Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Editor, (H P, 8/21/08)
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
http://terryhowcott.com/closeup.asp?cid=9&pid=1018&offset=50 (scroll down about halfway)
* A report from Pastor Wylie-Kellermann who visited Rev. Pinkney recently -
I was camping with friends north of Alpena when I learned that Rev. Pinkney had been moved to Kincheloe in the UP, so made quick arrangements to visit him as a pastor last Saturday.
Edward's been up there now two weeks already. I was able to spend a couple hours with him. He seems in remarkably good spirits and utterly hopeful given what he's been through. He sent greetings and expressed gratitude for everything that people are doing on hs behalf and on behalf of the continuing struggle in Berrien County. Needless to say, he's eager to see the appeal move forward.
I was able to report on the meeting here in Detroit and some of the press that had been generated. Acknowledging the pall of fear that hangs over Benton Harbor, he urged organizing and media work in a larger circle around the state. We also talked some about strategies for getting the word out in the wider religious community.
He has a low security classification which would ordinarily make him eligible for movement to a camp (or even downstate I would think), but he had seen paperwork with sentencing designations from the judge which urged no special programs or privileges. He estimated that about thirty percent of the Hiawatha prison is African American, but he was the only black person in the visiting area when I was there - some indication of the geographical patterns at work. He has been able to talk regularly with his wife Dorothy.
I was really grateful for the time with him and all the providences involved.
I pass along his love and thanks and prayers.
Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Pastor, St. Peter's Episcopal Church - Detroit, 313-841-7554, 313-433-1967
Lawlessness - Hallmark of Whirlpool and Berrien County
Rev. Pinkney, political prisoner and whistleblower, worked 24/7 raising awareness about Whirlpool's takeover of Benton Harbor. The corporation needed to silence him, and their gratuitous cruelty is obvious in the report above (plus the fact that they felt the need to imprison him AND send him to the UP where friends and family would have the most difficult time visiting and his voice would be as distant as possible.) One man stirred up a lot of trouble for a multi-national corporation, and they felt the pressure, so he was banished under illegal and unconstitutional circumstances. This lawlessness is what Berrien County and Whirlpool will go down in history for. For the latest news on the takeover go to http://www.protectjkp.com/
Please send letters or postcards supporting Rev. Pinkney's application to the Parole Board.
Text can be as simple as: "I support Rev. Pinkney's application for pardon."
Michigan Department of Corrections
Office of the Parole Board
Pardons and Commutations Coordinator
Post Office Box 30003
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Gov. Granholm, PO Box 30013, Lansing, MI 48909 517-373-3400
Checks to BANCO for Pinkney's legal fees (tax-deductible):
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
BOYCOTT WHIRLPOOL & SUBSIDIARIES (Amana, Estate, Gladiator Garage Works, Insperience, Jenn-Air, KitchenAid, Magic Chef, Maytag, Roper, Acros, Inglis, Bauknecht, Brastemp, Admiral, IKEA appliances, some Kenmore)
Hiawatha Correctional Facility
Rev. Edward Pinkney #294671
4533 Industrial Park Dr.
Kincheloe, MI 49786-0001
Monday, August 18, 2008
by Ralph Heibutzki
The Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor has joined the field of Green Party candidates challenging for 13 of 16 Congressional seats.
The Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) is now fielding up to 30 candidates at all levels of office, topping the totals for 2006, its news release stated. Michigan Greens from Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties nominated a dozen candidates for the November 4 ballot at a recent joint metro-Detroit caucus session at the International Institute.
Pinkney is the latest entry in the 6th District Congressional race, where incumbent Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) faces a challenge on the Democratic side from Western Michigan University professor Don Cooney. Pinkney, a Benton Harbor minister and activist, is serving a three- to 10-year prison term for a probation violation stemming from an election fraud conviction. The sentence followed the publication of letters about Berrien County Trial Court Judge Al Buzbaugh, which the judge deemed to be threatening.
To contact Pinkney, email him care of firstname.lastname@example.org, or write: Rev. Edward Pinkney (#294671), Charles E. Egeler Reception & Guidance Center, 3855 Cooper St., Jackson, MI 49201-7517.
The nominations mean that Greens will be on the ballot for one U.S. Senate seat and 12 of Michigan's 15 seats in the U.S. House, GPMI's widest coverage yet of Federal offices in a single election.
