A lawsuit has been filed in California to protect the rights of three men who were arrested after being accused of "impeding an open business" even though the "business" was the local department of motor vehicles, and it was closed.
Oh, and the men were standing at least 50 feet from the entrance, impeding no one, according to the case that has been filed on behalf of the three men by the Advocates for Faith and Freedom.
The action is being brought on behalf of Mark Mackey, Edmond Flores Jr., and Pastor Brett Coronado.
The legal team at Advocates explained that "impeding an open business" was created to protect businesses against protesters who block doors of facilities. But the team explained that when the three men were arrested the DMV office was closed.
The arrests happened on Feb. 2, 2011, when the assistant pastor from Calvary Chapel of Hemet and two church elders went to the public property. Mackey then started reading the Bible aloud.
He was arrested less than 30 minutes later, and the two others were arrested a short time after that, even though they had not actually been reading the Bible aloud.
The men believed they had a First Amendment right to free speech and they were standing in a planter in the parking lot and were on public property.
A member of the California Highway Patrol approached Mackey, grabbed his Bible and arrested him. Then Coronado and Flores asked the officer, "What law was he breaking?"
Instead of getting an answer, Coronado and Flores were arrested by another highway patrol officer.
"This is an abuse of power on the part of the CHP," said Jennifer Monk, associate general counsel for Advocates. "The arresting officer could find no appropriate penal code to use when arresting these men. The purpose of the arrests appears to have been to censor them."
The organization reported that the men were released and prosecutors have not pursued any charges, and the federal lawsuit alleges violations of the men's right to free speech and unlawful arrest.