Street preacher arrested for reading Bible verses at LGBT pride event

A police officer takes street preacher Damon Atkins into custody during a pride event in Reading, Penn.
A police officer takes street preacher Damon Atkins into custody during a pride event in Reading, Penn. | Screenshot/YouTube

A Pennsylvania man was arrested after he began preaching from the Bible on public property during a protest against a nearby pride event.

The incident happened June 3 at a pride month rally in the city of Reading, located more than 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia, where a crowd that included drag performers and small children gathered in front of the City Hall building.

Video from the event showed a couple of protesters standing on the opposite side of the street as marchers held LGBT-themed flags while Reading police officers looked on.

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By early afternoon, Damon Atkins, 41, was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct after he was involved in a conversation with Reading Police Officer Bradley McClure, according to court documents.

The now-viral video shows Atkins holding a sign which reads “Jesus said go and sin no more” while telling McClure “This is public property." Atkins responds, “It is public property…let them have their day,” in an apparent reference to the marchers.

“This is public property,” Atkins repeats.

“Okay, well, then, respect it,” responds McClure. “Let them have their day.”

“Know who’s cheering for us? The people who are in Hell,” Atkins replies. “So you do you, and I’m going to do me.”

He then begins preaching from 1 Corinthians 14:33 — which reads in part “God is not the author of confusion” — and immediately McClure is seen in the video saying “That’s it, you’re done” and starts to handcuff Atkins. In the video, the crowd involved in the pride march is heard clapping as McClure takes Atkins into custody.

Off camera, a man is heard saying, “I can’t believe this is in Reading” as police put Atkins against a wall to secure his handcuffs. 

“What an incredible providence that the Lord is allowing me to film this,” Reading resident Matthew Wear, who took the video, is heard saying.

Bail was set at $5,000, but it’s unclear whether Atkins posted the bail amount. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on June 16, according to court documents.

Wear later said he was sharing the Gospel prior to Atkins’ arrest when McClure — the same officer who arrested Atkins — approached Wear and said, “If you don't stop shouting insults across the street, I will arrest you. Do you understand?”

According to Wear, when he responded, “I’m concerned about their souls,” McClure replied, “Well, get over it.”

The Christian Post reached out to the city of Reading for comment Wednesday. This story will be updated if a response is received.

As part of its pride recognition, the city of Reading raised a transgender flag at its City Hall building earlier this month. The pride festivities were reportedly the first-ever for the city.

Attendees at the event were encouraged by the local LGBT Center to “wear or display something supporting the Drag, BIPOC, and Trans community,” including wigs, high heels and gowns.

Reading police also has an LGBT “Equality & Fairness” commission which works with the community “in helping to make Reading an inclusive, diverse, and fair city” and make Reading more LGBT "friendly.”

In 2017, Reading was recognized by the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, a prominent gay rights organization, for unanimously passing a measure to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” which has traditionally been linked to Christian evangelism among homosexuals.

A fundraising campaign for Atkins’ legal defense had raised nearly $1,100 as of Wednesday.

The arrest was reminiscent of a Seattle street preacher who was also arrested for reading the Bible near a pride event last summer.

Matthew Meinecke was arrested twice in June 2022 while he read his Bible near a pro-abortion rally. Meinecke, who identifies himself as The Seattle Preacher on Twitter, said some protesters vandalized his Bible before fleeing.

Another U.S. street preacher and activist, Rich Penkoski, claims he was locked out of his Cash App account because the mobile payment service does not approve of his protests against LGBT events.

Penkoski, who founded the online organization Warriors for Christ and travels the country to protest drag queen and LGBT pride events, told The Christian Post that he lost access to his Cash App account last week. 

Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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