It is rather shocking to see this man arrested with no warning while reading the Bible in a public place.
Here’s some further explanation from the Advocates for Faith and Freedom website—the lawyers handling the case for the Christians.
Initially, when Mr. Mackey was arrested, the CHP officer stated that it was illegal to “preach to a captive audience.” After the defendants were placed in jail and upon learning that no such penal code prohibits preaching to a “captive audience,” the officer issued a citation for “impeding an open business” with threats or intimidation under Penal Code Section 602.1(b). However, the district attorney again changed the charges claiming trespass after the government realized the business was not actually open and, presumably, saw the video showing no threats or intimidation.
It’s clear that the arresting officer had never dealt with this type of situation before—and that he has no real understanding of the freedom of speech granted by the First Amendment. He fabricated a charge out of thin air. Perhaps, people believe that this type of activity is illegal, based on the fact that they don’t like it and they may have never seen anyone do it before.
I discussed this with a couple atheists in the comments on this YouTube video. They are biased against anyone preaching about the Bible of course; they also believe these preachers broke the law. They say they support freedom of speech, but they don’t seem to understand that the whole point of the First Amendment is to protect speech you may find offensive or annoying.
The legal issues remaining in this case are not whether anyone has the right to speak at that DMV to a captive audience. That is a given. The only issue remaining is whether they should have obtained a permit. Even if the courts determine that a permit must be obtained, the state won’t be allowed to discriminate to whom they grant a permit based on the content of their speech. So these men could be right back there preaching to their captive audience any time they want.
One of the many symptoms of Christians not doing their job in evangelism is that many Americans are ignorant of our God-given right to free speech. Even police officers don’t understand. There are enough Christians in California that preaching at that DMV—or any other ideal location with a captive audience—shouldn’t be a rare occurrence that causes everyone to flip out and demand their arrest. It should be old hat.
So many people today who are not Christians have multiple misconceptions about our faith and believe they are OK with God. I would prefer they say, “I know what the Bible says because everywhere I go Christians keep telling me; I just don’t believe it.”