Other notable candidates this year include former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and Rosa Clemente, founder of the National Hip-Hop Convention.
For the latest information on the candidates, issues, and values of the Green Party, visit: www.MIGreens.org, write 548 S. Main St., Ann Arbor, MI 48104, or call (734) 663-3555.
The Green Party of Michigan formed in 1987 to address environmental issues in Michigan politics. Greens are organized in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each state’s Green Party sets its own goals and creates its own structure, but Greens generally agree on 10 key values, including ecological wisdom; grass-roots democracy; nonviolence; respect for diversity; and social justice.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann
Rev. Edward Pinkney, a Missionary Baptist assistant pastor in Benton Harbor, was sentenced June 26 in a Berrien County court to 3-10 years on a probation violation for quoting, in King James, several curses from the Book of Deuteronomy in an opinion piece for The People's Tribune. Judge Dennis Wiley ruled that it was a "true threat." Until then I had thought the bizarre event of the day was that I was at the hearing as an "expert witness" in Scripture.
Here's the background of the case: Benton Harbor these days is a black city (94% with 70% unemployment) while across the river, St Joseph, world headquarters to the Whirlpool Corp, is virtually all white. (See Alex Kotlowitz, The Other Side of the River for one account of the racial apartheid represented here). Several years ago a former CEO of Whirlpool began advocating for a major development ($500 million worth) of condominiums and golf course on the Benton Harbor side which would take the river and lake front, including the city's only public beach park. It was planned that the project would be separated from Benton Harbor and become part of an adjoining, largely white, township. Certain City Commissioners were facilitating the project.
Rev. Pinkney and his wife Dorothy had previously joined BANCO (Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizations) and been involved in Berrien County courtwatching, exposing publicly what they saw as racist and corrupt practices of the court - including measurable concerns about the racial composition of juries. Now they became lead activists and community voices against the project. Predicated on a police incident, they initiated a recall campaign against Glen Yarbrough, perhaps the most powerful politico in Benton Harbor. Using a strategy of grassroots organizing which employed substantial absentee balloting, the Pinkneys prevailed. Yarbrough was recalled by a margin of 54 votes.
Whereupon the county prosecutor's office launched an investigation into the absentee balloting and brought suit against the Clerk to invalidate the election. The City refused to provide her legal defense. Without physical evidence and largely on the testimony a young woman (a drug user and sex worker regularly in trouble) who was given immunity, a small number of absentee ballots were declared invalid. Although the number was far less that the 54 differential, the judge ordered a new election.
Meanwhile, based on the election case, warrants were brought against Pinkney not for tampering, but for "handling" absentee ballots and for buying votes (he had admittedly paid people $5 to pass out fliers, not uncommon). A racially mixed jury was hung on all charges. Mistrial. While he was under indictment and with substantial funding coming in under Yarborough, the election was reversed, though by only 40 votes, and he was reinstated.
Not content, the prosecutor brought the charges again, and this time Rev. Pinkney was convicted by an all-white jury. Judge Alfred Butzbaugh sentenced him to a year in jail and initially placed him on house arrest pending appeal. Conditions of his probation included being electronically tethered with strictures against participating in electoral politics or publishing material that demeans or defames public officials.
Which bring us to the People's Tribune article. Something of a rant, the article includes the following paragraph:
Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass; if thou continue not to hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all that is right; which I command thee this day, that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, curses shalt be in the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, cursed shall come upon you and your family and over take thee; cursed shall be the fruit of thy body. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. They the demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist.
On that basis Judge Butbaugh violated him on his probation and Pinkney had been in jail for more than six months awaiting this June 26 hearing.
The text in question is edited and adapted from Deuteronomy 28:15-22 (KJV). Which also brings us to my debut as an expert witness in Scripture - and a little bit here about the book of Deuteronomy on which I was asked under oath to comment. The book itself is cast as a long discourse by Moses delivered just before the people crossed over the Jordon into Canaan. The bulk of it is legislative material coming from the tribes of the northern kingdom. It is actually an interesting choice for curse citation, because in addition to a version of the Ten Commandments, and covering such matters as marriage and divorce and tithing and instruction for Passover celebration, it includes a number economic and political provisions worth noting. It is a body of law which defends and advocates for the poor.
