We might expect a man to be arrested for sharing his faith in Christ on the streets of Afghanistan or Somalia , or even in left-leaning California, but in Texas? This is exactly the threat facing Christians in the Alamo City of San Antonio, Texas.
According to Liberty Institute, San Antonio Police arrested Todd Leibovitz, a recent Bible college graduate, for sharing his faith on a public sidewalk. Leibovitz was jailed for 16 hours and cited for peddling without a license.
“This is America. No citizen should be threatened for engaging in free speech in public,” said Kelly Shackelford, the President and CEO of Liberty Institute. “This was a flagrant violation of the Constitution.” The charges were eventually dropped for Leibovitz, but this is not an isolated case of Christian persecution in this historically Catholic city.
San Antonio Police also threatened on multiple occasions to arrest Jose Muniz, a full-time minister with Jesus Crew Street Ministries, for handing out Bible tracts and sharing his faith with people in the public square. Police claimed he was in violation of Section 21-4 of the city municipal code, an ordinance which prohibits handbills to be issued in public areas for commercial or business interests. But the ordinance specifically states that it is “not intended to prevent the lawful distribution of anything other than commercial and business advertising.” A Gospel tract peddles Jesus, not a business or commercial entity.
Liberty Institute and the American Center for Law and Justice are joining efforts to file a federal lawsuit against the city of San Antonio for its application of the city code. “They are misapplying the ordinance to stop our clients from expressing their faith. We don't have a problem with the ordinance, just the way they are applying it,” said ACLJ attorney Wesley Southerland. “This goes to the heart of First Amendment principles.”
As Americans, we are blessed with the freedom to share our faith in Christ with others, allowing us to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. Because we are commanded to “go and make disciples”, we must take seriously the protection of our freedom and not stand idly by while our freedom to honor God is taken away. If we do not actively seek justice and freedom, we will find ourselves walking the streets of a very different land. To remain the land of the free, we must remain the home of the brave.