts of other garbage to justify murder. What will the Hickory Police Department deem “disturbing the peace” next: wearing Scripture verses on a T-shirt, having church in one’s home, homeschooling our children, having Christian bumper stickers on our vehicles, having a conversation about the things of the Lord on a public sidewalk, reading a Bible on a park bench??? Surely this does not sound too off-base, for freely distributing Gospel tracts is considered “disturbing the peace” by default if arresting those doing it was considered handling “the situation appropriately to maintain the peace.”
Below, I have posted Mayor Wright’s contact information. Let’s again let him know where Bible-believing Christians stand:
Mayor Rudy Wright
Tel: (828) 466-1044
A couple of statements made by Jeff Spears, president of the Hickory Jaycees, in a July 12th Hickory Daily Record article also demand a response. “He said groups pay a fee to display posters and signs for upcoming events and to hand out fliers promoting those events, but the Boyds and their friends do not.” Uh, Mr. Spears, since when are free citizens of a free nation required to pay to disseminate FREE religious literature in obedience to their faith on PUBLIC PROPERTY? Sir, when you host Hickory Alive, A FREE PUBLIC ACCESS EVENT, you do not own Union Square in downtown Hickory. It is public property, and you have no right to deny anyone access based upon race, national origin, or religion. Did you forget to read Rule #19 in your permit application? It says: “Applications must comply with any and all local, state, and federal laws pertaining to equal opportunity and should make every effort to make events accessible to the disabled public. In addition, applicants shall not deny access or a vendor’s booth to any
group based on national origin, race, religion, age, sex, or disability.” Besides this, Mr. Spears, you should educate yourself on the difference between soliciting and free speech. Unlike your vendors, we were not promoting any event or selling anything. I was invited to your Hickory Alive Celebration just like every other resident in the area (Your ads directed to the general public all around town are proof of this). I came with a couple of my friends and used the opportunity of a large crowd to share my faith by distributing Gospel tracts from person to person.
The same article also stated: “The Hickory Jaycees pay off-duty police officers to provide security for the event, he [Jeff Spears] added. Since alcohol is served, the officers’ main duty is making sure the attendees behave themselves and don’t get out of hand.” Off-duty police officers arresting us and taking us to jail for handing out Gospel tracts? This is even more incredible. And, the powers-that-be want us to believe religious discrimination was not involved? Why weren’t these off-duty officers protecting innocent people from getting hurt by insuring that intoxicated attendees weren’t leaving the event and getting behind the wheel of a car? Instead, they were down at the jailhouse taunting a couple of Christians. Why weren’t the off-duty police officers making the drunks who threatened us the night of July 4th behave themselves or restraining hoodlum teens on the night of June 20th? There is a lot more that is “out of hand” down at Hickory Alive than a group of Christians sharing their faith.
The article also reads: “The first line of the Jaycees creed states, ‘Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life,’ and Spears said many members of his organization are Bible-believing Christians who would never deny someone’s right to share their faith.” Oh really, Mr. Spears (I am trying not to laugh here). If this is true, publicly denounce the arrests and the statements by City Officials who maintain that this was appropriate action. Instead, all you can say is that the arrest “was blown way out of proportion.” Is it really blowing it out of proportion to demand that the City of Hickory be held accountable for unlawfully and frivolously arresting two Christians who were doing nothing wrong? Is it really blowing it out of proportion to demand a real answer as to why two law-abiding and tax-paying citizens with no criminal records were put in handcuffs and hauled to a jail cell for simply handing out a few Gospel tracts? Sir, your statements are pontifical smoke, and nothing more. It’s pretty sad that members of your organization would claim to be Bible-believing Christians and yet participate in promoting an event that encourages public drunkenness and a cesspool of festering iniquity. It’s OK with you, Mr Spears, for people to perversely pole-dance out there in front of little children, to shout profanity from the stage, to be so drunk that they can barely walk, or to threaten Christians with physical assault. Sir, you don’t know God and you blaspheme His name when you claim that faith in him gives meaning and purpose to your life. Moreover, I guess the “Bible-believing Christians” in your organization forgot to read I Corinthians 6:9-11. It was your people who demanded that the police get rid of us that night. The police saw us out there long before you complained, and they never said a word. Don’t tell me your organization would never do anything to deny someone’s right to share their faith. On June 27th, YOU DID! I am immediately reminded of the Jaycee who was in charge of the event back in 2006 (Maybe that was you, Mr. Spears. I don’t know what you look like). He got so angry at us for doing the same thing and got the police involved. Whoever was the police supervisor at the time had some sanity about himself and eventually told his officers to back off because we were not breaking any law. Still, that angry Jaycee told us very loudly, curtly, and rudely: “I hate your message, and I am going to do everything in my power to stop it from being spread down here.” Should that be the words of someone from an organization that maintains faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life? Perhaps their god is just an idol they have created in their own minds to serve and justify their own lusts and pleasures. He is certainly not the God of the Bible. I saw this same Jaycee from 2006 out at Hickory Alive on July 4th (the week after our arrests). He grimaced at our presence, but he could not stop the Gospel message from going out (Was that you Mr. Spears?).
