Encounter with Bar Knoxville bouncer and 1st Amendment rights

June 20, 2010

Let me give you a visual in your mind of what Cumberland strip is mapped.  The Cumberland strip is one of the main roads in Knoxville. The University of Tennessee is on the Cumberland strip as well as a host of eating establishments and alcoholic bars. There are public sidewalks on both sides of the road and in front of these businesses.

As many Evangelists, trade unions, various protesters are aware, you are able to use the sidewalk to exercise your 1st amendment rights. As long as you do not completely block traffic or force someone to take your handbills.

One of the bars on the Cumberland strip is “Bar Knoxville”  This bar harasses Evangelists on a frequent basis. The bouncers will come out on the sidewalk(legally protected area for free speech) and intimate evangelists by telling them to not hand out religious material. Some are unaware or are aware of the free speech laws and still intimidate Evangelists.

I was  subject to the threats of a bouncer from Bar Knoxville. I verbally stated to him and hearers around him that the sidewalk is public property and I am exercising my first amendment rights to hand out materials to anyone willing to take a Christian material. He kept saying I needed to move on down and that the sidewalk was in front of their bar and they did not want me on the sidewalk. According to past Supreme Court decisions, the bouncer has no authority to tell me how to operate my 1st amendment rights as long as I am not on their property. Even though the public sidewalk runs by their business, his jurisdiction ends once he steps off the bar property and steps out on public property.  The confrontation with the bouncer if taken to a court of law would have ruled the Bouncer was interfering in blocking my access on the sidewalk. Bar Knoxville routinely blocks the sidewalk during the course of the night by setting up stands for those wanting to enter the bar. However they cannot interfere with other traffic not associated with their business.

Many may say I should not be doing this and disrupting their business. May I remind those persons of past history. During the Civil Rights Era in the South, many protested businesses that prevent blacks from access to use their facilities based on their color. In our times today, trade unions set up banners and union members to protest unfair labor practices in front of construction sites, grocery stores, hospitals, etc.(In Knoxville, TN you will see sporadically throughout the city signs which read, “Shame On…(name the business or individual)”   or “Labor dispute”.   They too are constitutionally protected to voice grievances.

While an Evangelists’ concerns are getting the Gospel to the sinner, they will agree with what the Bible states about the dangers of Alcohol, strip joints, Adult video stores, etc.

So I continued to hand out the materials during the rest of the night.  Across the street was another bar. The doorkeeper to the bar was very friendly to me and we had a nice conversation. He knows what I do, yet in love I have spoken to him on several occasions. (Pray for this doorkeeper ab the Half Barrel).  Not all bouncer/doorkeepers at bars are mean.  So the Gospel can be shared with those working at the bars.

As far as Bar Knoxville, I have spoken with other evangelists encountering the same problem with this particular bar. On a side note, this bar from time to time allow young underage minor to come in prior to serving alcohol at 11pm. This is sad how Bar Knoxville is conditioning YOUR children to become acclimated to a bar prior to becoming a 21. They need future customers once the college students graduate and rotate out.  These bars are gateways to get kids away from church(they get drunk on Saturday, they wont be sober enough to get out of bed for church) and into the pagan lifestyles leading to their destruction of their health and potentially keeping them out of the Kingdom of God if they continue in practices that the world offers.

For Evangelists: I pray you remain strong in the Lord despite the threats of bar bouncers. I would also recommend to new evangelists to look up your local laws concerning your ability to evangelize and become familiar with Supreme Court cases. Especially when a bouncer or anyone opposing you may state you cannot evangelize in a certain manner. Many of the opposition are unfamiliar with free speech rights. Many are familiar with free speech right and may still lie to you on what you cannot do in public because they oppose God’s Word.  Always go in the power of the Holy Spirit and never in your own strength.

2 Timothy 4:5 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

5 But as for you, keep a clear head about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.


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