Perhaps best known these days are the provisions of the Sabbatical Year in chapter15 which mandate every seven years, the release of debts so there be "no poor among you," and for setting free all slaves (since most were "indentured" debt-slaves, these were much the same thing), and with a stake of livestock and crops - not unlike the idea of "forty acres and a mule." Also included is the first "constitutional" limitation on royal power in history: chapter 17. Kings are not to multiply their horses (the military) nor wives, nor silver and gold. The king is to write out a copy of the law for himself to read it all the days of his life. This includes the provisions for gleaning - a remainder of wheat and olives and grapes left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing."
The whole of the book is framed as a covenantal document which is how the blessings and curses of chapters 27 and 28 come into play. They are the binding element, the curses that those who say Amen to the covenant call down upon themselves as the power of enforcement. Perhaps the most interesting thing in this regard is that the list of actions cursed, most of which are from the Ten Commandments, include one reserved for anyone who "moves a neighbor's boundary marker" (!) and another for the one who "deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow, of justice." (27:17, 19)
Moreover, these chapters (from which Rev Pinkney has drawn) actually function as a convent renewal ceremony, in which the book is read aloud and the people voice their affirmation on perhaps an annual basis, so it is full of present tense urgency in which the people hear themselves named: I call upon you; this day; now; today.
Perhaps the most famous choice-putting comes from chapter 30:15-20:
"See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;
in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in God's ways and to keep these commandments and statutes and judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD, by obeying God's voice, and by holding fast to God."
Of course the big question for the expert witness was: Are these to be carried out by human agency or divine? My response was twofold. One, Moses, who speaks, is dead and buried four chapters later and does not follow them into the Promised Land. He seems an unlikely enforcer. When the book of Deuteronomy is "rediscovered" during a rehabilitation of the temple in 622 BCE, the book is taken to the prophetess Hulda for authentification (2Kings 22: 15-20). She specifically speaks in the voice of the Lord:
'Tell the one who sent you to me, thus says the LORD, "Behold, I bring evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read.. ."But to the king of Judah who sent you... "Regarding the words which you have heard, because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you," declares the LORD.
My biblical scholarship did not, however, carry the day. For sentencing the room filled up with three kinds of cops. Rev. Pinkney had been in handcuffs the entire hearing. (That I suppose was the visible presumption of "threat.") After weighing through the legal arguments and case law citations which will come into play on the appeals, His Honor began what seemed to me the real demeaning and defaming of the day, calling Edward Pinkney a fraud who had denied people their right to vote, for whatever interest of his own - the right, Judge Wiley averred, for which so many in the civil rights movement had spent their lives. Indeed. On the biblical question, the Judge seemed to determine that Pinkney was using his reverendness to call on God for the enforcement, but in any event determined for the record that this was a "true threat."
I'm not aware of any past behavior on his part which would be the basis imagining a physical threat from Rev Pinkney. But it must truly be that he is threatening to their plans and project. A voice which has not yet been silenced. But 3 to 10 years for quoting Deuteronomy?
And I thought being an expert witness in Scripture at a probation hearing was bizarre.
Bill Wylie-Kellermann is a United Methodist pastor serving St Peter's Episcopal Church in Detroit. He is faculty for the Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education in Chicago and adjunct at Ecumenical Theological Seminary of Detroit. Contributions may be sent to the Rev. Edward Pinkney Defense Fund, 1940 Union Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022; visit the BANCO website at www.bhbanco.blogspot.com ;an online petition may be found at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/624471377
Pastor, St. Peter's Episcopal Church - Detroit
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
The campaign of the power structure in St. Joseph/Berrien County, Michigan against the poorest city in the state, Benton Harbor (94% black, 70% unemployed) and the leader of the resistance, the Reverend Edward Pinkney, took a dangerous and destructive turn on July 26, 2008, when Pinkney was found to be in violation of the terms of his probation for “threatening” the trial judge by paraphrasing Chapter 30 of Deuteronomy to the effect that God will punish those who persist in the path of injustice.
To recap, Reverend Pinkney proved in 2005 that you have a right to free speech until you start to make a difference. He successfully engineered the recall campaign of the corrupt political boss of Benton Harbor who was collaborating with the power structure (Whirlpool Corporation and the Cornerstone Alliance) to take some of the most valuable property owned by Benton Harbor and turn it into a luxury residential/resort/condominium/marina/Jack Nicklaus golf course, depriving the once proud industrial city of its “in perpetuity” park on Lake Michigan and other valuable riverfront property.
