Minister arrested after taping part of LDS pageant

Published: Thursday, Aug. 17 2006 4:27 p.m. MDT

An evangelical Christian minister claims he was unlawfully arrested after taping part of a performance of a Mormon-themed pageant in the Clarkston Cemetery near Logan Friday night.

Joel Kramer, 39, was arrested and booked for investigation of disorderly conduct after he told a Cache County sheriff's deputy he was not violating any laws by videotaping the pageant. The pageant depicts the life of Martin Harris, an early disciple of Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"These are free pageants, so there's no copyright violation, and I'm within my rights to be on public land," Kramer said. "I feel like it was the LDS Church influence. That's the reason I was arrested."

Kramer, who claims the entire incident was recorded on video and audio tape, said he was told by a sheriff's deputy the LDS Church had requested Kramer turn off his cameras.

Jail records and an online incident report for the Cache County Sheriff's Office confirm Kramer's arrest and booking. He posted $280 bail and was released.

No one from the sheriff's office was available to discuss the incident, a deputy said Saturday.

LDS Church spokesman Mike Otterson said he was unaware of what happened. A message left for Donald Jeppesen, who is listed as the information contact for the Clarkston pageant on a church Web site, was not immediately returned.

Kramer is the director of Living Hope Ministries, a nondenominational ministry based in Brigham City, that says its mission is to bring Bible truths specifically to members of the LDS Church.

Kramer has produced several videos, including "The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon" and "DNA vs. The Book of Mormon," which can be watched over the Internet for free or purchased.

He said he tapes the Mormon pageants — he's recorded those in Palmyra, N.Y., and Manti, Utah — and uses sections of the tapes in his evangelizing videos.

At other pageants, Kramer said he's talked with police but has never been arrested.

At the beginning of each pageant, an announcer asks the audience to refrain from taking photographs or video, Kramer said.

"It sounds like law, but it's a request," Kramer said. "It would be like me announcing over a loudspeaker that I would like them not to show the pageant."

Friday night, Kramer said he and three other men from Living Hope Ministries turned off their cameras and tried to reason with the sheriff's deputy, especially when told the cemetery amphitheater had been leased by the city to the LDS Church. They also changed locations in the cemetery, moving farther away from the amphitheater, but Kramer was still arrested.

"I told (the officer) you just arrested me for breaking the LDS rules," Kramer said, who added that none in his group went to the pageant to proselytize.

It's unclear if prosecutors will formally charge Kramer with a crime.

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