Folks, I know I have been very blunt in this memorandum, and I apologize if I sound a bit vexed. Heretofore, we have made virtually no public statements to the media on the advice of our attorney, yet the City has said much in an attempt to besmirch the characters of peaceful evangelists and justify a terrible law enforcement mistake. The most recent string of statements by City Officials deeming the actions of the police to be appropriate are utterly disturbing, and they should be so to you. I am not out to defend myself, my brother, or the other men with me that night; I will let the Lord do so. However, we have been put in a place where we should fight to insure that other Christians are not subjected to the same type of treatment and that my children will be able to one day share their faith with the lost in their own hometown. Bible-believing Christians are losing freedoms quickly in America, and if we do not wake up and hold our elected officials accountable, all will soon be lost.
Some may say that the recent statements by City Officials were simply made to save face. “Politicians have to do that sort of thing. They won’t bother you again,” one person said. No, I do not believe this. Two months ago, I never would have believed that I would be arrested in Hickory, NC for distributing Gospel tracts. Why should I now believe that what has been termed appropriate action will not happen again to me or to you? Besides, I am sick of politicians. Where are the godly statesmen that used to run our local, state, and national governments? It’s time to start holding our politicians accountable. And, it begins for us in Hickory, NC.
At this point, I am unsure about the exact nature of our course of action. We are very grateful to the Christian Law Association for their assistance in helping us to deal with the issue of trespassing. They accomplished our goal in that matter and got the charges dropped. Now, we have to face the second issue–the trampling of our First Amendment rights on June 27th and getting assurance that this will not happen again. The statements cited above are proof that the City of Hickory does not understand the basic rights guaranteed to all American citizens, and the logical outflow of such statements is that this can and will happen again. In our view, there has been no true resolution. Please pray for us as we seek to be obedient to the Lord. Again, this is not about us; it is not about money; it is not about fame. In anything we do, may it be done heartily as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23), and may the Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel of salvation get the primary attention.
Please assist us in holding the city accountable by continuing to express concerns, especially regarding recent statements by the Police Chief and City Council Members that the actions of the police department in this arrest were “appropriate.” It was us on June 27th; it may be you next time.
Below is relevant contact information:
City of Hickory
Hickory Police Department
Tel: 828-261-2600 (This number will get you straight to Chief Adkins’ office)
Also, voice your concerns to the local news reporter with the Hickory Daily Record who has been covering this story:
The official press release put out by the City of Hickory after the charges were dropped is as follows:
“City of Hickory officials have been informed by the district attorney’s office that they have made the decision to dismiss all criminal charges against Jesse and Matthew Boyd. The overriding issues center on the need to protect the constitutional rights of citizens, to include freedom of speech and of religion, while taking into account the expression of these rights cannot impede the rights of others. Considering all the facts involved, the district attorney’s office has made the decision to dismiss all criminal charges.”
“In this case, Hickory police officers were challenged to decide if those constitutional rights interfered with a permitted event on Union Square,” said Hickory Chief of Police Tom Adkins. “I believe our officers handled the situation appropriately to maintain the peace. However, continued discussion in our community is needed to ensure the rights of those delivering a message and those receiving the message in a public place are both properly protected.”
