The city of Springfield, Missouri, is not known as a hotbed of radical atheism and anti-Christian activism. A peaceful, quiet city, it is called the Queen City of the Ozarks, and home to two major Christian denominations (the General Council of the Assemblies of God and the Baptist Bible Fellowship International). Among its institutions of higher learning, it boasts a number of Christian colleges and universities, including the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, the Baptist Bible College, and Evangel University. If you have had the privilege to visit as I have, you will remember the warmth and kindness of its people. Springfield is also famous for being the site of the July 21, 1865, Wild Bill Hickok and Davis Tutt shootout, one of the first one-on-one “quick draw” pistol duels, later made famous in countless Westerns. This event took place in the same square where, today, there is also another duel going on. However, this duel is between members of the Lighthouse Anabaptist Church and the Springfield Police Department.
Pastor Aaron Brummitt of Lighthouse Anabaptist Church, and two of his congregants, were arrested late last week, for disturbing the peace and obstruction of justice. Police officers seized the church’s equipment and handcuffed the three evangelists. Pastor Brummitt has been moved by God to reach his country for the Lord Jesus Christ since his military service in Afghanistan. During 2013, he has received nine tickets from the Springfield police for his preaching. Pastor Brummitt has sought to explain to the police that his activities are permissible under Springfield’s ordinances. In his support, Chris Straw, the director of Springfield’s Building Development Services, explained that “a formal permit is not required” for the church’s evangelistic activities, and that “all sound generating devices shall not exceed 75 decibels.” Pastor Brummitt said that he has followed the law and has done nothing wrong. Pastor Brummitt was preaching in the Park Central Square when a police officer told the evangelists to move elsewhere. Pastor Brummitt rightfully asked the officer to show him an ordinance that prohibited them from preaching in this square. Of course, none was shown. Pastor Brummitt then described what unexpectedly happened next, “The officers jumped out and grabbed our equipment … and started taking it.” At this point, Pastor Brummitt and a congregant from the church began to grasp the equipment as they reasonably believed that their private property could not be legally seized without a warrant. They were immediately put in handcuffs by the police. Erica, one of the evangelists, who had been holding a sign during the outreach, reached for a video camera, but police pried her hands away, and she was also arrested. One of the officers declared, “We are taking this for evidence!” “I’m not doing anything wrong!” Erica stated. As a number of other officers swarmed the area, Pastor Brummitt said, “The Lord moved on my heart to keep preaching while we were in handcuffs.” At this point, all three evangelists were taken into custody, and transported to the local jail, where they were fingerprinted, underwent iris scans, and mug shots were taken. Upon opening the police van at the jail, officers were apparently surprised to find the three evangelists singing hymns and praising God. Pastor Brummitt and his two companions were released later that night, after they were charged with obstruction for attempting to stop the police from confiscating their equipment.
Pastor Brummitt is set to stand trial in December for, at least, seven counts of disturbing the peace. A video of the event is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehwC_nvAwmU . However, please be forewarned that the video is disturbing to freedom-loving Christian Americans and may anger some. However, under Missouri law, it is a Class B felony to intentionally violate a person’s constitutional rights on the third offense. The evangelists are represented by attorneys allied with the Alliance Defending Freedom. As a public service to those police officers involved in this incident, I would advise that you obtain legal counsel. I will keep my readers informed as developments warrant.