I don’t often post about the events that take place as part of the Mill Avenue Resistance, but I think maybe I should write more about them. This week, I was inspired to write by renewed threats from the preachers.
At times they have seemed to respect our constitutionally protected right to free speech, but other times they have been anything but supportive of our right to speak, at least if it interferes with their preaching. Yesterday was an “anything but” day.
Although they have previously accused us of “obstructing their free speech”, and we suspect that they have been looking for ways to get rid of us for a while, last night was the first time they actually directly expressed to us a seemingly real desire to get a “restraining order” (in this case it would actually be a “Harassment Order” or an “Injunction Against Harassment”) against us.
They may just be trying to scare us off since they know that we’ve gone out of our way to stay within legal limits, but their intent in either case is to prevent what is essentially a protest against their activities.
It is not at all unusual for certain preachers to make sarcastic or mean spirited remarks at us (one of them repeatedly shouting “Shut up, Satan!” was one of my favorites), and some of our members have on occasion made their own unkind remarks, but our general policy is not to attack the people, just the messages and tactics. We are not there for any specific person or group, and we will happily argue the merits of any religion with anyone who is loudly preaching at the masses while we are around.
The funny thing is, it only seems to be fundamentalist Christians doing it, and it’s usually the same group. We have, however, run into other groups doing the same thing and we have treated them all in the same way.
We are not against any of the individual preachers, and we have nothing to do with them when they are not preaching. We don’t follow them home, we don’t go to their churches and harass them, we don’t do anything to them but counter the things they preach while they are preaching.
Still, they seem to think that it is a personal vendetta and that our actions constitute harassment rising to the legal level required for an injunction. They said they wished they had a tape recorder going to provide evidence in support of their attempt to get an order against us, but what evidence would that be? We freely admit to what we are doing, and it is not in any way illegal.
For anyone concerned that we or another group may be vulnerable to one of these Injunctions Against Harassment, the following list should show the emptiness of their threats under Arizona law.
For the purpose of an Injunction Against Harassment, the law defines harassment as a series of acts that does all of the following:
- Can be spread over a long or short period of time;
- Must be directed at a specific person;
- Must seriously alarm, annoy, or harass the victim without serving a legitimate purpose;
- Must be acts that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress; and
- Must actually cause the victim to suffer substantial emotional stress.
In addition to talking to these poor abused preachers, we also hand out our own tracts, we talk to the crowd on our own, we have much more civil debates with more reasonable Christians, we have one on one conversations with random people who come by, and we even try to bring a bit of fun into the equation. This is not a campaign of harassment, it is a campaign of education.
We know that we are expressing views which are very unpopular in many circles, and even the majority of Americans disagree with us today, but most of the non-religious people we talk to are as sick as we are of having religious preachers yell at them week after week unopposed, and they appreciate what we are doing on their behalf. They want a voice too, and we will continue to give it to them.
One of the preachers is very fond of saying “We’re here to preach, not debate!”, and I think that statement is very telling. They want people to hear their side, unadulterated by the truth.
Sorry preacher-man, the right to speak freely is not the right to be the only voice heard.