The Berks County District Attorney’s Office has confirmed that it is dropping charges against Damon Atkins after the preacher was arrested citing the Bible in protest of an LGBTQ Pride event in Reading, Pennsylvania. The only reason that the charges were dropped is that a third party videotaped the scene and disproved the account of the arresting officer. Ironically, Atkins was reciting 1 Corinthians 14:33 that begins “For God is not the author of confusion.” That role appears to rest with the Reading police, which processed a wildly exaggerated account of the encounter.
Atkins was arrested on June 6 for “disorderly conduct, engaged in fighting.” However, a video of Atkins’ encounter with the police officer disproved the officer’s statement, as acknowledged in a press release.
For many, the case is likely reminiscent of the arrest of the woman for praying near an abortion clinic in Britain. Fortunately, this case was dropped.
Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach admitted that the arrest of Atkins was “unlawful” and “could open the City of Reading and their police department to legal action.”
In the YouTube video, Atkins is shown talking with Sgt. Bradley McClure as he proclaims Bible verses. McClure clearly wants him to stop but Atkins notes “this is public property.”
McClure tells him “Let them have their day.”
That is a fair sentiment but it did not convince Atkins who responded “Oh, I’m respecting.” McClure makes no head way in the conversation and walks away before turning back as Atkins resumes preaching. He says “That’s it, you’re done” and arrests him to the applause of people in the Pride Event.
What is notable is that, absent the videotape, Atkins would have had a difficult time refuting that he engaged in fighting. What is equally notable is the lack of any public statement on the repercussions for an officer making such a false charge. This was clearly a protest that was protected under the First Amendment. The violation of Atkins’ rights should result in something more than a shrug and dismissal of the charges.