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More Street Preacher Victories

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Three discrimination cases filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg against street preacher Ronald McRae were quietly dropped June 2, years after being instituted. For nearly four years, beginning in 1997, McRae (now the head of the Street Preachers' Fellowship in Johnstown -- see News Feature: "Organize Globally, Annoy Locally," Oct. 29) and other preachers had picketed a Somerset-area gay bar, the Casa Nova, owned by Pat and Merritt Cramer. The Cramers, who filed the anti-discrimination cases, were not able to allege anti-gay bias, since homosexuality does not have protected status under the Pennsylvania commission's ordinance. Commission representative Nancy Gippert reports that reviews of tapes of McRae's activity outside the Casa Nova showed "no evidence" that the preacher and his compatriots were targeting Casa Nova patrons concerning HIV or AIDS -- a "disability" the commission does have under its jurisdiction. "There was indication that some of the tapes and evidence collected by the [U.S.] Justice Department would have substantiated harassment due to disability," Gippert says, and the commission attempted to secure this evidence. "Unfortunately, [Justice] kept dragging it out and we never got the evidence we were looking for," Gippert says. Reports the commission's chief counsel, Elisabeth S. Shuster, this foot dragging lasted two years.

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