LINCOLNTON, N.C. - A push to stop controversial street preachers from attending events in Lincolnton has triggered the argument over First Amendment rights.
The Lincolnton City Council has drafted an ordinance that would stop street preachers from bringing their messages to local events.
During recent events, they’ve been captured on camera yelling at people, calling them names and shoving bibles in their faces.
“They are screaming at you about burning in Hell, repent,” street vendor Samuel Jordan said.
City officials said street preachers have nearly caused brawls with the in-your-face insults.
Alan Hoyle calls himself a street preacher and said the ordinance violates his free speech. He said people who can’t appreciate street preaching probably don't like hearing the truth.
“If someone didn’t like what they were hearing, they could walk away,” Hoyle said.
Hoyle said he plans to speak out during a public hearing Thursday on the issue. He said he plans to tell Lincolnton City Council that their ordinance aimed at curbing street preachers is un-American.
“Enacting what they want to enact goes against the Constitution,” Hoyle said. “Quoting scripture is not a crime.”
If the ordinance is passed, police can give a warning and a fine then arrest anyone for annoying, disturbing or frightening people.
Mike Payne owns Game Swamp in downtown Lincolnton and said the preachers are preying on patrons the wrong way.
“Your rights end where someone else’s begin,” Payne said.
The city manager said the ordinance doesn’t just apply to street preachers. He said anyone caught violating the ordinance will be penalized, including downtown business owners.
The public hearing on the ordinance starts at 7 p.m. Thursday.
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