April 18 articles by WorldNetDaily (by Bob Unruh) and CNSNews.com (by Fred Lucas) hype the opposition to a federal hate-crime bill by highlighting the idea that grandmothers will be jailed for, in Unruh's words, "sharing the Gospel of Jesus on a Philadelphia public sidewalk." But neither Unruh nor Lucas tell the full story of these women.
Lucas led off his article by noting "grandmother of 10" Linda Beckman "went to jail overnight for publicly objecting to a homosexual rights rally in Philadelphia." While that's a little closer to the truth than Unruh got, it's still not the full story. Beckman and Arlene Elshinnaway -- both of whom are featured in commercials opposing the bill being pushed by the anti-gay grouup Faith2Action (led by WND columnist Janet Folger), which is the source of the "jail grandma" hype Unruh and Lucas bought into.
In Elshinnaway's commercial, she says she "attended a homosexual event in Philadelphia," where she "to share the gospel of Jesus Christ." Accompanying footage shows her standing alone on a street corner handing out pamphlets, implying that was doing when she was arrested. Beckman similarly claims in her commercial that she "was arrested on a public sidewalk of Philadelphia for sharing the gospel" and shows her, like Elshinaway, standing alone on a street corner handing out pamphlets. She concludes, "Sending grandmothers to jail goes too far."
In fact, they are not merely standing on a street corner handing out pamphlets when they were arrested. Both she and Beckman are part of the so-called "Philadelphia 11," led by Repent America's Michael Marcavage, who were arrested briefly for interrupting a gay festival in Philadelphia in October 2004. As we've detailed, Marcavage -- with a bullhorn -- and his group tried to interrupt a stage performance with their preaching, and were arrested only after they refused to go to an area on the edge of the event. The charges against them were eventually dropped; while Beckman says her commercial that she "faced 47 years behind bars," even the attorney for the gay event the protesters interrupted doubted they would actually face anything more severe than probation. The group was not passively "sharing the Gospel of Jesus on a Philadelphia public sidewalk."
Neither Unruh nor Lucas tell the full story of the Repent America arrests, presumably because it would interfere with the "jail grandma" narrative.
UPDATE: Beckman is less a typical grandmother and more of a right-wing activist; she has a record of arrests for blockades of abortion clinics.
And more links from us: The extremist activism of Repent America's Michael Marcavage, and Janet Folger's trust in the word of a convicted killer with a history of lying over that of law enforcement officials.