Homeless man sparks First Amendment debate in Franklin
FRANKLIN, N.C. (WLOS) —
The actions of a homeless man are front and center in Franklin. He said it's a case of freedom of speech and religion. But town leaders disagree.
Faith in God is vital to 58-year-old Chris Morrow.
“I’ve been a believer since I was 32,” he said.
Morrow was living in Florida then, and he had three heart attacks.
“I was flat line dead three times. When that nurse had told me that I survived something that no one has ever survived, that got my attention.”
Morrow's message to all now is "repent.” He has it written on signs and placed on his van, which is often seen around Franklin, including at town hall.
Town administrators said Morrow harassed people going in and out on more than one occasion -- staring at town employees and taking pictures and videos of them.
First, trespassing charges were filed against Morrow. Then, he's accused of trying to intimidate two town employees set to testify against him on the trespassing charges.
At end of October, Morrow was indicted charges of intimidating state's witness and obstruction of justice.
“None of those accusations is remotely true,” Morrow said.
Morrow said town leaders don't want a religious sign on town property. Officials said religion is not the issue.
"We have a duty to provide employees with a safe working environment," the town manager said.
Morrow said he needed access to town hall's public restroom because he's homeless and has a health issue .
“I was trying to build a case that the town hall is public property,” he said
Morrow admits having a criminal record in Florida, including convictions for trespassing in an occupied structure and carrying a concealed weapon. But, he said, there is no reason to worry about him now and there is nothing to these new charges.
“It's fabrication of the truth,” Morrow said.
He's looking for a lawyer to help on First Amendment grounds.
“It would be really good if somebody would step forward," he said.
Morrow's trespassing charge was continued Tuesday in court. He goes to court on the intimidation and obstruction charges Dec. 18.