Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Free Speech On The Street


Preacher Claims Rights Violated
May 30, 2005 By KIM MARTINEAU, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

NEW HAVEN -- A street preacher who likes to share his Christian beliefs outside nightclubs and bars - places that promote activities contrary to the tenets of his faith - is suing city police for trying to shut down his one-man ministry.

Jesse Morrell, 20, says he should be allowed to sing hymns, read and quote the Bible and preach and pray on the sidewalks outside of The Playwright Irish Pub and Alchemy Club and Lounge without fear of arrest.

"The Bible is the true map to heaven and I want people to know that simple truth," he says.

Morrell claims the police threatened to arrest him as he tried to preach outside four city nightclubs and bars last year. His lawsuit, filed in federal court here, alleges that his constitutional rights to free speech and due process were violated. He is being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian public interest law firm based in Arizona that has fought successfully to invalidate gay marriage licenses in Oregon and allow abortion foes in Louisiana to post signs of aborted fetuses.

Morrell grew up in suburban Cheshire. He got serious about the Lord, he says, during his stay at a drug rehabilitation center in Hamden. Before that, he was in and out of the juvenile hall in New Haven for petty crimes.

"Born again" at 15, he has spent the past few years preaching to people wherever they congregate - bus stops, public parks and bars.

On May 16, 2004, Morrell started reading his Bible outside a Temple Street establishment identified as "The Irish Pub" in his lawsuit. After a police officer threatened to arrest him, he packed up his stool and left, he says. He then walked to his car, grabbed his tape recorder and set down his stool a few doors away, at Neat Lounge. A second police officer, David Coppola, approached and "in a very aggressive manner" forced Morrell to stop preaching, the lawsuit says. Morrell tried to record their conversation, but the officer ripped the wire out of his recorder, he says, then chucked Morrell's stool into a nearby trash can.

Undeterred, Morrell retrieved his soapbox and moved on to Alchemy Club and Cafe, then The Back Room at Bottega, but again the police chased him away, he claims. Morrell says his curbside ministry has also encountered problems in Hartford and Waterbury.

New Haven Police Department spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester declined to comment on Morrell's claims, adding that it is department policy not to discuss pending litigation.

At the moment, Morrell is studying at Teen Mania Ministries, a Christian youth organization in Tyler, Texas, with his mother's blessing. The founder and president of the organization, Ron Luce, is a member of the White House Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities - an appointee of President Bush. Morrell says police in Texas have harassed him and even thrown him into jail for his public preaching. Morrell also shares his beliefs via a website,

"www.newenglandoutreach.com," and is looking for someone to publish his new book, "Cleansing the Temple."

In August, he'll start work at another evangelical boot camp in Texas, the Great News Network.

Eventually, he says, he intends to return to Connecticut and continue his preaching here.

"There's no doubt if everyone agreed with what he had to say, no one would have bothered him," said Nate Ketchum, a staff lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund.

"If everyone agreed with the speech, there'd be no need for the First Amendment."

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Blogger Jesse Morrell said...


Thanks for posting this story

For the Audience of One
Jesse Morrell
www.OpenAirOutreach.com - Taking the Gospel where it Belongs

Wednesday, June 01, 2005 3:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jesse Morrell isn't a "one man show".

I assure you of that.

Simply go to his forum.

dan lirette
ICM Open Air Outreach

Sunday, July 30, 2006 12:17:00 AM  

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