On my way to one of our usual broadsiding locations in downtown Chicago, I noticed a large number of people coming toward me. I was in an area where I had not broadsided before, but it looked like a good place. Our ministry policy encourages us to use every opportunity, so I decided to start passing out our gospel literature on the spot. It was the afternoon rush hour, and most of the people were on their way to one of two places—their cars in nearby parking areas or the trains.
I suspected that some official person would come sooner or later to bother me. At that point I would leave, since I had not been given instructions to take a bust” (allow myself to be arrested). Meanwhile I could get out a load of broadsides. This worked for a while, and I handed out more than a hundred broadsides in a short period of time.
Everything was going great. There was a lull, but I was still getting out many broadsides. Then all of a sudden there was a train policeman wanting to know what I was handing out. I gave him one of the tracts. Then he told me I had to leave. I told him I would leave, but for my supervisor’s sake I needed his name, which I could not see, and his badge number.
That did not make him happy at all! He told me he was not in the mood for this. (Later I found out he had just been rear-ended in a squad car and his neck was bothering him.)
He asked for my I.D. Not satisfied with the identification I had given him, he decided to arrest me. He charged me with criminally trespassing on state-supported property. Then he handcuffed my hands behind my back and took me to his office. There he locked my handcuffs to another set of handcuffs that were attached to a heavy steel I beam that was bolted to the floor.
After a while he had only one of my wrists handcuffed to the I beam so that I could sit down. Some time later, after he had finished his paperwork, he had me taken to a police station in a paddy wagon. I was then put in a holding cell with some of Chicago’s “choicest” citizens. At least two of them were sure they were going back to prison. The police had made me take off my belt and my shoestrings—as if I were going to hang myself for the “crime” of passing out gospel tracts. After they fingerprinted me, they put me into another cell with a man who had been arrested for possessing three kilos of cocaine. About an hour after this I was finally released.
All this for merely exercising my First Amendment rights and handing out gospel literature in a public place! Jews for Jesus will be taking this unjust arrest to court. Please pray for our general freedom to pass out our literature, and that we will win this particular case.
A Note From Moishe:
Even though we distribute our gospel literature in a quiet and peaceable manner and never solicit or accept donations in public, we have been subjected over the years to numerous arrests and continual harrassment. We often find ourselves victims of unpleasant incidents that are contrived to discourage us from exercising our constitutional rights of freedom of religion and free speech.
As many of our ministry friends know, in 1987 Jews for Jesus had a civil rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court. It involved the question of whether or not airports have the right to prevent people from handing out religious literature.
Though we won that case and numerous other cases dealing with the same issue of tract distribution in public places, harassment is continuing and even increasing.
We would ask prayer for wisdom in this matter. We feel that our cause is just and that we should not retreat, yet we do not know how to avoid these besetting problems.