By Chelsea Schilling
A street preacher is accusing police of violating his constitutional rights after officers arrested him for not having a parade permit while he spoke out against homosexuality on a public sidewalk in Manchester, Ga.
Chris Pettigrew and Pastor Billy Ball and of Faith Baptist Church in Primrose, Ga., were arrested multiple times Aug 24 after they held signs on a public street corner telling people to repent and declaring homosexuality a sin.
They held signs that stated:
Repent ye, and believe the gospel. Mark 1:15
The sodomite lifestyle produces vile affections, ungodly lust, reprobates
Repent or burn
Three gay rights: AIDS, hell, salvation
“There were four of us to begin with. We weren’t preaching with any amplified sound,” Pettigrew told WND. “Basically, as soon as we got out of the cars and started toward the sidewalk, Manchester city police officers showed up and asked us if we had a parade permit.”
He continued, “We did not have a parade permit, and we informed them that we had no plans for obtaining a parade permit because we weren’t in a parade.”
Pettigrew said officers from the Manchester Police Department were initially cordial when they told him he must have a permit to stand on the sidewalk with his sign.
“We simply said, ‘We can’t do that. It’s our constitutional right to free speech. We’re not impeding any kind of traffic. We’re peaceably assembled, so we’re going to do what we came to do,'” he said.
At that moment, another officer arrived, joined the others and told the men they must obtain a permit to remain on the sidewalk.
Displeased with their answer, Pettigrew said, “they handcuffed us and took us to the city jail in Manchester.”
Later, while Pettigrew and his comrades remained in jail, Pastor Ball and another man arrived at the street corner to share his message.
So, police arrested Ball.
Meanwhile, officers issued Pettigrew a citation, returned his belongings and ushered him out of jail.
“So we went back to the corner because it’s America, and there was no sense in arresting us the first time,” Pettigrew said. “We weren’t going to let them bully us into going home.”
He continued, “By the end of the day, I had been arrested three times, and my pastor was arrested four times – simply because we wouldn’t go away.”
By dark, his group had grown to 11 men – including four who had driven from North Carolina and South Carolina to stand on the sidewalk and support the original four who had been arrested.
“By that time they had ceased arresting us, with the exception of my pastor, who was arrested late in the evening,” Pettigrew said.
“We had some people who came down simply because we were being arrested.”
With a tone of frustration, Pettigrew said, “We’re sick and tired of people telling us what we can and can’t do. It’s not constitutional.”
When WND contacted Manchester police and asked why Pettigrew had been arrested, a lieutenant who would not provide his name replied, “I can’t make any comments on that over the phone.”
Pettigrew said one young man who was arrested with his group was contacted by the police department and told charges would be dropped if he brought the citation back.
He maintains that his group always obeys the law “as long as it doesn’t interfere with constitutional rights.” However, he believes authorities detained his small group based on its message against homosexuality.
“If I were holding a sign that said, ‘Two large pizzas for $5,’ I don’t think I would have gotten a second look from police. I firmly and adamantly believe we were singled out and arrested because of the content of our speech,” Pettigrew said.
“If they arrest us for proclaiming the word of God, what will they arrest us for next?” he asked. “We need to get the word out that the rights of the American people are quickly being taken away, and nobody even knows it.”