A Christian man was arrested while exercising his first amendment right at a Pride event held in Reading, Pennsylvania, on Saturday.
Reading the Bible in public places is generally considered a protected form of free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees individuals the right to freedom of speech, which includes the right to express religious beliefs.
Damon Atkins, a devout Christian, attended the event to share his religious beliefs and to express his interpretation of scripture.
Reading’s first-ever “Pride March and Rally,” supported by Mayor Eddie Moran, drew dozens of people outside the City Hall.
Atkins walked up to a public sidewalk just across the street from City Hall, holding a slogan that says “Jesus said go and sin no more.”
Police Sergeant Bradley T. McClure approached Atkins to intervene and prevent him from reciting the Bible verse, emphasizing respect for the LGBTQ+ community’s pride rally. Atkins responded by asserting his right to freely express himself, citing the fact that they were in a public space.
Atkins continued and chose to read from 1 Corinthians 14:33, which states, “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” However, before he could finish reading the verse, McClure rushed toward Atkins and placed him under arrest.
It took less than sixty seconds for Atkins to be placed in handcuffs, according to The Lancaster Patriot.
As per a court document acquired by The Lancaster Patriot, Damon Atkins faced charges of “Disorderly Conduct Engage in Fighting.”
The criminal complaint entails “the intent to cause substantial public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior” and that Atkins “despite being warned by police just moments prior, yelled derogatory comments at an organization that was holding a permitted event.”
“Now in this country, ‘God’ is a derogatory term,” Atkins told The Lancaster Patriot. “That makes me sick to my stomach.”
Atkins is set to appear in court on June 16, and he is hoping to be represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.
Matthew Wear of Reading, who filmed the entire incident and reported it to The Lancaster Patriot, said that he had been preaching before Atkins’ arrival and was instructed to stop by the same police officer who later arrested Atkins.
“Today, as our family was driving out of Reading for a family adventure, we saw that there was a Pride rally at the City Hall building in Reading City,” Wear wrote on his Youtube.
“I saw two Christian protesters out there, and so I pulled us over and I came out to support and encourage them. I preached for 10 minutes or so until a tyrant cop laid hands on me and threatened to arrest me if I continued. 10 minutes later, another Christian protester came out. He stood his ground against the cop, and got arrested as shown in the clip. Most of the attendants, drag queens and children had come from out of town, either Lancaster, or as far away as New York. The locals in Reading were not “out in droves,” he added.
“The Gospel went out, but it got pretty rough pretty quickly. Didn’t have my GoPro or anything because I had no idea this was going on today. Just the Providence of God that we drove by it,” he concluded.