«

»

Apr 27 2011

Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

It has recently come to my attention [by way of a post at Dispatches From the Culture Wars] that a group of Christians in the State of California feel that they need to codify their rights to evangelize and spread the gospel because those rights are in grave peril. They think that an amendment to their state’s constitution is necessary in order to protect themselves from persecution.

Persecution: That’s pretty heavy stuff, man. I feel that I must provide this definition in order to avoid any confusion about this post. There are people who seem to be perplexed about the meaning of persecution.

persecution [pur-si-kyoo-shuhn] /ˌpɜrsɪˈkyuʃən/:
–noun

  1. the act of persecuting.
  2. the state of being persecuted.
  3. a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs: the persecutions of Christians by the Romans.

persecution. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/persecution (accessed: April 19, 2011).

With that definition firmly in our minds, let’s proceed to the matter at hand.

One man in particular, Allan Esses, seems to be the major proponent for this group. Alan is the Pastor of Yes Jesus is Lord Ministries. The Yes Jesus Is Lord.Org web site seems to be primarily used as a platform from which to promote the ideas Allan has espoused in regard to the rights of Christians to proselytize.

Legislation is contemplated, pending, and already passed, (see attached), to make it a crime or hate crime for Christians from using all of God’s Word in and out of the church. It is considered a crime, in some places, to call certain behavioral actions a sin. Background. Yes Jesus Is Lord.Org. http://www.yesjesuschristislord.org/background.html (accessed: April 20, 2011).

I’m not sure why Allan used the “(see attached)” text, as there is nothing attached to the web page. I was hoping that there might be, as I would like to see some references to the legislation that is mentioned. I’d like to see a citation for the statement made about it being a crime to call something a sin. Allan’s grammar leaves a bit to be desired, but my own writing isn’t perfect, either.

Many people are grieved in their spirit as they witness the erosion and abridging of our First Amendment U.S. Constitutional rights of freedom of religion, speech, or of the press, to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ and the full counsel of God’s Word.

We are faced with the loss of our 14th Amendment rights, which states: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

May the Lord help to safe guard us and these precious Constitutional liberties. Background. Yes Jesus Is Lord.Org. http://www.yesjesuschristislord.org/background.html (accessed: April 20, 2011).

Again, Allan claims that his Constitutionally protected rights have been eroded or usurped, yet he provides no specific details about when or where this has taken place. Please, Allan: I’d like to know when and where this has happened so that I can help you to protect your rights. I’m a big proponent of freedom of speech, and I’d like to help if I’m needed.

One news article says that Allan makes the claim that Christians have been restricted from sharing the story of Jesus™, and that he has personally been stopped from spreading the Word of God™ while in West Hollywood, California.

The California pastor says that Christians in the state have been prevented from sharing the gospel, praying and holding Bible studies in public. He has personally been stopped for distributing gospel tracts in West Hollywood. Calif. Christians want constitutional protection. OneNewsNow.com, American Family News Network. http://www.onenewsnow.com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=1328680 (accessed: April 20, 2011).

I can only imagine what that horrendous experience must have been like.

Help! Help! I'm being repressed!

Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I’m being repressed!

How could it be that Allan’s rights have been trampled on by those who wish to silence him? When this happened, where were those who are supposed to protect our freedoms? Why wasn’t anything done about it? Why was it not in the national spotlight?

Esses, who has been a pastor in Moscow, Russia, and Irvine, California, stated the consequences of not acting on these amendments will include believers in Jesus Christ suffering a further eroding and abridging of their First-Amendment and Fourteenth-Amendment rights of freedom of religion, as guaranteed under the Constitution, “to the point where we will no longer be permitted to legally share the full counsel of God’s Word that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except by Him.” California Amendments Proposed to Protect Religious Freedom. ANS News Release, ASSIST News Service (ANS). http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2010/s10010134.htm January 20, 2010 (accessed: April 20, 2011).

Allan (who is apparently the author, as well as the subject, of this “news release”) mentions “a further eroding and abridging” of his (and others’) rights. This implies that those rights have already been eroded and abridged to a certain degree. Allan fails to make mention of any specific instances, though. I’m beginning to wonder if Allan is being completely up front with us.

