Faith

Mississippi cop to church pastor: “Your rights are suspended.”

The churchgoers presented zero public safety risk.

I’ve often wondered about formerly civil nations that descend into vicious totalitarianism. The only way this happens is if the despotic government can wrest control of the military and law enforcement from the non-authoritarian government. The most obvious being a country of culture, manufacturing, science, and civil society that succumbed to the National Socialist German Worker’s (NAZI) Party.

Having some German ancestry, I’ve wondered if a federal, state, or local government in the United States could ever get Americans to violate other American’s rights just “because a political leader says so” regardless of what the U.S. or state constitutions say. An incident in Greenville, Mississippi last week brought back this curiosity. And, sadly, may be providing an answer to my question.

As a cop who wrote frequently in our union newspaper, The Guardian, I made it clear that I would never obey an order that violated an American’s Second Amendment rights. Various mayors during my career attempted to impose clearly unconstitutional anti-gun rights edicts in the city. Fortunately, they were all slapped down in the courts.

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Even more fortunately, I never felt I had to make the same assertion about the First or any other amendments enshrined in the Bill of Rights. Officers, during this current CCP virus hysterical overreach, are having to deal with their chiefs, sheriffs, and mayors ordering them to violate people’s constitutional rights.

And many cops are rightly confused, as this situation is unprecedented in most American’s lifetimes. I mean, what do “emergency powers” include? Can the federal and state constitutions actually be suspended? But making rank and file cops the bad guys to achieve their ideological goals is just what some leaders do.

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I’ll provide one seemingly innocuous prohibition handed down by one state governor that betrays the goal. Petty tyrant Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, among the many activities she’s declared “verboten,” has made power boating “illegal.” Not row boating but boats with motors. Now, why would she do that? Could it be a nod to “man-made climate change” and the “New Green Deal?” Bolstering her bona fides to be Joe Biden’s VP? Just asking.

You’d think cops would have to worry about such political power grabs in places like Detroit, New York, Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. But Mississippi? Yes, Mississippi. The pastor of the Temple Baptist Church in Greenville, MS., Arthur Scott, spoke about a disturbing incident with Todd Starnes, on his radio show.

Scott told Starnes, “he was astonished by the actions of the police department and mayor’s office.” He said, “One of the police officers said the mayor wanted to make an example of our church,” the pastor said. “I told them to get some more tickets ready because we will be preaching Sunday morning and Sunday night.” Good for the pastor. Why good? Because he was complying with the CDC recommended social distancing and not putting anyone in harm’s way.

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Pastor Scott, who said he’s served his small church for 45 years, arranged to conduct services by broadcasting his sermons from his pulpit to parishioners over their car radios while they were safely in their cars. Scott said the government is “strongly encouraging” churches to use Facebook Live and other “social media, streaming, and telephonic platforms.” But he says most of his members are “elderly and they don’t have access to smartphones.”

According to wide reporting, the police issued $500 fines to everyone in attendance. How does this not violate the First Amendment’s protections of freedom of religion, assembly, and speech? As an officer, I don’t believe I could have followed those orders any more than I would an order to violate a person’s gun rights. Remember the bottom line here: the churchgoers presented zero public safety risk.

A more detailed story at pulpitandpen.org reported one police officer uttered these very scary words, “When you get an order of the governor, your rights are suspended.” Well, explain this to me: if your constitutional rights are unalienable, God-given, then how, even in an “emergency” could they be suspended by a human being? Unalienable rights cannot be given or taken by man; man can only recognize and protect or disregard and violate.

In an emergency, people can voluntarily suspend their exercising their rights for the common good, but they cannot surrender nor can government usurp those rights. Even if you concede the government has a right to temporarily “suspend” constitutional rights during a crisis such as the CCP virus, shouldn’t enforcing such a suspension employ the least intrusive measures possible?

Handcuffing a father playing catch in a park with his daughter is not the least intrusive; fining a man $1,000 for surfing in the Pacific Ocean, and handing out $500 citations to elderly churchgoers are definitely not the least intrusive. And while closing a park is, at least, not unconstitutional, closing a church is.

When you have mayors and governors who allow people to go to the store to get food, booze, or pot, as long as they follow CDC protocols for social distancing while in public but don’t allow people to follow those same protocols to go to church services, doesn’t this create an enormous constitutional problem? In fact, one could argue the churchgoers are following a more stringent self-restriction than the shoppers by staying in their cars. They cannot infect anyone outside their cars from inside their cars.

Last night on the Ingraham Angle on the Fox News Channel, Laura Ingraham interviewed Home Depot billionaire co-founder, Bernie Marcus, 90-years-old and sharp as a razor. He told Ingraham that the government should not be the one to decide how businesses should operate during an “economic re-opening” of the country. He said businesses are incredibly diverse and each owner should be trusted to do the right things. He’s right. Anything else would emulate central control of the economy—socialism.

But the Left is telling us we need to trust the government as to when and how we reopen the economy. Is that the way it works in America, folks? Americans, distrusting of government, created a limited government based on individual liberty.

So, if anything, trust goes the other way around. The founders fashioned the U.S. Constitution where the government must trust the people to make decisions for themselves. In fact, it’s government’s primary responsibility to protect that right. The government is supposed to be a tool the people use to self-govern. People are not supposed to be tools the government uses to empower itself.

meet the author

Steve Pomper is a retired Seattle police officer. He's served as a field training officer and on the East Precinct Community Police Team. He's the author of four books, including "De-Policing America: A Street Cop's View of the Anti-Police State." He's also a contributor to the National Police Association.

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