There are times when one almost wishes that Santa had more of an edge in dealing with the most naughty amongst us. If he did, Pastor Dave Grisham would be at the top of the list for a Santa beat down. The whacked out evangelical minister decided that it was not enough for him to preach in his own ministry against the concept of Santa. Instead, he went to the mall in Amarillo, Texas where he filmed himself (below) yelling at children how there is no Santa and their parents are lying to them. It is a disgusting display as Grisham dismisses the right of parents to make such decisions for their children.
Grisham captures himself yelling “The Christmas season is about Jesus. Jesus was born 2,016 years ago. He was born in a manger in a small town called Bethlehem . . . Parents, y’all need to stop lying to your children and telling them that Santa is real, when in fact, he’s not.” As parents intervened, he continued to yell “Kids, there is no Santa! Santa’s not real!”
Grisham is part of some group called the “Last Frontier Evangelism.” Apparently, there is no concept of decency, parental rights, or child abuse on the last frontier.
The interesting question (beyond the fact that there are nut cases like Grisham wandering the streets) is whether there are criminal or civil repercussions for such conduct. Protests are not allowed in malls under “time, place, and manner” restrictions allowed under the first amendment. Thus, he can be asked to leave. More importantly, he could be accused of public disturbance. Under Texas law, the standard is fairly generalized:
Sec. 42.01. DISORDERLY CONDUCT. (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly:
(1) uses abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language in a public place, and the language by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace;
(2) makes an offensive gesture or display in a public place, and the gesture or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace;
(3) creates, by chemical means, a noxious and unreasonable odor in a public place;
(4) abuses or threatens a person in a public place in an obviously offensive manner;
(5) makes unreasonable noise in a public place other than a sport shooting range, as defined by Section 250.001, Local Government Code, or in or near a private residence that he has no right to occupy;
(6) fights with another in a public place;
(7) discharges a firearm in a public place other than a public road or a sport shooting range, as defined by Section 250.001, Local Government Code;
(8) displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm;
(9) discharges a firearm on or across a public road;
(10) exposes his anus or genitals in a public place and is reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by his act; or
(11) for a lewd or unlawful purpose
One would have to define this as “abusive” language, a difficult issue since it is based on religious speech that is normally protected. The mall has the right to ask him to leave and bring a charge of trespass if he does not.
The parents could presumably sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress but once again it is a stretch. The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress requires (1) the defendant must act intentionally or recklessly; (2) the defendant’s conduct must be extreme and outrageous; and (3) the conduct must be the cause (4) of severe emotional distress. … Restatement (Second) of Torts section 46 cmt. h (1965). This was clearly reckless conduct and would be viewed as “extreme and outrageous” conduct. It may have caused emotional distress though he could claim that he was telling the truth and that kids face such realities in life. It would also be difficult to establish damages.
The result is that there are not very good options for dealing with people like Grisham. Fortunately, decency alone is enough to prevent the vast majority of human beings from doing something like this stunt. One can only hope that some “night before Christmas” Grisham will hear “such a clatter” that he springs “from the bed to see what was the matter.” Ideally, he will find Dasher and Blitzen and a “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf” waiting for him while swinging a sack of coal. . . leaving the good preacher with “visions of sugar-plums danc[ing] in his head.”
In the meantime, any kids encountering Grisham’s Grinch-like performance should just tell him “You’re the king of sinful sots; Your heart’s a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grisham; You’re a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce! :