Last week my evangelist brother in the Lord, Paul Latour, preached in front of a theater in Ottawa. The video shows Paul preaching the good news of the gospel and handing out tracts to folks on their way into the theater.
The movie was the cult classic, "Night of the Living Dead" and people were lined up in front of the theater waiting to watch the movie. This gave Paul the perfect opportunity to set up a stool and preach the full gospel.
After Paul preached the gospel he was able to hand out many tracts as the doors opened and people started heading in to watch the movie.
God used Paul mightily that night.
No problems, right?
Well, a few days later, the manager of the theater wrote on Paul's blog condemning his preaching and branding it as harassment.
I have decided to post the managers comments and then Paul's response to those comments here for the benefit of encouraging all the evangelists out there.
First post from the manager of the Mayfair Theatre -
i'm the director and composer of the event that night. i'm also the manager at the Mayfair Theatre.
Night of The Living Dead is based on the book I Am Legend, which is based on the book of Revelations in the bible. it's a movie about the end of humanity, according to the book of Revelations. i'm really trying to understand how this movie would offend someone like you.
as well, Night Of The Living Dead is not a Hollywood production (which you claim it to be in your video). it is one of the first successful independent productions.
i'm gonna take a stab in the dark, here -- i don't think you've ever watched the movie.
i consider this blog post harassment. i also consider your protest that night harassment towards our customers. last time i checked with the police, it is illegal to protest on the sidewalk right in front of the theatre when there is a line up of people, because of the size of the sidewalk. in fact, it's quite clear in your video that you are blocking traffic on the side walk.
as well, you did not have permission from the theatre or the customers or the police that night to film outside of the theatre.
i will be forwarding this blog post to the police.
next time i suggest you do a little bit of research. you are always welcome to protest from across the street, but not on the side walk right in front of our doors. i would also recommend being in touch with the police and the mayfair to let us know about your plans to film our customers and our movie posters. in the end, you do need our permission to do this.
Second post from the manager of the Mayfair Theatre -
why aren't you posting my comment?
i just go off the phone with the police. the way you went about protesting is illegal. don't do it again or we will call the police and have you charged.
however, i do suggest you get in touch with the police to understand how you are breaking the law and how you can properly protest our theatre. i do encourage you to properly protest what we do. in fact, if you could do me the favor of getting in touch with the media and rounding up more troupes, this would be a really great business venture for the both of us. the more media attention on our business and the films we show, the better it is for us and your group.
please be sure to visit our website and review our programming. we have a wide selection of films that will really offend you. last month we showed lars von tier's "anti-christ"... where were you for that one? that would've been a great night for you to deliver the word of god...
anyway, thanks for your time. i'm sure you won't post this comment either. in the end, i really hope i get to meet you in person sometime.
Paul Latour's response -
Please accept my apologies for not being able to respond sooner. It has been less than three hours since you sent me your first of three comments and I am juggling family stuff and my full time job at the same time.
Thank you for writing to me with your concerns. Please note that I take what you have to say seriously and it is my hope you read my response to you in kind and in a spirit of friendly dialogue.
My wife and I are Christians with a ministry of street evangelism - proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in the public square via open air preaching, handing out gospel tracts and having one to one discussions with anyone on the street who has interest to do so with us.
As Canadians, the Charter of Rights allows us to practice our right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion within the context of the laws provided. We take our message of hope to the streets of Ottawa on a regular basis.
If you review the video, you should be able to conclude that in no way, at any time, did I ever say anything against the movie itself, nor did I say anything against the Mayfair theatre. As a matter of fact, out of consideration for your patrons and the Mayfair, the very first thing I said was that I did not represent the Mayfair theatre.
Therefore, contrary to what you have accused me of, my presence there and what I did was NOT a "protest". I did not protest the screening of the movie nor the theatre. And at no time did I try to discourage any of your patrons to see the movie or boycott your theatre.
All I did was use the theme of the movie - 'death' - as a springboard into the same gospel message I preach everywhere else in Ottawa. If I am guilty of anything, it is preaching the Christian gospel. And the video is the clear evidence to that truth.
The space I took up on the sidewalk was no more than the space of one human being. The video clearly shows that some people walked around me, as they would have done had I just been standing there without my step-stool, and they did so with ease. At no point did I ever "block" pedestrian traffic from being able to move, as you claim that I did.
As far as where I can preach, I am free to do so anywhere on public property. I safely assume that the area on which I was standing is public property. So because of the freedoms allowed to me by the Charter of Rights, I broke no law.
The same goes for taking photographs and videos, the law is on my side. The laws stipulate that so long as subjects are on public property, a photographer has the right to photograph or video anybody, and freely publish such images for any law-abiding purpose.
Your patrons were not inside the theatre. They were outside lined up on the public sidewalk. I do not need your permission, that of the police, nor the people themselves. Nor can my photo gear be confiscated by police or anybody. Such is the law as it stands.
The goal of our ministry is to give free people free food for free thought from a biblical Christian perspective. So far, there are no laws against that. People are free to listen or not listen, agree or not agree. But they are not free to try and shut me down just because they may disagree with what I have to say.
I think it safe to assume that you would not have written me a letter of complaint had I got up to proclaim the good of the movie and the good of your theatre. Not at all. If I had stood up to herald all passersby to come to your production, you would have been pleased to have me do so. You would have not felt the need to call the police.
