Updates on Recent Stories

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 11, 2008 — 6 Comments

The Theological Necessity of Goats: A Santeria priest who challenged the animal slaughter laws in Forth Worth, Texas has lost his lawsuit against the city.

“At the end of the one-day trial, U.S. District Judge John McBryde said Euless was protecting the public’s health by banning animal slaughtering in the city limits but that Merced could do the rituals elsewhere … Euless officials said they were pleased with the judge’s ruling, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on Monday. “Public health is one of the most compelling interests that cities protect,” said Mick McKamie, the city’s attorney for the case.”

Of course, their appeal to public health is completely arbitrary since the city does allow citizens to slaughter chickens in their homes. An animal just as capable of transmitting pathogens as a goat. Jose Merced is currently considering an appeal to the ruling.

Even Intolerant Fools Deserve Free Speech: Repent America founder Michael Marcavage has been found guilty of disorderly conduct by a judge in Salem. Marcavage was arrested on Halloween night, while spouting hellfire at the crowds of Pagans and merry-makers that converge on the “Witch City” every year.

“A Pennsylvania preacher who was arrested on Halloween night after defying police orders to stop using a bullhorn was found guilty of disorderly conduct yesterday and fined $200 by a judge, who said Michael Marcavage used “poor judgment” that night … ‘Halloween in Salem is a unique day of the year,’ said Salem District Court Judge Michael Uhlarik. ‘It’s a very small community, and you have 60,000 to 80,000 people crammed into a very tight space. In this day and age, we have to be very careful of controlling crowds. It’s not a question of depriving anyone of their free speech rights,’ said the judge. ‘It’s an issue of public safety.'”

According to police, the decision to shut down bullhorn use by protest groups was made because of concerns for keeping the peace amongst an increasingly hostile and drunk crowd. Police also testified that the Repent America group were using the bullhorn in an aggressive and provocative manner (something that didn’t make it into their self-serving YouTube video). Repent America promises to appeal the ruling, and has hinted that they may file a civil lawsuit.

Can You Be a Christo-Pagan in Prison: The Washington state Senate has unanimously approved a bill designed to study in-prison programs so they can more effectively build “moral character”. The bill also contains a provision that seemingly protects prison chaplains from performing actions contrary to their faith, a response to a controversy created when the Washington Department of Corrections changed their policy to allow for multi-faith allegiance in prison.

“A Page One story in The News Tribune in January explored the conflict that a Catholic priest who works as a chaplain in the state prison system faced in complying with a new rule allowing inmates to select multiple religions. A bill aimed at addressing that issue has cleared the state Legislature and is headed to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. Senate Bill 6400, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood, contained provisions to protect chaplains after hearing that Tom Suss, a longtime chaplain at McNeil Island, took a leave of absence rather than be put in a position of having to provide religious items to an inmate who claimed both Catholicism and a pagan religion simultaneously. Doing so would have gone against the tenets of his faith, Suss said.”

This crowd-pleasing Republican-sponsored bill is, of course, a redundancy, since no chaplain was being forced to perform ecclesiastical duties against their wishes. In fact, Tom Suss, the chaplain this bill was designed to help, is well known for his anti-Pagan views, and his “leave of absence” tantrum stems mainly from Pagan inmates being allowed to buy Christian trinkets. The Bill is currently on the Governor’s desk awaiting a signature.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Robin Edgar

    It looks to me that there are some serious freedom of speech issues involved in the Michael Marcavage and Repent America case and that they do have some grounds for an appeal and possibly even a civil suit. I read the Salem News article and see some problems with the judgment against Marcavage. I dare say that Salem District Court Judge Michael Uhlarik may have shown “poor judgment” in finding Marcavage guilty of disorderly conduct.I take note of the fact that the prosecutors offered to dismiss the case if Marcavage paid $100 in court costs. This is often an indication of having a weak case. They had already dropped a charge that Marcavage violated a city noise ordinance, which bars the use of amplification for noncommercial speech after 10 p.m. for obvious reasons. . .The “disorderly conduct” charge clearly revolves around the Salem police officer’s decision to confiscate Marcavage’s megaphone and his refusal to allow them to do so. Is it really “disorderly conduct” for people to refuse to obey police officers who are demanding something that is out of line with both the letter and the spirit of the law whether that law be the Constitution or municipal bylaws? Is the simple act of disobeying of a police officer, even if that refusal to obey the demands of the police may be quite justified, “disorderly conduct”? Because that is what this case comes down to.Judge Michael Uhlarik said, “What I saw on that tape was defiance and basically passive-aggressiveness. . . It was not a good decision by your client.” Was it a good decision by Judge Uhlarik to find Marcavage’s defiance and passive resistance to the questionable demands of Salem police that disregarded the fact that Salem municipal bylaws allowed use of amplification devices up until 10pm. constituted “disorderly conduct? Regardless of what one may think of Marcavage’s fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs, and his expression thereof, he has a valid point when he asserts that the Salem police “took the law into their own hands” and that the police order to turn over the bullhorn was unlawful.What about the “increasingly hostile and drunk crowd”? Surely they were rather more guilty of “disorderly conduct” than Marcavage was yet there is no evidence of the Salem police trying to calm the drunk and disorderly crowd. . . If the situation “turned into a fiasco”, as alleged by Lt. Paul Lemelin, it might have a lot to do with how he and other Salem Patrolmen handled the situation. It seems to me that the situation only became “disorderly”, to say nothing of a “fiasco”. . . when Lt. Lemelin and Patrolmen Ryan Davis and Brian Butler physically struggled with Marcavage over his bullhorn and these three Salem police officers then wrestled him to the ground as may be clearly seen in Repent America’s “self-serving” YouTube video of this incident. . .

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “It seems to me that the situation only became “disorderly”, to say nothing of a “fiasco”. . . when Lt. Lemelin and Patrolmen Ryan Davis and Brian Butler physically struggled with Marcavage over his bullhorn and these three Salem police officers then wrestled him to the ground…”If only we could see Repent America’s video footage for the couple hours leading up to the five minutes of the arrest. A shame they didn’t feel that footage was important enough to share. Then we could have confirmation of the police approaching them earlier and asking them to stop using the megaphone early (which they reportedly agreed to do), we could also have confirmation of members of Repent America using the bullhorn in “aggressive tactics” including using it in someone’s face (sounds like “disorderly conduct” to me). Instead, we get the five minutes. Context certainly is king, isn’t it?

  • Robin Edgar

    Context certainly is important but, even if the police did ask them to stop using the megaphone earlier and even if they did initially agree to do so, that does not change the fact that the police were demanding that they do something that was outside the letter of Salem`s municipal bylaws, hence the dropped charge. . . Quite frankly I think that a compact digital camera with video capability, to say nothing of an additional digital voice recorder, should be an essential part of police equipment these days. The police could have and should have videoed their interactions with Marcavage and Repent America. It`s not like they did not have any past experience with them. But let`s face it, it`s not like police are above lying to support dubious charges brought against suspects. . . The judge`s decision seems to be based on Repent America`s video footage in any case and that judgment is not supported by that video footage AFAIAC. Marcavage seems to be quite calm and is comparitively passively protecting his megaphone from what he has good reason to believe is an illegal seizure by the Salem police officers. What the judge calls passive-aggressiveness on Marcavage`s part is what others would call classic passive-resistance to questionable police intervention. The only “aggressive tactics” seen in that video footage are those of the Salem police officers who clearly forced Marcavage to the ground. . .

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