The Amendment

It has been argued that some individual clauses in California’s constitution provide rights broader than the Bill of Rights in the federal constitution. The case of Robins v. Pruneyard Shopping Center (1979), for instance, established two important rules:

  • under the California Constitution, individuals may peacefully exercise their right to free speech in parts of private shopping centers regularly held open to the public, subject to reasonable regulations adopted by the shopping centers
  • under the U.S. Constitution, states can provide their citizens with broader rights in their constitutions than under the federal Constitution, so long as those rights do not infringe on any federal constitutional rights

California’s constitution contains an affirmative right of free speech which has been liberally construed by the Supreme Court of California, while the federal constitution’s First Amendment contains only a negative command to Congress to not abridge the freedom of speech.

CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SEC. 2. (a) Every person may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of this right. A law may not restrain or abridge liberty of speech or press. Article I, Section 2 (a). California Constitution. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.const/.article_1 (accessed: April 22, 2011).

With the protections of one of the longest constitutions in the world, one that has been shown to be very broad in providing rights, what could Allan want to change in order to provide even greater freedom of speech than he already enjoys? I suppose we’ll have to take a look at the proposed changes to the constitution to find out.

What is it that Allan wants to do to protect his rights? He wants to amend the Constitution of California. More specifically, he wants to make changes to Article 1, Section 4.

CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
SEC. 4. Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs. Article I, Section 4. California Constitution. http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.const/.article_1 (accessed: April 22, 2011).

That seems fairly straightforward to me. It isn’t filled with the language of attorneys and legislators that is so often seen in the minutiae of state laws. Free exercise of religion is protected, as long as that free exercise isn’t somehow otherwise prohibited by law for good reason in the first place. If your religion involves activity that is otherwise illegal, your religious grounds don’t give you free reign.

What would Article I, Section 4 look like after Allan’s amendment? That’s difficult to figure out, as there seem to be three distinct ballot initiatives that Allan has proposed and filed. Initiative 09-0032, Initiative 09-0033, and Initiative 10-0022 are very similar. It appears that Allan has been at this for a few years, too.

I’ll use California’s standard in illustrating the changes that are intended. Text that is to be added is shown underlined, while text that is to be removed is shown as stricken.

Let’s see what changes Initiative 09-0032, “The Free Exercise of Religion,” has in store:

CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
THE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION
SEC. 4. (a) Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs.

(b) We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that a person using any part of the Bible’s content as authority may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views on salvation, heaven, or abortion, adultery, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, astrology, bestiality, bigamy, bisexuality, blasphemy, civil unions, coarse jesting, cohabitation, coveting, cross-dressing, cults, drugs, drunkenness, extortion, euthanasia, evil, evolution, fornication, gay marriage, gender identity, hell, heresy, homosexuality, idolaters, idolatry, incest, lying, murder, necromancy, other religions, pornography, psychics, rape, reviling, sex, sexual immorality, sexual orientation, sodomy, sorcery, stealing, transgender, trans-sexuality, witchcraft, yoga or sin at any public or private gatherings, school, church, or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk or in any communicative medium, the internet, satellite, television, theater, film, radio, videos, recording, newspapers, magazines, music, and periodicals, or by means of a computer, telephone, cell phone, or fax machine.
These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.
Initiative 09-0032. State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i829_initiative_09-0032_(a1-s).pdf (accessed: April 20, 2011).

Now for the changes that Initiative 09-0033, “Religious Freedom,” would bring:

CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
SEC. 4. (a) Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs.

(b) We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that a person using any part of the Bible’s content as authority may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views at any public or private gathering, school, church, or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk or in any communicative medium, the internet, satellite, television, theater, film, radio, videos, recording, newspapers, magazines, music, and periodicals, or by means of a telephone, cell phone, or fax machine.
These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.
Initiative 09-0033. State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i830_initiative_09-0033_(a1-s).pdf (accessed: April 20, 2011).

Finally we see the changes that Initiative 10-0022, “The Free Exercise of Religion,” intends:

CALIFORNIA CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE 1 DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
THE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION
SEC. 4. (a) Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

A person is not incompetent to be a witness or juror because of his or her opinions on religious beliefs.

(b) We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to perpetuate His blessings do submit that a person using any part of the Bible’s content as authority may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith, to proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate any views on salvation, heaven, or abortion. adultery, alcoholism, anti-Semitism, astrology, bestiality, bigamy, bisexuality, blasphemy, civil unions, coarse jesting, cohabitation, coveting, cross-dressing, cults, drugs, drunkenness, extortion, euthanasia, evil, evolution, fornication, gay marriage, gender identity, hell, heresy, homosexuality, idolaters, idolatry, incest, lying, murder, necromancy, other religions, pornography, psychics, rape, reviling, sex, sexual immorality, sexual orientation, sodomy, sorcery, stealing, transgender, trans-sexuality, witchcraft, yoga, or sin at any public or private gatherings, school, church. or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk or in any communicative medium, the internet, satellite, television, film, theater, radio, videos, recording, newspapers, magazines, music, and periodicals or by means of a computer, telephone, cell phone or fax machine.
These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.
Initiative 10-0022. State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General. http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i928_initiative_10-0022_1.pdf (accessed: April 20, 2011).