But again, I did not knock the movie or the theatre. Therefore, I submit to you that your issue is about the gospel message I preached and not about someone standing in front of your theatre addressing the public, who happen to be your patrons.
And speaking of your patrons, I know there were those who disagreed with me - be it by my presence there and/or what I had to say - but there were four of them who personally expressed their gratitude for me being there and what they heard.
On top of that, as evidenced and mentioned in my video, almost 60 gospel tracts were willingly received by them (not forced on them) as they made their way to the entrance of the Mayfair. I was congenial with all as I offered them out. Nobody said anything negative to me.
As far as the movie itself is concerned, well, that's for another day as the movie is not the real issue at hand here.
To reiterate, my presence there was not a protest and I would highly doubt it would be regarded as one by law as the video clearly would testify that is was not. I have nothing against you, Mike, nor your theatre and the only thing I am sorry about is that you view what I did as "harassment", especially when nobody else complained. That charge would not stand up in court.
I hope this gives you a better picture of my motives for being there Saturday night. For us, what we did was no different than being anywhere else where the public gather. I would be more than pleased to meet with you, Mike, should you desire further discussion over a cup of coffee. It would be my pleasure and the tab's on me.
May God bless you in the richness of His mercies and grace,
Response to Paul from the manager
nobody has asked me yet... so... i am a christian and have been for my whole life. end of story.
my position is this: my staff and myself have undergone quite a bit of abuse outside the mayfair theatre - from vandalism to being shot with paint balls to being attacked verbally and physically.
my dialogue with the police started a year ago. part of my dialogue is the kind of abuse we receive from protesters. concerning a small protest, large protest, abuse or whatever else, the police instructed me to call them right away! i was not working the front that night and my staff are not aware of this procedure. i was busy playing and directing this show.
now, it is illegal to stand within five feet of our building to solicit or protest. fine - paul wasn't protesting... but he was soliciting: he video taped himself doing it.
what if some angry patron of ours didn't like what he was hearing from paul and assaulted him? that's one of a million examples. we are liable on our insurance for every single person lined up for our shows. all i care about is my staff and my patrons when i'm at work.
where paul offends me is here: he called Night Of The Living Dead a Hollywood production. this couldn't be further from the truth. this film paved the way for independent film making. it invented technique. it has a tragic story, as it immediately became public domain on it's theatrical release. it's a story about the end. the only thing that this movie glorifies is how we can't figure it all out as human beings - which i think we can all agree is the truth.
what paul is doing is "judging a book by it's cover" instead of investigating what the film is actually about. i challenge this as being christian. as far as not educating himself on the subject that he is speaking out against - i challenge this as being sad and pathetic.
anyway, there you go.
Paul's response to the postings were polite but stern. Even though Paul is in Canada, he is protected by free speech rights similiar to what we have here in the States. Paul was in his full rights to preach and never broke the law concerning those rights. Paul was respectful of all the people there and in his response to the charges of breaking the law.
Here is Paul's last response back to the manager -
It was good to have received your last comment. There was so much information in there that has helped me understand why you reacted so angrily when you learned of my presence at your theatre and how you could have easily come to conclude that my motives were devious in nature.
I am sorry to hear that you have had so much trouble in the past with your staff and establishment coming under attack in various ways, obviously by persons with a completely different agenda than mine. I can fully understand your reason for concern and your need for police protection.
I came in a spirit of peace, with a message of peace. The same gospel message of peace with God and salvation that I preach at all venues and events we attend or happen to come by.
I am pleased to read that you have come to understand that I did not go to your theatre with a purpose of defaming your good name (I don't even know you), your theatre or even the movie, for that matter. I came for one purpose and one purpose alone: to preach to a crowd of people.
In this case, I purposely went there because the theme of the movie had to do with "death" and the gospel message I preach has to do with the same. Only this one has definitive answers - from a biblical Christian perspective that is.
It is my hope, as well, that you will be able to see that I was not there to solicit anything from anybody. On the contrary, I was there to give not take. I gave a message and I gave out gospel tracts. That's it.
Now, had I of known about your security issues, I would have gone in to ask your permission first. Or, while I was preaching, if you had come out to confront me about the security issues you have had and had asked me to move for the reasons you stated in your letter, I would have gladly obliged with no questions asked.
I would have understood and moved across the street or further away from your building or something. I would have complied because I was not there to cause you or anyone grief. I hope you believe me when I say that.
As far as the "made in Hollywood" comment, I stand corrected. But that being said I would still have things to say about the actual movie and it's contents from a Christian perspective regardless of who made it.
But that was, again, not the main reason why I was there. It was simply to preach the gospel at a place that was, to my understanding at the time, public property...a free speech zone. There was no mean spirited intent at all.
I hope this concludes this episode with no hard feelings from either side. I have and hold nothing against you, Mike and if you were serious about wanting to meet me sometime in the future the invite is still open. You have my e-mail address.
May God bless you,
We should do well to follow Paul's example when someone gets angry at us for witnessing or preaching the gospel.
Whenever we share the gospel there is the chance that someone will be offended by its message. There is a chance that someone will get angry, mad, annoyed and irritated by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Never let that stop you.
You have been told by the Lord to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
You were not told to worry about the results or how people might react to the message; you were told to go.
Remember, in the end, it is not us who some people are ultimately mad at when we share the gospel; it's the message itself.
Good job Paul, may the Lord be glorified!