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Street Preacher Files Countersuit Against City For Free Speech Violations


By —— Bio and Archives--October 20, 2007

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Christian Evangelist Harassed by Muslim Group then Ticketed by Police for Violating Sign Law Will Seek Damages in Circuit Court

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In the Circuit Court of DuPage County, street evangelist Elmer “Joe” Christopherson, filed a counterclaim against the City of Naperville for violation of his rights of free speech and free exercise of religion. On September 2, 2007, while preaching and carrying a sign about Jesus and repentance in downtown Naperville, Joe was cited for unlawfully displaying a noncommercial sign. Joe was standing in an area where he was not blocking pedestrians or causing a disruption. After three hours of peaceful street preaching and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, two Naperville Police officers told Joe and his group that they had to take down the sign. Joe asked one of the officers if he was breaking the law and without answering, the officer responded by writing him a ticket. The counterclaim will seek to dismiss the city’s complaint, award Joe with unspecified damages and attorney’s fees and allow Joe to continue his street preaching ministry in Naperville.

Earlier in the evening of September 2, 2007, a group of Muslim individuals had yelled at and harassed Joe on two occasions, requiring the Naperville Police to intervene and make the hecklers leave. During this time the officers did not ticket Joe or warn him that he was in violation of any ordinances. After they were cited later in the evening, Joe and his group packed up their materials and left Naperville, cutting short their evangelistic efforts.

Lee McCoy, of Mauck & Baker law firm who is representing Joe stated, “This is an egregious violation of Joe’s freedom to speak and exercise his religious beliefs in the public square. The City of Naperville needs to be held accountable. They cannot be allowed to prevent a citizen from expressing his religious message without a warning or opportunity to relocate to another area.”

Joe has been preaching in this area and in similar locations around Naperville for the past three years. He carries out his purpose and mission through his ministry, Burning Hearts Outreach, by preaching the message of salvation through Jesus Christ on public sidewalks. Joe exercises his First Amendment rights of free speech and free exercise of religion through handing out religious tracts, speech and carrying signs with religious messages.

“I just wanted to proclaim the everlasting gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world, and to proclaim that all sinners can be saved if they stop sinning and call on the name of the Lord Jesus,” states Joe. “The officers that night restricted me from doing what God calls me to do and denied me the rights that are protected in our Constitution.”

A COMPLETE COPY OF THE COUNTERCLAIM AND PICTURE OF THE SIGN IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Contacts for the Media
Lee McCoy, Mauck & Baker, Attorney: 312-977- 0479
Joe Christopherson, Burning Hearts Outreach Ministries: 630-554-5646
Drew Schadegg, TC Public Relations: 312-422-1333


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