Immediately thereafter, the recalled supervisor and the county sheriff swept through the community, threatening absentee voters and their families in order to obtain evidence that the recall election was tainted by fraud and that Pinkney, the leader of the recall, bought votes. By threats and bribery, the authorities ultimately came up with a few vulnerable citizens (e.g.- drug addicts, prisoners, probationers, prostitutes, those with loved ones in jeopardy) to claim that Pinkney either paid a few people from a soup kitchen $5.00 to vote absentee ballots or that Pinkney improperly handled otherwise valid absentee ballots by delivering them from the voter to the city clerk. Interestingly, buying votes is a misdemeanor. But having possession of an absentee ballot without any criminal intent is a felony.
The prosecutor sued the Benton Harbor City Clerk to set aside the election and the City refused to defend its own clerk. The local judge, who sat on the election commission and had opposed the recall petition, ruled that the election was invalid because it seemed bad, even though the prosecutor could not show enough “fraudulent” ballots to change the results. That judge, the Honorable Paul Maloney, has since been appointed by Bush to the federal bench in the Western District of Michigan.
After the election was set aside, the prosecutor brought criminal charges against Pinkney, intimidating his supporters while the establishment put money into the new election and the recall was reversed.
In his first trial, Pinkney had two black jurors and got a mistrial. In his second trial, despite a jury challenge, Pinkney had an all white jury, which convicted him on all counts.
Prior to sentencing, Pinkney took a polygraph test which exonerated him on every single element of every charge against him, but the prosecutor refused to run an official polygraph, presumably because they already knew that they had framed an innocent man. The trial judge, Alfred Butzbaugh, former President of the Michigan State Bar and the most progressive judge on the bench, refused the prosecutor and probation department’s request to put Pinkney in prison, giving him a year in jail and leaving him out on tether during the post-trial proceedings.
That was May 2007. In December 2007, the probation department, which had been monitoring Pinkney minutely on his probation and tether, apparently expanded its interest in Pinkney’s political activities to reading a story that Pinkney wrote in the November 2007 issue of The People’s Tribune, a leftist paper published by the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, published in Chicago. In it, Pinkney, as he has for years, called the criminal justice system in Berrien County racist, corrupt and ignorant.
Without consulting Judge Butzbaugh, the probation department went to the allegedly worst racist on the Berrien County Bench (Dennis Wiley). He signed a probation violation warrant against Pinkney based on the premise that Pinkney was forbidden to defame or harass anyone as a condition of his probation. At the original violation hearing before Butzbaugh, he agreed that it was protected speech and refused to find a violation.
Judge Butzbaugh then sua sponte pointed to another portion of the same article in which Pinkney, naming Butzbaugh specifically, as well as the court and the power structure of St. Joseph/Berrien County generaly, warned them if they continued in the ways of injustice, then they, their families and the community would suffer consequences at the hand of God. Judge Butzbaugh adjourned the hearing to consider whether this constituted a “threat” against him in violation of Pinkney’s probation. He later entered an order finding it to be a probable violation, but disqualifying himself from the hearing, which he transferred to Judge Wiley.
Pinkney challenged Judge Wiley as biased, since Pinkney had for years directly accused Wiley of being among “Benton Harbor’s most wanted for crimes against humanity” wearing t-shirts to that effect at rallies, demonstrations, in the courthouse and in Wiley’s courtroom. Wiley had Pinkney removed from his courtroom because of the t-shirt at least twice and had forced Pinkney to take off the t-shirt when he was brought in for the arraignment on the probation violation. Judge Wiley held a hearing and determined that he was not biased. Pinkney appealed to the Chief Judge, Butzbaugh, to disqualify Wiley and the entire Berrien County bench. Butzbaugh denied the motion and sent the hearing back to Wiley.
During this entire time, the prosecutor, being confident, never filed a substantive memorandum or paper, put on any witnesses or otherwise attempted to justify their position. The ACLU filed an amicus brief clearly indicating that making a statement in a publication paraphrasing the biblical prophecies and calling on divine intervention in the iniquitous affairs of society has been found not to be a “true threat” outside the First Amendment. At the hearing, the prosecution did nothing more than present the newspaper article.
Pinkney testified that it was not intended as a threat to any person in particular, but reflected his belief that injustice would bring about divine retribution. A prominent pastor, educated at Union Theological Seminary in New York, testified to the history and nature of those portions of the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament and that they did not contemplate any human action, either directly or indirectly, against the objects of the prophecy.