More than anything, I am disappointed in Chief Adkins. He really seemed like an honorable and fair man with a real desire to make this right. Apparently, he would rather support the bad mistake of his officers and call it “appropriate,” insinuating that we were disturbing the peace. Chief Adkins has shown his true colors, my friends. Let’s hold him accountable for it.
The officers involved have a reputation anyway as does the department. Ask a believer I know who simply took his dad’s car out to fill it with gas. He was recently cited for a noise violation on Hwy. 70 and accused of having a faulty muffler on a vehicle that had just passed state inspection. Ask the father of a believer friend of mine who has been harassed by these same officers several times. Ask another believer who is a security guard at a local Hickory establishment. The night after the arrests, he overheard one of the arresting officers openly bragging about arresting two religious nuts for handing out literature. “They’re probably going to raise a fuss about it,” he said. Officer, you couldn’t have spoken more truly. This is America, and your badge does not give you the right to fabricate law, harass law-abiding citizens, abuse the authority entrusted to you, bully people and then lie about, or arrest frivolously and then brag about it. Chief Adkins, hold these men accountable so that the decent and appreciated officers on your police force aren’t tainted with a reputation created by the rogue actions of a few.
Christians in the Hickory area: Beware! If, in obedience to the Great Commission of our Lord and Saviour, you go out to share your faith in town, be extra careful. Carry a video camera, and keep your eyes open. The Hickory Police Department and its Chief consider it appropriate action to handcuff Christians, put them in a jail cell, and trump up a ridiculous charge of trespassing on public property in response to free Gospel tract dissemination. They have made it clear that sharing the Gospel and the Gospel message disturbs the peace, and they will arrest for it. The intimidation has already begun. Two Fridays ago, my brother was followed and watched like a hawk by one of the same officers who arrested us on June 27th. There were numerous eyewitness accounts of this. This is police intimidation, and we will not stand for it. There were no incidents as believers visited Hickory Alive on July 18th, but the threat, as derived from the statements cited above, remains. As soon as someone gets a little offended by the Gospel message, a believer may be arrested for “disturbing the peace.”
In conclusion, let me make say one more thing to the Hickory Police Department and Hickory City Officials. Let every news media outlet take note:
You can arrest me. You can throw me in jail. You can even one day take my life. BUT, I WILL NOT CEASE TO PREACH AND TEACH JESUS CHRIST. I WILL NOT CEASE BEING A PUBLIC WITNESS OF THE TRUTH OF THE BIBLE AND THE SALVATION THAT THE ONE TRUE GOD AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST BROUGHT TO A WICKED WRETCH LIKE ME. I WILL NOT CEASE OBEYING THE GREAT COMMISSION AND TRYING TO POINT THE LOST TO THEIR ONLY HOPE: REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD AND FAITH TOWARD OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. AND, I AM NOT ALONE. THERE ARE MANY MORE CHRISTIANS IN THE HICKORY AREA WHO WILL STAND WITH CHRIST EVEN IF IT MEANS THEIR VERY LIFE. You folks can persecute Christians as many have done in ages past. But, the message will only spread farther and with more vigor. Watch out!
Does the Hickory Police Department persecute Bible-believing Christians who deem it important to share the Gospel? Does the City of Hickory sanction such persecution? You decide. Thankfully, there is an honorable District Attorney who does not and will not.
“Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:3). Repent, or perish (Luke 13:3,5). Jesus Christ is the ONLY WAY to Heaven (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The Lord is coming back soon, and boy is He mad (II Thessalonians 1:7-9). The party in Hell has been canceled due to the fire (Mark 9:44,46). Flee to Jesus Christ, He is your only hope (Hebrews 2:3).
A Fool for the Lord Jesus Christ,
P.S. Christian brothers and sisters, in a softer frame of mind: Let’s not forget to pray for the salvation of our police officers and our city officials. This is of more importance than anything else. And, I would go to jail again after the manner of Paul the Apostle in Acts 16 if I knew it would result in someone coming to Christ or another Christian being emboldened to share his/her faith. If God were to use this whole incident in Hickory to draw one or more local persons or someone in city government/law enforcement to Jesus Christ in genuine salvation, then praise be to His Holy Name!