Police in Washington, D.C. have blocked evangelist Ray Comfort and his team from giving away close to $25,000 in Subway gift cards to atheists at the upcoming Reason Rally, and even threatened arrests of those who approach rally attendees.
Comfort has since said that the giftcards will be handed out to homeless people instead.
A press release from Comfort last week revealed that the atheist outreach at the June 4 Reason Rally in the National Mall will no longer be taking place, at least when it comes to the planned giveaway of gift cards and 5,000 copies of Comfort's book, Why Pigs Will Fly Before America Has an Atheist President.
The evangelist had previously said that the outreach was envisioned as a "small token of our love for atheists," and meant to engage with non-believers during one of the biggest gathering of atheists in history.
The press release noted that police have threatened arrests for such a gesture, however, as over 1,000 Christians registered to join the outreach.
Comfort said that police told him that the outreach "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."
He revealed that a crew of 17 people from his Living Waters ministry will still be present, however, and will film parts of the event at the Washington Monument.
"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 reflected.
The Christian author and filmmaker joked that what this means is that "we will be eating Subway sandwiches for the next 40 years," but later clarified that the plan is to give away the gift cards to the homeless.
Comfort apparently emailed Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist blog, and told him: "The $25,000 worth of Subway cards will be going to the homeless."
Mehta responded by writing: "It's a classy move (even if it's just another way to proselytize). If you see him next weekend, be sure to tell him that."
The Reason Rally on June 4 is expected to gather as many as 20,000 atheists from across America and will feature prominent guests such as Bill Nye "The Science Guy," author Lawrence Krauss, paranormal investigator James Randi, poet Victor Harris, and several members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
"Not only are we celebrating our secular, atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinking, and nonreligious identities, we are preparing to exercise our power at the voting box to bring good sense back to government," the Rally organizers have said.