Freedom of speech. OK. Religion in the public square. Check. Upholding the values of the First Amendment. On board. But what about when the sermonizing is amplified?
And thank God that during the Sermon on the Mount he didn't use a public address system, which is what the Bay Area Outreach Ministries' preachers are using, to great annoyance, in Berkeley at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street. The free newspaper, the Berkeley Daily Planet, recently published an article about how these fire-and-brimstone-spewing clowns are force-feeding their version of redemption to whoever crosses their sidewalk-blocking paths.
Get out of the way. While they're trying to save souls, they're also gumming up the pathways in front of the local merchants trying to sell their goods.
Listen to Jesus. The Bible says he didn't yell much. Sure, he got ticked off at the money changers in the temple one day and knocked over a few tables, but that was about it for bad behavior.
Berkeley residents don't seem much interested in the message of eternal damnation for their "wicked" ways. Or having religious pamphlets shoved in their faces.
Crazies are a part of street life. But they're usually unamplified. These purveyors of the New Testament's "Good News" might want to try getting their message across in a genteel way, rather than through a bullhorn blast.
As a local florist said in an apt sign: "Why crucify me?"
The church members have the freedom of religion. But if we can't walk into the public square without hearing the proselytizing, doesn't that violate our freedom from religion? Most legal scholars seem to agree that people have the right to protest on the public sidewalk when it's front of a courthouse or women's health center. What if somebody gets annoyed with me and decides to walk in front of my house with a sign day after day, harassing everybody who comes to visit, using a bullhorn? How supportive of the First Amendment should I be?