Evangelists arrested while passing out literature at Hickory Alive
By Richard Gould
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
HICKORY – Two brothers charged with second-degree trespassing at last week’s Hickory Alive in downtown Hickory after handing out religious pamphlets now claim their freedom of speech is being denied by the city.
An attorney for the Christian Law Association of Seminole, Fla., is representing the pair. According to the CLA Web site, the organization’s mission is to “provide free legal assistance to Bible-believing churches and Christians who are experiencing legal difficulty in practicing their religious faith because of governmental regulation, intrusion, or prohibition of one form or another.”
The brothers said they hope their case can be handled without filing a lawsuit against the police department and city, but are not ruling out such action. E-mails about the arrest have spurred local and national interest. Since the incident last week, the Hickory Police Department has fielded dozens of phone calls from people in the area and across the country angry that the brothers were arrested.
“I have spoken to several individuals who have called and assured them that this is a matter that we are looking at closely and we are confident that we can resolve this issue,” said Hickory Police Department Chief Tom Adkins.
“We have launched an administrative investigation to gather all the facts to clear up the incident.” The incident happened at last Friday night’s entertainment event Hickory Alive, sponsored by the Hickory Jaycees with city council approval.
Full Proof Gospel Ministries President Jesse Boyd, 32, and his brother, Matthew Boyd, 29, both of Hickory, were arrested while handing out Biblical literature on Union Square. The brothers were charged with second-degree trespassing.
Full Proof Gospel Ministries is demanding to know why the brothers were denied their First Amendment rights to free speech. Jesse Boyd said, “I have done this work in over 200 American cities and I have never had any issues with law enforcement. It’s definitely an aberration as far as other cities in America.”
Jesse Boyd said on the night of the arrest that he, his brother and three friends were handing out Gospel tracts when three members of the Hickory Police Department approached them and asked them to stop handing out the literature. Jesse Boyd began videotaping the encounter with police on his cell phone.
He told the officer that the Supreme Court has affirmed his right to distribute religious material on public property and asked what laws he was breaking. That’s when he said police handcuffed him. As he was being taken into custody, he handed his phone to his brother, who continued taping the arrest.
The video was posted to the Full Proof Gospel Ministries Web site at http://fpgm.org. Jesse Boyd said he and those with him were not disturbing the peace and were within their legal rights. Matthew Boyd agreed, saying, “we were simply handing out tracts, Not screaming or yelling. We were talking to people one-on-one.”
Jesse Boyd said he’s not out for fame and he considers himself a servant of God who’s not interested in exploiting the situation for his own gain. He said he only wants the charges against him dropped so that having been arrested won’t prohibit him from getting entry visas into the foreign countries where he does mission work.
“I refuse to say that the Hickory Police Department as a whole is corrupt,” he said. “I know there are some good officers down there.” “I am appalled and I cannot believe that I was arrested in my hometown for telling people about Jesus. I’m just baffled,” said Matthew Boyd.
“We want God to be glorified through this, not me and Jesse. This is about our Savior.” Adkins understands the gravity of the situation and is committed to making sure justice is done in the matter. “The Hickory Police Department understands that freedom of speech and religion is given to all citizens by the constitution,” he said.
“The city of Hickory, the Hickory Police Department and the legal department of the city are working together to come to a conclusion that is acceptable to all.” Adkins said he is hoping for a quick resolution to the situation. “My goal is to resolve this as soon as all parties involved can come to a mutual agreement,” he said.