Federal law enforcement officials order Christian group to stop praying on sidewalk

.- The Christian Defense Coalition is claiming that their First Amendment rights have been violated after their public celebration of the Stations of the Cross was brought to an end when they were ordered by federal officers to leave a public sidewalk in front of the Library of Congress while they were kneeling in prayer.

The group of 10, which was carrying a 7-foot wooden cross, had been granted a permit by the United States Capitol Police and were not blocking pedestrian traffic.

It is common for Christians to pray the Stations of the Cross through the streets leading up to Easter and during Holy Week.

According to the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star, some passers-by were admiring and appreciative of the public prayer.

The newspaper reported that Rev. Patrick Mahoney, the coalition’s director, had applied for a permit to hold a demonstration but did not have it on him when officials asked for one. He said he did not need one because there were fewer than 20 people in the group.

"It is a sad thing when American citizens are praying on a public sidewalk and they are told they have to get up and they are told they have to show their ID," said the Protestant minister, who is no novice to public demonstrations.

But the police said his permit was for public grounds and that he entered Library of Congress property when he brought the group into a curve in the sidewalk, reported the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star.

The coalition calls the incident a trampling of the First Amendment and a gross violation of protecting religious expression in the public square. It is now discussing its legal options with the American Center for Law and Justice.

"One of the cornerstones of our democracy is the right of every America to peacefully express their views in the public square free from government interference and harassment,” said Rev. Mahoney.

“All citizens, regardless of their faith traditions, should be able to publicly express them with the full assurance that their beliefs will not be trampled or crushed by public officials or law enforcement,” he stated.

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