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Federal Suit Filed Over Indianapolis Arrests

INDIANAPOLIS- The SPF Counsel of Record filed suit Thursday, October 15, 2003 in Federal District Court over the May 24th arrests of four SPF members in downtown Indianapolis (Link), who were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to approximately 300,000 people gathered at the Indy 500 parade. In the suit, SPF Chief Counsel, Leonard Brown listed Mayor Bart Peterson, Lt. Michael J. O’Connor, Officer Mark R. Rand and Officer C. A. White as defendants. SPF Director Ron McRae, along with Assistant Director for the East Coast James Grove and Senior Advisor Daniel Hardin announced the suit in a news conference on the steps of the Federal District Court in Indianapolis shortly after it was filed.

SPF Director McRae announces
Civil Rights Suit in front of Indianapolis Federal Courthouse

In announcing the suit, Director McRae explained the suit as involving every aspect of open air preaching, and how the police had increasingly over stepped their authority, in restricting the preacher’s attempts to display banners, utilize amplification devices smaller than all those being used by others along the parade route, pass out gospel literature, preach with their naked voices, hold up a Bible, and finally just “say the name of Jesus Christ”. Never one to compromise in any area, SPF Director McRae was continually demanded of the police that day to stop certain aspects of their ministration, and Director McRae had opted to oblige in order to continue preaching. However, once at the Monument Circle, officers stopped the SPF members from preaching, and ordered them to leave the city or be arrested. At this final demand, Director McRae advised the officers that they would absolutely refuse to do so, and that they intended to take their stand right there. Having obeyed the officers in each of their increasingly unconstitutional demands, from giving up their banners, megaphones, and tracts, they would go no further, but intended to stand at this location and talk to people about Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world.
Locating on one corner of the intersection, beside a large bleacher stand full of parade watchers, the preachers began holding up their Bibles and talking in a normal tone of voice to every one passing by, and standing nearby. It was at this point, according to the suit, that Indianapolis Police Officer Mark Rand advised Director McRae, “If you say the name of Jesus Christ one more time on this sidewalk, I am going to arrest you and put in you in jail.” Officer Rand also did a share of his own preaching at this location, telling SPF member Daniel Gowen, “You can’t preach. But I can preach!” And turning to the crowd, Officer Rand stated loudly, “Jesus Christ is a false prophet. And the Old Testament is a book of fables based upon the Jewish religion.”
The suit lists the Street Preachers’ Fellowship, Ron McRae, Bruce Perrault, Daniel Gowen, and Stephen McRae as Plaintiffs. The SPF Counsel of Record filed the suit in behalf of the Fellowship, and the members involved in its goal to build National standing for all the SPF members across the nation in Federal Civil litigation that will have a far more reaching protection for every member by listing the Fellowship as a Plaintiff in behalf of all the SPF members. The reason for such, is that the standards set down by the SPF for all its members are founded in the Bible, and deeply rooted in the Constitution of the United States, and the Fellowship both trains and requires that its members adhere to those standards in their open air activities. Accordingly, for law enforcement personnel to violate those rights and standards of one of our members, effects all our members equally. In filing suit in behalf of the SPF, the Fellowship’s Counsel of Record preserves any and all Court Orders as protecting all members of the Fellowship equally, and not just the individual preachers involved in a specific incident.
In the suit, the Fellowship’s Counsel of Record seeks Declaratory Judgment, Injunctive Relief, Compensatory Damages and Attorney Fees. SPF Director McRae stated after the filing, “This is the beginning of great blessing to the Fellowship, in having our own attorney’s as Counsel of Record, to effectively and professionally represent each of our members as they go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Len has done a great job on this, and the SPF attorneys are actively working on five other case throughout the United States, where members are having legal problems with authorities who insist on violating the Constitutional Rights of our members.” SPF members wishing to read and copy the Federal Suit can do so on the Members Only Page, by clicking the "Indianapolis Suit."