Judge Wiley summoned up a full load of righteous indignation that anyone should make such statements and found them to be true threats, rejecting the ACLU amicus. He then proceeded to revoke Pinkney’s probation and sentenced him to 3 to 10 years in prison, twice what had been asked by the Probation Department and the Prosecutor.
The appeal of this horrendous decision, making Pinkney the only known preacher in the history of America to be imprisoned for quoting the Bible, is a joint ACLU-NLG project in which the ACLU will handle the First Amendment substantive claim and Guild attorneys will handle the disqualification/sentencing issues.
In addition, Pinkney’s direct appeal is pending and a petition for clemency has been submitted to Michigan Governor Granholm and the Parole Board.
Those wishing to keep up with developments or lend support can:
1. Monitor the BANCO (Black Autonomous Network of Community Organizations) blogspot (bhbanco.blogspot.com);
2. Send money to the Reverend Edward Pinkney Defense Fund, 1940 Union Street, Benton Harbor, Michigan, 49022; and/or
3. Send letters to the Honorable Jennifer Granholm in support of clemency at the Michigan Department of Corrections, Office of the Parole Board, Pardons and Commutations Coordinator, P.O. Box 30003, Lansing, Michigan, 48909
Monday, August 11, 2008
Economic advantage not worth the price
Saturday, August 09, 2008
This case arises out of the poorest city in Michigan. Its most valuable land is sought by corporate interests. By virtue of their control of the county, they control the courts. The parade of people going before the criminal courts are almost all poor, and disproportionately Black; although we cannot ignore what they do to the Hispanic and poor white community. The thrust is to physically remove and destroy families through the use of the criminal justice system. Every person they can put in jail; every person whose voting rights they can revoke with a felony conviction; every person they can cause to lose their job by putting them on probation; every person that they can cause to lose the ability to pay for basic necessities through imposing ruinous court costs and probation is all part of the process. In the 1960s, it was called Negro removal. In Bosnia, it was called ethnic cleansing. It could be called genocide the removal of the minority population for the purpose of the redevelopment of the land. That’s what’s happening in Benton Harbor and the foremost leader of the resistance is Rev. Edward Pinkney.
The probation officers in the county tried to find out everywhere Pinkney has gone and everything he has said or written. With his life under such extraordinary scrutiny and having him on tether, if they could get him on anything, they would have. They didn’t and they can’t. So, what did they do? They took his writings about the Bible in the People’s Tribune and decided it was a violation of his probation. The first claim was that he called the courts in the county racist, corrupt and ignorant. He had been doing that for a long time. Nothing new. And even the judge could not bring himself to claim this was not protected speech under the First Amendment. The judge then read a paragraph where the judge himself was personally mentioned and where Pinkney quoted Deuteronomy about what God shall visit upon the iniquitous. The judge determined that this was a potential threat. Then he disqualified himself and the case was assigned to the reputedly most notorious racist on the bench (no small honor), the Honorable Dennis Wiley.
So we undertook a campaign. Pinkney spent seven months in the most horrendous conditions inside the Berrien County jail. We knew that if this case ever came before a judge of that bench, they would not only revoke his probation, but they could put him in prison. Pinkney bore it heroically. Pinkney, under continuous attack inside the jail, never stopped fighting, never lost hope. We went before Judge Wiley. The prosecution took the November copy of the People’s Tribune, entered it into evidence and never called a witness. We produced an eminent theologian who explained that biblical prophesy of the wrath of God upon the iniquitous was not a personal threat, an invitation of violence or a true threat under the Constitution of the U.S. Rev. Pinkney testified that he believes that sin will receive retribution. It is protected activity under the First Amendment. But he was found guilty of violating his probation. Then Wiley gave him every minute he could, doubling the recommendation of the prosecutor, doubling the recommendation of the probation department, 3-10 years in prison.
This judge actually said on the record that ‘I believe that Pinkney did not intend to threaten the judge, but he has a direct connection to God.’ He might. But, if it is true, Pinkney will still have that divine connection in prison and the wicked are no safer. So what’s the point? To remove the leader of the resistance from the community as long as possible, regardless of the shame that it will certainly bring down on Berrien County? It is ridiculous and we believe that it will become a national issue. But all the people that hear about it nationally are not necessarily going to organize, write letters and fundraise. That’s our job.
