Crime & Courts

September 1, 2011

Judge orders Spirit One pastor to stay away from Islamic Center

A judge ordered a Wichita pastor to stay away from the Islamic Society of Wichita, as part of a sentence for loitering and disrupting business.

Sedgwick County District Judge Phil Journey this morning sentenced Mark Holick to serve 12 months unsupervised probation, pay $300 in fines and stay at least 1,000 feet from the Islamic Center, where he was arrested in August 2010.

Holick, pastor of Spirit One Christian Ministry, and more than a dozen followers had gone to the Islamic Center as members there were trying to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. Holick said they were there to hand out Bibles. Police said he was causing a disturbance and blocking access to the center.

Police had said they asked Holick to move to a public sidewalk. In one instance, cited by Journey, Holick marched in place in response to police orders to move.

"The only reason you were the one arrested is because you were the only one who disobeyed the police orders," Journey told Holick.

The case reached district court on an appeal from a conviction in Wichita Municipal Court. Holick asked for a a jury trial. Jurors found Holick guilty early last month on two counts of loitering and disrupting a local business.

Journey's sentence followed the recommendations of Assistant City Attorney Michael Hoelscher.

During the hearing, Holick gave a 15-minute speech, quoting Bible verses and accusing the city of violating his First Amendment rights.

"Wichita is confused," Holick said. "I am not your enemy. Islam is. The Lord said there will be no other gods before me."

Journey told Holick that the First Amendment guaranteed his rights to express his religious beliefs but allowed laws to regulate how he practices his faith.

"I want you to think about this," Journey said. "What if the shoe had been on the other foot and someone from the Islamic Center had come to your place and tried to convert your members and had blocked your driveway?"

Spirit One has been a street and online ministry since a month after his arrest, Holick said, when he sold his building in south Wichita to another church. First Freewill Baptist now resides at 1515 E. Harry.

The judge reminded Holick that the Constitution provides protection for people of all faiths, not just Holick's.

"I hope you will reflect on the choices you made," Journey said. "There's nothing wrong the proselytizing or holding your beliefs. It's the manner of how you carry them out that's the problem."

Holick could face a six-month jail term if he doesn't follow the conditions of his probation.

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