An evangelical preacher who expressed his religious views to tourists outside the Liberty Bell Center in October was placed on one year's probation yesterday for refusing to move from a sidewalk where demonstrations are not permitted.
Michael Marcavage of Lansdowne is founder of Repent America, which describes itself as an evangelistic group dedicated to "reaching the lost" by "declaring the word of God" in the community.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold Rapoport found Marcavage guilty of two minor offenses, ordered him to pay a $420 fine, and told him to notify the U.S. Park Service and get a permit if he planned to return to the park, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Goldberg.
On Oct. 7, Marcavage stood on a sidewalk at Sixth and Chestnut Streets, spoke against abortion, and declared that "we need to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," according to a YouTube video of his confrontation with park rangers.
Marcavage contended that his religious expression was protected by the free-speech guarantees of the First Amendment and that he should not have been prosecuted for expressing his views - especially on a sidewalk just steps from a symbol of freedom.
But the sidewalk, although open to the public for access to the Liberty Bell, was restricted by the Park Service from demonstrations in the aftermath of 9/11. Goldberg said Marcavage was offered a demonstration site just a half-block away.
Goldberg said the government had a right to regulate where demonstrations can take place in a park that, the government states, draws more than 100,000 protesters a year. "Nowhere does the law say that the government cannot regulate speech on a sidewalk used by the public," Goldberg contended in court documents.