The ACLU has agreed to take the case as Rev. Pinkney’s direct representatives. On the original conviction, the National Lawyer’s Guild has filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals a 115 page brief (that’s 65 pages more than the limit) raising 13 arguments about how Pinkney’s conviction was unlawful. The Court of Appeals accepted the entire brief. The prosecution will reply in September. Second, we filed with the Governor’s office a Petition for Clemency, which is an area where political action, letters of support, etc. can make a difference. The more strength we build, the more possible it will be to persuade Jennifer Granholm to grant clemency or vacate the conviction. We will also file a motion for bond pending appeal.
DOROTHY PINKNEY SPEAKS:
It’s a kangaroo court. It’s a Ku Klux Klan county. They are just an organized criminal ring. The judge said my husband had too much influence over people. They look at him as a threat to interfere with their plans for Harbor Shores. As long as he’s confined in prison, they feel secure to go ahead and do what they need to do illegally. My husband’s in a good mood. He’s a warrior, a fighter and has refused to let anything defuse him. The county never went up against a man like him. Others have been bought and sold but he can’t be.
BELINDA BROWN, HEAD OF PINKNEY DEFENSE COMMITTEE SPEAKS:
I am the person that heads the Rev. Pinkney Defense Fund. My husband and I were there to support Rev. Pinkney. Shortly after that my husband was fired. His boss was one of the members who sat on Cornerstone (Whirlpool.) Even though there is outrage over the corruption in the court system, people are afraid because so many have suffered under these people. They make up the laws as they go. We successfully recalled the corrupt city commissioner and the judge threw out the vote. Whirlpool needed his vote to sell the lakefront property. We were fixing to sweep through and get them all out of those seats. This is prime property. Pastor Pinkney was getting people excited about taking our city back from Whirlpool and people were following him and they had hope. Now we know why he is prison. The world should be outraged. We need to raise funds for Pastor Pinkney’s defense.
Incredibly, on June 26, Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, Michigan, was sentenced to 3-10 years in state prison. His crime? Preaching the Word of God in a newspaper article in November, 2007. Judge Dennis Wiley of Berrien County ruled that Pinkney’s use of a quotation from Deuteronomy 28 was a threat and therefore a violation of his probation.
Benton Harbor was once a thriving industrial city that is now suffering from the economic desolation common to many Rust Belt communities. Rev. Pinkney is a longtime community leader who was convicted in 2007 of “voter fraud” in a hotly contested trial that many viewed as racially motivated and fraught with constitutional irregularities.
In his controversial newspaper article, Rev. Pinkney sharply criticized trial judge Alfred Butzbaugh and stated that his actions were contrary to God’s commandments. He then quoted from Deuteronomy 28 on blessings and curses, including verses 15-16, 18, 22, and 45 to warn of the consequences for disobedience to God. (The article appeared in the November issue of the Peoples Tribune http://www.peoplestribune.org/PT.2007.11/PT.2007.11.18.html).
A threat by definition is “an expression of intent to inflict evil, injury, or damage.” It is clear that Rev. Pinkney’s article contained no such expression. While the words from Deuteronomy are unquestionably harsh, the author of the quotation is not the mild-mannered Rev. Pinkney, but the Almighty Himself. At no time did Rev. Pinkney state, suggest, or imply that he, Rev. Pinkney, would commit any of these actions. The very idea that a human being can cause another to be cursed by God or to be smitten with consumption, fever, and inflammation is patently ridiculous.
A review of Biblical history indicates that Rev. Pinkney’s words were not only unthreatening, but scripturally appropriate. It is precisely the role of the preacher, prophet, and teacher to warn the people and their leaders of divine consequences for sinful actions. Jesus did so repeatedly. So did Paul. In fact, prophetic warnings of impending disaster are designed not to foment bloodshed, but rather to diminish and avert it by prompting repentance.
Deuteronomy 28 is simply a strongly worded, Old Testament-style statement of the Biblical truth that we reap what we sow. The government can try to punish and persecute the bearers of this message, but it cannot reverse or repeal a law of God.
