I’m always amazed when intelligent people – sometimes even lawyers and judges – in their haste to enforce their will upon others, don’t understand or ignore outright the simple provisions of the United States Constitution First Amendment.
You will usually find me ranting here about agents of the government trampling on the First Amendment Establishment Clause by using their official authority to proselytize or promote religion, but today it’s exactly the opposite – government interfering with private individuals’ First Amendment free speech and free exercise of religion rights.
Mark Mackey is a reverend with Calvary Chapel in Hemet California, a conservative Christian church that practices an “evangelical ministry,” requiring public testimonials and Scripture readings.
“Good morning, everyone,” he said recently to a group of folks waiting outside the Hemet California Division of Motor Vehicles for the office to open. “I would like to read a little bit of the word of God this morning.”
For this innocent bit of free speech and free exercise of religion – reading his bible in a public place -- pastor Makey was arrested, handcuffed, and hauled away by a police officer from the California Highway Patrol.
Church officials believe Mackey was arrested because of “Christian bigotry.” “Folks, this is what the United States is coming to,” Mackey said to the crowd, “You can talk about anything you want, but you can’t talk about the Bible.”
“You can preach on your own property,” said the cop. “You’re not allowed to preach here because this is a captive audience.” He claims Mackey was arrested for preaching to a public audience who had no choice but to listen. The preacher was ultimately cited for “trespassing” and “impeding an open business,” under a California “captive audience” statute.
Nonsense! The cop is dead wrong, and the reverend is right.
He was standing outside the building in a public place some fifty feet from the door while the office was closed. There was no captive audience. The people waiting for the office to open for the day were not obligated to stick around. It would be a different story if he began preaching inside the building while the office was open, but that was not the case.
Likewise, it would be a different story if it were an employee of the DMV doing the preaching, but again, that was not the case here.
If that cop were right, it would mean that a pastor could be arrested for preaching the Gospel in a public park. It flies in the face of the First Amendment. People might not want to listen to the religious babble. I’m one of them, it annoys me, but that doesn’t mean that I or anyone else, especially law enforcement thugs can stop it. It’s called free speech. It’s the purpose of the First Amendment.
“The devil is holding everyone captive to do his will," cried the pastor as he was led away. “Repent, and trust in Jesus Christ. Judgment Day is coming, folks.”
He just might have something there.
A Tennessee Court of Appeals has held that a Shelby County mother must face criminal contempt-of-court charges and possible jail time for violating a court order and baptizing her two children, ages 5 and 7, without the knowledge or consent of her ex-husband.
Both parents are Christian. Mom is Presbyterian. Dad is Methodist. They fought during their marriage about stupid stuff like how old the kids should be for baptizing. Dad thought the children should be baptized when they are older and better able to understand the significance of the baptismal ceremony.
A lower court had already found the mother in contempt of court for violating its order not to baptize the kids without dad’s permission. "Obviously she knew that the father did not want the children baptized at that age and she did that without telling him," huffed one attorney. "She violated the court order."
Now daddy wants mommy convicted of criminal contempt after discovering that she baptized the kids against his wishes. The Court of Appeals decision sides with daddy, holding that criminal contempt proceedings are more appropriate because the mother can't undo the baptisms.
If the judges in this case had simply read the First Amendment they would have discovered that the whole dispute about baptism was none of their goddamned business. One need not be a legal expert to know that a court of law in the United States of America can’t order a mother to refrain from baptizing her own kids. It’s inconceivable. Under the court’s reasoning she might be found in contempt for praying with her kids against daddy’s wishes.
It’s not exactly like she was starving them or withholding medical treatment. She simply allowed a minister at her church to sprinkle some holy water on them while waiving his hands and mumbling a harmless ritual. If daddy doesn’t like it, he can surely repeat the process at his own church when the kids are older. I’m sure God won’t mind.
Meanwhile, a condominium owner has been told by the complex's management association that she must remove a small Jewish religious symbol from her door post. The California Condo Association claims she must remove a mezuzah -- a small object inscribed with Hebrew verses from the Torah, normally placed on the doorpost of a Jewish family's home -- or face fines of $50 per day.
"The obligation to place a mezuzah on the doorframe or doorpost is a right in the Bible. Jewish people everywhere, including those in condominiums, post a mezuzah as a reminder of their religious obligations," explains Anti-Defamation League director, Gary Jones. "It's not a decorative choice or a choice at all when a condo association or anyone says that a mezuzah can’t be put on a doorpost or doorframe. Basically, they are telling the Jewish person that he or she cannot live there."
According to the condo association, Christmas wreaths and crosses on doors are allowed, but a mezuzah on a doorpost is not.
I don’t think so.
They can’t allow crosses and disallow mezuzahs in the United States of America.
This poor lady is just another victim of First Amendment ignorance.