Tennessee "street-preacher" (and, grandfather) needs your help!
Paul Johnson is a grandfather a committed Christian, who lives in Tennessee and has a passion for publicly spreading the word of God.
Earlier this year, in August, Mr Johnson attended a festival in Sweetwater, Tennessee, to mark the occasion of the solar eclipse. The event was open to the public, and Mr Johnson planned to read from the Bible, so as to share "the love of Jesus" with others.
Then, according to the Center for Religious Expression (CRE) and the First Liberty Institute - two organisations helping Mr Johnson to vindicate his First Amendment rights - a short time after starting to publicly read from the Bible, Mr Johnson was told, by city officials, that he had to desist from his activity, or face arrest.
On what grounds, you may wonder?
City officials said that Mr Johnson was violating a city ordinance which requires a permit for holding a "demonstration." Even though one man reading from a Bible hardly constitutes a "demonstration," Mr Johnson promptly asked for a permit. But, his request was denied.
When at first you don't succeed: try, try again...And, that's what Mr Johnson did. In fact, at the next opportunity to attend a public event in Sweetwater (the National Muscadine Festival, to be held in the same place, just a month later), he applied for a permit to read from the Bible. However, one city official apparently told Mr Johnson that, while he could apply for a permit, it would most likely be denied - on the grounds that his expression could interfere with people attending the festival.
Well, guess what? That is what the First Amendment protects.
Of course, not the right to interfere with others, but the right to express one's views, peacefully and not obstructing people in the public square. And, that's exactly what Paul Johnson was doing.
Relating to this matter, CRE Chief Counsel Nate Kellum stated: "Every American has the right to share earnestly-held views in public. No one should need government permission to preach." And, Chelsey Youman, Counsel for First Liberty, stated: "Mr. Johnson does not need permission from the government to express his faith in public. The First Amendment is permission enough for any citizen in any city in America to peacefully read the Bible out loud on a public sidewalk."
Many of our ancestors came to the United States precisely because their freedom of expression was either suppressed by the state, and, or, they were positively persecuted because of their religious beliefs. And, down through American history, men and women have died to protect this right, and so, it should not be taken lightly.
This petition, like First Liberty Institute's request - directed to the city officials of Sweetwater, Tennessee and to the Office of the Governor of Tennessee - asks, "for the city [of Sweetwater, Tennessee] to constitutionally apply the law so that people of all faiths are allowed to publicly express their religious beliefs [in public spaces]." And, in particular, this petition asks that Mr Johnson be allowed to do so in Clearwater without trouble.
Thank you for supporting Paul Johnson, and thank you for signing this urgent petition.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Sign this petition now!
Sweetwater, TN City Mayor/Police Chief/Recorder: First Amendment Rights Apply to Bible, Too!