Ray Comfort Clashes With Police Over Atheist Outreach

Ray Comfort
Ray Comfort (Facebook)

Filmmaker and author Ray Comfort has to revise his outreach plans to atheists, according to Washington, D.C., police—or face arrest. At the June 4 Reason Rally in the National Mall, where an estimated 20,000 atheists will gather to hear speakers such as Johnny Depp and Penn Jillette, Comfort had planned to give away 5,000 copies of his new book about atheism, along with $25,000 worth of Subway gift cards to atheists, as a gesture of Christian love. 

After announcing the D.C. outreach, and plans to film open-air preaching for his TV program (The Way of the Master—broadcast in 190 countries) he had over 1,000 Christians officially register to join him. "To the D.C. police," Comfort reported, "that constituted a protest and therefore we needed a permit to gather. We would have to stay at the other end of the National Mall, and they said that if we persisted to approach atheists to speak with them we would be arrested."

The best-selling author then decided to cancel the outreach event, though they would still be filming at the Washington Monument. He added, "Our crew is only 17 people, so we don't need a permit if we go there as individuals. The Reason Rally is free and open to the public, so if any other groups of individuals show up on their own initiative they won't need a permit either or be arrested if they approach atheists."

Comfort added that he can see the perspective of the police. "To authorities, Christians and atheists are enemies. So they want to keep us apart for the sake of peace, especially with more serious threats facing America. That's understandable. But at the same time I'm a little frustrated because I have a very good relationship with atheists."

Comfort was flown from Los Angeles to Florida in April of 2001 by American Atheists Inc., to be a platform speaker. "They put me in a nice hotel and gave me a gift basket. Since then I have had meals with high-profile atheists, and I've been in correspondence with two of their top speakers at the Reason Rally, trying to figure out a time in our schedules when I can interview them."

Comfort is also being interviewed for a special documentary about the event, alongside Johnny Depp, Bill Nye and others. "In what is so often a cruel world, we tried to show a little kindness, and it didn't work. So it now looks like we will be eating Subway sandwiches for the next 40 years."

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