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Michigan ACLU Director Michael Steinberg (left) said
“In America a person cannot be thrown into prison for
speech.” Dorothy Pinkney (right) thanks the crowd
outside the Appellate Court.
PHOTO/daymonjhartley .com

By Dorothy Pinkney

The Pharaoh was the most powerful man on earth, and sat upon his throne as Moses stood before him declaring that God`s people be set free to worship and serve God as they chose. 
Judge Dennis Wiley, a man devoid of this understanding, ordered my husband on May 29, 2009, to furnish documentation that he is indeed an ordained minister.

My husband, the Rev. Edward Pinkney, objected to the court order to furnish documentation that he is indeed an ordained minister on the grounds that the order violates the established clause of the first Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Judge Wiley is the same judge who sentenced my husband to 3 to 10 years in prison for paraphrasing the Bible (Deuteronomy 28:14-27). He is also the judge who refused to answer the Michigan Supreme Court order to “articulate the reasons” he has confined my husband to house arrest, the $105 per week tether, and many other restrictions. 

Ordination and qualifications for ministry are governed by the rules of particular religious denominations and are not regulated by secular law. The court cannot decide whether a particular individual is indeed an ordained minister. The Supreme Court has repeatedly said that judges cannot resolve disputes that rely on the rules of a religious denomination. The first Amendment forbids the court from resolving church property disputes that require underlying controversies over religious doctrine. Whether a person is a minister or an ordained minister is a matter of church doctrine. There are no secular requirements for a person to be considered an ordained minister. A religious congregation is free to accept any person as their minister regardless of degrees, certification, or education. The documentation called for in the Court’s order is not a universal prerequisite to become a minister or to ordination. A person may be ordained by another person, an institution, even by God if that is his belief. Courts are not arbiters of scriptural interpretation.

The Supreme Court has made it clear that the Berrien County court cannot decide on the propriety of the qualification for ministry or ordination accepted by my husband’s particular denomination. This court cannot determine the truth of the underlying beliefs that led to the religious objection here. Rev. Edward Pinkney is free on bond under the first Amendment to self-describe as an ordained minister, and his congregants are free to adopt him as their minister on whatever basis they see fit. This court has trespassed into an area where it does not belong.


Rev. Pinkney and Attorney Tim Holloway at trial.
PHOTO/daymonjhartley .com

On June 9, the Michigan Appellate Court heard oral arguments in Rev. Edward Pinkney’s appeal of his conviction on vote fraud charges. The first two counts, the felony of being present while a person was voting an absentee voter ballot, and a misdemeanor of giving valuable consideration in order to influence votes, were based on allegations that Pinkney asked Brenda Fox to visit a soup kitchen and pay a small number of voters to vote absentee ballots in the recall election of a local City Commissioner, GlenYarbrough.

At the heart of this case is the story of how a giant corporation like Whirlpool buys up a once thriving, but now impoverished industrial town, steals its valuable lakefront property and works to turn the town into a vacation resort for the wealthy. It is also the story of the arrest of leaders who stand up for the poor against the corporations and all who ally with them, and how the corporate run law enforcement agencies and courts work to convict them.
The People’s Tribune asked Tim Holloway, one of Pinkney’s attorneys on the appeal, about the political ramifications of the case.  “It seems to me that there are serious issues with putting a five-year felony on someone when the prosecutor who presents the case doesn’t claim that the defendant took the ballots without the consent of the voters,” said Holloway. “Also, if you think about it in terms of prior to 1995, it was not illegal to handle a ballot if the ballot was given to them and no family member or person from the same household of the person that possessed the ballot couldn’t take it to the clerk’s office. Now it’s a five-year felony.” Holloway fears that people who organize politically to get out the vote could curtail their activity for fear of being slapped with a felony.  “And if you don’t know that you are violating the law and merely possess, for any length of time, another person’s absentee ballot in violation of that law, even with the voter’s explicit consent, then you are already committing a felony.  So there are a lot of ramifications. It could scare people into not being active. This a first amendment issue. We want to make sure we don’t chill first amendment rights. You could have organizers going out and someone in power doesn’t like your political position, they could charge you even if you would naturally think you have done nothing wrong.”

Another key issue in the conviction appeal, and one that also has political ramifications, involves what the jury was not allowed to know about a key witness for the prosecution, Brenda Fox. “It seems very troubling that the defense had evidence that Brenda Fox was picked up for prostitution, and released without charges, but the jury did not know this when they were required to assess her credibility in testifying against Pinkney. Logically, it doesn’t seem like the way things are supposed to work,” said Holloway. “It is common sense that if someone does have some type of incentive to favor one person or another, you should have some type of idea where their bias or interest lies.”

There are other important issues in this case on appeal, particularly the free speech issue related to a newspaper article written by Rev. Pinkney which criticized the judge. The ACLU in Michigan is handling that appeal. Activists throughout the state of Michigan and nationally are watching this case very closely.

— People’s Tribune

“The liberties of our city, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards of our community.It is our duty to defend against all attacks. Our community is in dire need of help. The people are starving in the city of Benton Harbor and Whirlpool wants to build a golf course.”

—Rev D. Smith

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate tireless minority keen to set brush fires in the people`s mind; looks like we are still on a plantation in Benton Harbor.When are the people going to take a stand for the future of our children?”

—Gloria Martin

“Commissioners, you do not help your community. Your hands are nailed to the cross, your knowledge is like a crown of thorns,your knowledge has not allowed you to serve your people properly. You got eyes and what are you seeing? You got ears and what are you hearing? You got a tongue. What are you speaking, commissioners? You need Jesus.”

— Minister Farrakhan


This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551,
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