Dec 22, 2011 – 1:12 AM ET
CALGARY • A street preacher who has become a freedom-of-speech symbol was arrested on trespassing charges with some of his followers after a short-lived prayer circle at Calgary City Hall’s atrium.
It was the third time this fall Art Pawlowski and his street church held a service in City Hall. Six people were charged Tuesday with trespassing, which carries a $287 fine.
Mr. Pawlowski, who believes the city has a bias against Christians, has been ticketed multiple times for things like using voice amplification in a public park without a permit. He pointed to comments made by Mayor Naheed Nenshi this fall that the atrium should be “Calgary’s living room,” a remark Mr. Pawlowski has interpreted as an invitation to groups like his. “I want the city to acknowledge my rights and the rights of Christians and until then, we’re going to keep pushing.”
City officials say his group had been warned the last time that they must apply to hold an organized event in the atrium.
Mr. Pawlowski sets up shop outside city hall four times a week, and cooks meals and dispenses clothing, along with sermons, to the needy. He’s spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal battles over what he believes is his constitutional right to preach the gospel.
One judge said in a 2009 decision favouring Mr. Pawlowski that the city’s pushes to curb his preaching “fall precariously close to being excessive.”
Postmedia News, with files from National Post