This was now the second week having the Gold Coast team on a Friday night instead of Saturday afternoon. We thought we shouldn't have any problems with police tonight, after they gave us permission to preach last week.
It was a drizzly night, however there were still lots of people about. The good thing about the rain is that it kept the buskers away. So this week we didn't have to try and compete with them.
On the team tonight we had: Josh, Blake, Jeremy, Bekk and I. We began preaching the gospel and had a few hecklers. However, while Josh was preaching the rest of us were handing out gospel tracts and then two council local law officers came up to Bekk and I. They said that they have no problem with the preaching, however the handing out of gospel tracts they considered touting. I asked how that could be so and pulled up the Gold Coast City Council local laws on my phone, and went to the one that defines touting.
“tout” means to approach another person and publicise either verbally or in writing a business, commercial or trade activity. (Local Law 5)
So I told them that under the Gold Coast law, handing out of gospel tracts is not considered touting. One of them responded, "But I still think it is." I said something to this effect, "You a local law officer, and so you can only make judgement based on what is the law, not based on what you want the law to say." They said, "Look, get approval from the council to do it and then that will be fine. Then we can know you are not handing inappropriate materials behind our backs as well as these gospel tracts." I responded, "We have tried investigating it with the council, and other local officers we have talked to say it is not illegal, therefore it is not possible to get a permit for something that is not illegal. Moreover, how will getting approval stop the possibility of someone handing out something different behind your backs?" They couldn't really respond and just said, "We are giving you an order to stop handing them out or we will fine you."
I then let Josh know about what they said. And Josh thought it was the silliest thing he has heard! He wanted to go up to them and hand out tracts right in front of them, but they had already left. But a bit later we made a strolled up the mall, and found them in a restaurant. So we decided to hand out tracts outside the restaurant they were in so it would be hard for them to miss us.
They then came up to Josh and Jeremy and said that they couldn't hand out tracts because they thought it was touting. Josh said, "Really? According to Gold Coast law it's not. Go ahead and fine us, and we'll make sure to take it to court. They were like, "Na, we don't want that." In the conversation, they kept changing the reason why we couldn't do it - from 'touting' to 'people could slip on it if they step on it'. Then they decided to call their local law HQ, and they asked the person there about handing out of Christian literature. The person on the phone (who was loud enough to hear) said, "Handing out of Christian literature is exempt from the touting law." At this point the law local officers' manner changed dramatically and they began being friendly, probably realising that we could report them for hassling us and trying to make us to stop doing something that is not illegal.
We were very happy with the outcome, and so began handing out tracts even more fervently in the remaining minutes left of the outreach.
We have now received approval from both the police and council, so hopefully next week we won't have any hassles.
To God be the glory!
Gold Coast Team (QLD)
Meets 7:15-10pm every Friday night at Surfers Paradise on Cavill Avenue.
Contact Ryan Hemelaar for more information.