DC police warn proselytizing Christians not to hound atheists at Reason Rally or face arrest
Angry preacher (Shutterstock)

Later this week, an estimated 20,000 "free-thinking" atheists will gather in Washington, D.C. for the Reason Rally. Perhaps predictably, Christian evangelists saw this as a ripe opportunity to try converting them.

But that won't happen now, because D.C. police won't let Christians hold their own gathering without a separate permit, ChristianNewsWire reports. Author Ray Comfort had registered about 1,000 fellow Christians to join him at the Reason Rally to hand out copies of Comfort's new book and $25,000-worth of Subway gift cards to non-believers "as a gesture of Christian love."

But authorities put the kibosh on the proselytizing scheme.

"To the D.C. police, that constituted a protest and therefore we needed a permit to gather," Comfort told CNW. "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."

Comfort will still be allowed to film for his Christian TV program, because his crew of 17 is small enough to avoid needing a permit.

"In what is so often a cruel world, we tried to show a little kindness and it didn't work," he told CNW. "So it now looks like we will be eating Subway sandwiches for the next 40 years."

With some prodding from Friendly Atheist readers, Comfort has vowed to instead give the gift cards to homeless people. Comfort emailed the blog's owner, Hemant Mehta, to confirm the gift cards would not be eaten by Christians for four decades but instead be given to the needy.

Comfort insists he has had amiable relationships with atheists, and Mehta calls his promise to give meal cards to homeless people a "classy move," even if it's probably "another way to proselytize."