In this issue, the People’s Tribune interviewed some of the thousands of people who were part of the struggle to win the free speech victory for Rev. Edward Pinkney who received 3-10 years for quoting the Bible. We asked them to speak about what the Pinkney victory means for the movement for civil and economic rights.
Before turning to these interviews, we would like to also comment on the victory.
The attack on democracy in Benton Harbor shows that the corporate power structure is determined to crush anyone who stands in their way. It symbolizes an entire process under way in America. The once stable working class community of Benton Harbor has been devastated by automation and globalization. The open rule of corporate power arose to oppose Benton Harbor’s struggle.
This case is a harbinger of the future of America if people do not move to take over the corporations before they take over society.
In this light, the winning of this battle holds important lessons for us all. The first is that we were successful because a broad, non-sectarian movement came together to fight for the basic rights that are increasingly being taken away in America. Had this struggle been lost, it would have set an ominous foundation, not by law, but by practice, that anyone could be convicted for speaking their beliefs. This particular battle, which is one of many going on across the country, shows that when people stand up, keep the movement rallying around its basic demands, and fight such atrocities, they can win!
We at the People’s Tribune are proud to be part of this effort. — People’s Tribune Editorial Board
“Of course the religious community can be relieved that quoting scripture, even against ‘the powers and authorities,’ may still be considered protected speech. When Mary, the peasant mother of Jesus, proclaims that God has done great things.scattering the proud in their conceit, casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty, she is virtually quoting Hebrew scripture. We can rejoice, but we must continue to resist any silencing of the prophetic voices among us. Many of us remain shocked at the outrageous arrogance of the Berrien County courts. With their rulings exposed and overturned, they continue to hold Rev. Pinkney tethered and on house arrest. He must be freed and his voice heard.”
— Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Pastor, St. Peter’s
Episcopal Church, Detroit
“I think this is a tremendous victory, not only for free speech, but for freedom of the press and freedom of religious expression. Rev Pinkney felt that he and his community had been wronged and he had the courage of his convictions to express those in print format and the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the important constitutional principles that such expression is protected. Most of our government is done not necessarily at the federal level but at the local level, It’s real important for people to not only be able to speak out against the president, but also, the city council, the mayor or whoever they feel is part of the power structure that they are opposed to. This means you have a fundamental right to go to City Council meetings and during public comments, express your opinion of City Council. In the Pinkney case, you should be able to express your opinions at local criminal justice even though there is a judge who may read the editorial and get upset. So everyone has a right to say things that might upset the local power structure. That’s what democracy is about; riling things up a little bit. This case shows that in the end free speech prevails.”
— Dan Korobkin, staff attorney ACLU of Michigan
“More than a movement was in trouble because of the Benton Harbor Court’s decision to sanction a Baptist preacher for quoting the Bible! The American dream was slapped. Under NO circumstances can decent people accept silencing preachers who suggest that the Great Spirit is angry by what they see as oppressive treatment of poor and minority people. What the ACLU, local and national organizations, and other progressive attorneys exposed is what we are seeing in town hall meetings across the country. Free-speech is being shouted down through suspiciously organized efforts by those who want things done their way. We are entering into a dangerous period in history marked by an economy on fire as it burns through the dreams of ordinary working people. Each of us will arrive at this juncture in time holding something in our hands...a cup of water, a gallon of gasoline, or a torch. We can throw water on it to no avail, or we can add gasoline to the flames, to no avail, or we can analyze what is happening and help lead the way out with the torch of truth! I chose to take up the torch.”
— Maureen D. Taylor, State Chairperson/MI Welfare Rights Org.
VOICES FROM BENTON HARBOR:
“Revolution is a one time event and those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. That is why the people of Benton Harbor must stand together against Whirlpool,Harbor Shores, Cornerstone Alliance and Berrien County court system.We the people must take a stand.” — Rev. D. Smith
“We hold in our hands the most precious gift of all freedom.The freedom to express our art, our freedom to express our love.The freedom to be who we want to be.We are not going to give that freedom away and no one shall take it away from me, without a fight to the finish. U.S Rep Fred Upton stop it!”
— Joyce Parker
“Now if you want to know what Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor Michigan has in common with imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi, India, Esmeralda in the 1939 movie Hunch Back of Notre Dame, Joan of Arc, Ceaser Chavez, Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, or the people of Honduras now fighting an evil Terrorist Coup d’ ‘etat, well, they were all persecuted for standing up for justice and speaking truth to power!”
— Dorothy Pinkney
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