Midcoast Maine Tract Distribution Myths

Myth #1: No one wants one because everyone’s tired of them.

Fact:  Hardly anyone had one when I started handing them out this summer; Christians have not been handing out many tracts around here lately. I’ve only seen one other group occasionally handing them out in Rockland and have yet to see anyone else do it in Camden this year.  If someone says “I got one already” it usually means they got one of ours!  Since hardly anyone has one, people receive them well.  Over half the people (or families) I offer tracts to take them rather than refuse them.

Myth #2: Everyone will think I’m a pest and hate my guts.

Fact:  Most people smile and say “Thank you!” in this area!

Myth #3: Young people will think I’m an uncool religious dinosaur.

Fact:  Teenagers are the most receptive single group to our handouts.  They often take them right after their parents refuse them. They’ve even been known to take extras to give to their friends and come down the street specifically to get one! They are starved for truth because most of them don’t get it at home or at school. They have been very friendly and receptive.  For many of them, it’s the first time they’ve heard how to have eternal life.

Myth #4: Irate storeowners will chase me off their sidewalks.

Fact:  As long as you’re on a public sidewalk and not a private parking area like the plazas, Home Depot or Wal*Mart, the sidewalk is a public forum for protected free speech, and the storeowner has no legal right to make you leave unless you block pedestrian traffic or block his entrance. I’ve given out thousands of tracts in this area so far this summer and had only 4 encounters at this writing with store managers. One was OK with it and took one himself. Another called upset but is on civil terms after we discussed the matter.  The others are probably still upset, but that’s too bad because I have the right to free speech on the sidewalk because they do not own or control the sidewalk.

Myth #5: The cops will make me stop doing it if they see me.

Fact:  They can’t stop you legally.  I had one illegally order me to stop, but after I notified the Chief of Police of this violation of my civil rights, the Rockland police were all informed that they must leave me alone because I have every right to do what I’m doing the way I’m doing it.  As long as you are on public property and not blocking vehicular or pedestrian traffic, not blocking entrances or exits, not inciting a riot, not creating a dangerous situation, and not advocating the violent overthrow of the Unites States government, you have the First Amendment right to free speech, which includes the distribution of religious literature. This has been affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Myth #6: I will be charged with littering if people throw my tracts on the ground.

Fact:  Literature only becomes litterature when it’s thrown on the ground, and you are not throwing any on the ground.  The police could prosecute a person who throws one on the ground, but not you, because that person is littering; you are not, under the literal definition of littering.

Myth #7: A storeowner can have me charged with loitering.

Fact:  I was accused of “loitering”, but loitering is being somewhere idle with no purpose, and if you’re giving out tracts, you have a definite purpose.  You cannot legally be charged with loitering for standing somewhere handing out tracts in any public place in the United States. It is protected free speech, not loitering – again, as long as you are in a public place like a public sidewalk or a public park.

Myth #8: I will be accused of “solicitation”.

Fact:  Solicitation is asking for money or goods, and religious groups are allowed to do that, although handing out tracts is not legally “solicitation” anyway!  We can certainly “solicit” attendance at church.

Myth #9: I will be threatened, cussed out and physically roughed up.

I have handed out thousands of tracts here and have never had anyone do any of these things to me. Even the ones who don’t like it have kept their disagreement civil.  This is the kind of lie the devil uses to try to discourage Christians from getting out in public. But even if these things did happen, it would not stop me any more than it stopped Paul.

[Note: As of early October 2006, we had given out more tracts than there are people in the City of Rockland -- our tract count was over 20% of the population of this entire county!  Who says this is a hard area?]