Eleven Christians will go to court in Philadelphia in December to learn whether they will have to go to trial, charged with committing a "hate crime" when they peacefully protested a city-sanctioned homosexual event in October.
A preliminary hearing has been set for December 14 at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center. The charges include three felonies and five misdemeanors and could result in a total of 47 years' prison time. (For a news report, see http://www.cultureandfamily.org/articledisplay.asp?id=6542&department=CFI&categoryid=nation.)
"The doors are open in America for the persecution of Christians under these new 'hate crime' laws," said Michael Marcavage, director of Repent America, the Christian group that staged the protest. "Control of our government, in some places, is now in the hands of those who hate God."
The Christians were arrested October 10 for singing hymns and carrying banners near the entrance to a homosexual activist street fair called "Outfest." They were charged with three felonies: "ethnic intimidation" (the alleged hate crime), "criminal conspiracy," and "riot."
They didn't expect to be arrested, Marcavage said, "and we certainly have no idea whether they'll really send us to prison. We'll know more on December 14."
What's the Philadelphia Story?
Repent America made news in August when they were ejected from a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game at Citizens Bank Park, where they protested the ballpark's "second annual Gay Day." Their banners were torn down, and as the protesters were escorted from the park, two men jumped onto the field and kissed — while the crowd cheered.
"There are thousands of churches in Philadelphia," Marcavage said, "but I'm afraid most of them have failed to be a light in the darkness.
"Meanwhile, Christianity is being criminalized by the homosexual agenda. First they demand we tolerate them; then accept them; and now they insist that we praise their way of life."
This spring, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation launched a multimillion-dollar cable TV ad campaign to attract more homosexual tourists to the city.
"I can't tell you why all this is happening," Marcavage said. "All I can tell you is that our churches, for the most part, have been silent."
Marcavage, who holds a degree in broadcast journalism and mass communication, founded Repent America three years ago, after making his personal decision for Christ. (See the organization's website, www.repentamerica.com.) His work as director of the group has grown into a full-time job.
Repent America — "calling a nation in rebellion against God to repent" — has an office in Philadelphia, a website, a dozen local volunteers, and some 5,000 members nationwide ("and growing by the day," Marcavage said). It is funded entirely by voluntary contributions.
Members belong to Presbyterian, Baptist, and home churches. It has not yet attempted to state a particular theology, beyond trying to be faithful to Scripture. "If it's supported by Scripture, we're for it," Marcavage said.
"We need to use our sword, which is the Word of God," he said, echoing St. Paul in Ephesians 6:17. "Too many Christians in America are woefully ignorant of God's commands."
What good does it do to confront homosexual militants in public?
"Our message is that there is hope for the homosexual, as there is for everybody," Marcavage said. "But beyond that, we are achieving a lot of good just by witnessing for God's law. The law of God needs to be given to those in rebellion. Not just homosexuals; although, this seems to be the issue that's giving Christians in America the most in-your-face opposition."
Earlier this year, Marcavage attended a national atheists' convention in Washington, D.C.
"One of their speakers said something that I'll always remember," he said. "This atheist warned the others, 'The church is a sleeping giant.'
"Well, we're trying to wake up the giant before it's too late."