NY Christian suddenly arrested, jailed in park prayer case

March 26, 2010 04:48

A man who had been arrested after praying in 2007 at a public park was suddenly arrested again last week by Elmira police while his case is still on appeal.

From ADF:

ELMIRA, NY — A man who had been arrested after praying in 2007 at a public park was suddenly arrested again last week by Elmira police while his case is still on appeal. The arrest of Julian Raven came suddenly on March 15 while he was at his office. According to his wife, police escorted him out of a court hearing Tuesday in handcuffs in front of his crying children to begin serving his 9-day jail sentence.

“Christians shouldn’t be punished for expressing their religious beliefs. It’s ridiculous to consider the act of peacefully exercising one’s faith in a public park to be ‘disorderly conduct’ worthy of a jail sentence,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster. “We are surprised at how eager the city was to arrest Mr. Raven again in light of his appeal. Now he will serve time in jail; however, we will continue to aggressively pursue his appeal in court.”

Raven’s original arrest in the case People of the State of New York v. Raven is currently on appeal to the New York Court of Appeals. In 2007, Raven and other Christians entered Wisner Park in Elmira with their heads bowed to pray for the participants of a “gay pride” event. Materials advertising the event stated that it was open to the public and that all were invited.

The group made their way to an area in front of the stage and began to pray silently while lying prostrate in the grass. A police sergeant had earlier informed Julian Raven that he could not enter the public park, walk through the park, or talk to anyone in the park about his religion. After the group began to pray silently on their faces, all were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Since then, the charges have been dismissed against everyone but Raven.

Ironically, the city recently settled with ADF attorneys in a separate federal civil suit involving Raven and two other men. In that case, Elmira police threatened the men with arrest while they attempted to share their faith in June 2008 at a public park during another “gay pride” event open to the public. The men were wearing shirts with the message “Liberated by the blood of Jesus,” handing out Christian literature, holding up signs on a public sidewalk surrounding the event, and speaking with event attendees about their faith.

ADF attorneys filed suit against the city in August 2008 and then filed a voluntary dismissal of the suit, Barnes v. City of Elmira, in February of this year when the city agreed to settle in favor of the three men. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York subsequently issued a judgment in the men’s favor, and final details were wrapped up this month.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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