The sentencing of Rev. Pinkney is ominous also because it follows the well-publicized attack on Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. Rev. Wright preached virtually the same Deuteronomy 28 message to American government officials after the terrorist attacks on 9/11: you reap what you sow. For this he was isolated, pilloried, and denounced by the media and Democratic and Republican politicians alike.Preaching Biblical truth to government power has now become a crime in America. It will continue to be so for as long as we allow Rev. Pinkney to remain in prison. The last time this happened was during the years before the Civil War, when abolitionist preachers and publishers were suppressed and even murdered. It is no accident that it is once again primarily the African-American church that is being targeted first. Let us pray that the current crisis has the same result now as then: an upsurge of the American people in defense of human freedom.
Sandy Perry is Outreach Minister at CHAM Deliverance Ministry
San Jose, California.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Suit regards court order, not deed (H P)
Saturday, August 02, 2008
This is in response to an article printed July 24 regarding an unruly wedding party in Lakeside. On the night of July 19, I was working for the catering company that provided the food. To call the event a “melee” is a huge overstatement.
To begin with, the owner of the establishment lied to the wedding party. He told them that their contract expired at 11 p.m., when it actually was an open contract. Also, there was one glass broken prior to the arrival of the police, which is not uncommon for any large gathering. I believe it was broken by a careless child. Any other damaged occurred later during a scuffle with the police officers. I witnessed family and friends celebrating a new marriage.
Nobody was out of line until the owner decided to breach his contract and kick them out.
When the police arrived, they blocked the driveways with their cars and would not move them to allow people to leave. It wasn’t that the guests refused to leave, but rather the police officers, ranging from New Buffalo to Baroda, along with the Sheriff’s Department and Michigan State Police, refused to let them leave. When I asked an officer with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department to move his car, he ignored me. When I asked another officer to move his car, he placed his hand on his gun and told me not to start trouble and followed me back into the building.
I saw innocent people being subdued with a Taser gun. I saw a groom being hauled off to jail, separated from his wife on his wedding night. I saw the father of the groom arrested, and I saw many people scared by the actions of the police officers. But this information was not included in the write-up of the event.
I hope the bride and groom pursue the proper legal recourse against both the owner of the establishment and the police officers who arrived on the scene.
Andrew Mason St. Joseph
Benton Harbor Activist, Jailed for Quoting Bible at Judge,
Among 10 Congressional Candidates Picked in Marshall July 26-27
First Office for McKinney-Clemente Campaign to Be in Detroit
The Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) evoked the memory of
Eugene V. Debs by nominating jailed Benton Harbor community
activist Rev. Edward Pinkney for Congress at the party's
2008 Nominating Convention last weekend in Marshall.
Pinkney is one of ten GPMI candidates so far who will run
for Congress, and seventeen in total nominated at the
convention. They will all join the Green Presidential
ticket of former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Rosa
Clemente, founder of the National Hip-Hop Convention, on
the November 4 general-election ballot. And more Green
candidates will be nominated at local caucuses this weekend.
McKinney has met with Pinkney and the Black Autonomy Network
Community Organization (BANCO) in Benton Harbor in the past.
And she mentioned Pinkney and Benton Harbor in her Chicago
acceptance speech July 12.
Pinkney Paying a Heavy Price for His Beliefs;
Will Now Get to Express Them by Running for Office
Pinkney will run for the 6th District seat now held by Fred
Upton, scion of the family that founded Whirlpool. Pinkney
has opposed the corporation's influence on local government
and the plans of Whirlpool-led institutions to take Jean Klock
Park away from the people of Benton Harbor for a golf course
priced for the wealthy.
He is now sitting in state prison in Jackson awaiting appeal
on a 3- to 10-year sentence for alleged mishandling of four
absent-voter ballots in a 2005 recall election of a city
commissioner who supported Whirlpool's plans. That verdict
came after one mistrial with a deadlocked jury, and despite
an affidavit by one former prosecution witness saying the
recalled commissioner had offered him $10 to say Pinkney had
paid $5 for his vote.
The Berrien County courts also overturned the recall, even
though it had passed by over 50 votes.
Pinkney's sentence was imposed last month, and a pre-sentence
probation order which came with an elaborate set of prohibitions
(including bans on any kind of political involvement -- and
making him pay the rental on his own electronic tether) was
revoked last month, because of an article he wrote last fall.
In the article, he used a slightly paraphrased quote from
Deuteronomy that a Berrien County judge ruled was not
protected by the First Amendment because it constituted a
believable threat of the wrath of God against a fellow
judge and the judge's family.
The article appeared last November in _The People's Tribune_,
a political newspaper published in Chicago.
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