What was that you said?

Inspector ClouseauWait, what? Just a minute. I think I need to let some of that sink in a bit.

I may have spoken too soon when I made mention of my willingness to help Allan in his endeavor to, as he puts it, “…protect and insure our ability to share the whole counsel of God’s Word without fear of punishment, persecution or imprisonment.” From what I’ve just read, that doesn’t seem to be his intention at all!

I’m… I’m shocked!

I get the distinct impression that I’ve been duped by Pastor Esses. I’m beginning to think that he’s never actually been persecuted for his beliefs. I’m getting the idea that he’s simply looking for a way to foist his religious beliefs upon everyone, and to do so with codified legal impunity.

Allan explains on his web site why he believes his proposed amendments are necessary.

Our rights are quickly eroding as laws are being passed and judges are changing what the founding fathers have established. We had these rights. Many want to take God and His Word completely out of public life. All we want is the constitutional right to share our faith, share Jesus Christ, share the full counsel of God’s Word. We are slowly being prevented from doing that. The right to worship and teach God’s Word without it being a crime, in the church, on the street, etc. We are to obey Jesus Christ and His Word, the Lord instructs us to go to the highways and byways and invite them to the wedding.
Matt 28:18-20
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Matt 22:9
Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. Propsosed Constitutional Amendments. Yes Jesus Is Lord.Org. http://www.yesjesuschristislord.org/faq.html (accessed: April 20, 2011).
[Yes, it actually says ‘Propsosed’.]

Once again, Allan’s assertions about the erosion of his rights are unfounded. He continues to make claims, but provides no evidence to support those claims. Where in this country is it against the law for him to worship his God™? Where is he being prevented from sharing “the full counsel of God’s Word?” I’d like to see reference to some specific instances, please.

Perhaps a closer look at the specific constitutional changes he wants would gives us a glimpse into Pastor Esses’ motives.

What gets removed?

All three of these ballot initiative proposals wish to remove one particular sentence from the existing constitutional language:

This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State.

What does that phrase do? It prevents people from using their religious beliefs as an excuse to violate the laws of the state of California.

Vandalized billboard in Sacramento, CA.

Pastor Esses wants to remove the language that actually makes people take responsibility for their actions even if they want to use their religion as an excuse to violate the law. This is the type of scenario Allan Esses wants to create:

Police Officer: “Sir, why did you spraypaint those words on that billboard?”
Vandal: “God™ told me to.
Police Officer: “Oh, that’s okay then. Move along, please.”

A whole lot of stuff gets put in.

These three initiatives all make reference to specific parts of the California Penal Code. Note the final sentence of each of them:

These provisions shall not be construed to authorize actions prohibited by Section 302, Section 602.11 and Section 11412 of the Penal Code.

Section 302 deals with the disruption of religious services, or meetings held at religious facilities. Allan still wants that to be against the law.

302. (a) Every person who intentionally disturbs or disquiets any assemblage of people met for religious worship at a tax-exempt place of worship, by profane discourse, rude or indecent behavior, or by any unnecessary noise, either within the place where the meeting is held, or so near it as to disturb the order and solemnity of the meeting, is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. 302. CA Codes (pen:302-310.5). http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=302-310.5 (accessed: April 25, 2011).

Section 602.11 deals with preventing a person’s access to health care facilities, school, or a place of religious worship.

602.11. (a) Any person, alone or in concert with others, who intentionally prevents an individual from entering or exiting a health care facility, place of worship, or school by physically detaining the individual or physically obstructing the individual’s passage shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail, or a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars ($250), or both, for the first offense; imprisonment in the county jail for not less than five days and a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500) for the second offense; and imprisonment in the county jail for not less than 30 days and a fine of not more than two thousand dollars ($2,000) for a third or subsequent offense. However, the court may order the defendant to perform community service, in lieu of any fine or any imprisonment imposed under this section, if it determines that paying the fine would result in undue hardship to the defendant or his or her dependents. 602.11. CA Codes (pen:594-625c). http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=594-625c (accessed: April 25, 2011).

Section 11412 deals with a form of religious terrorism.

11412. Any person who, with intent to cause, attempts to cause or causes another to refrain from exercising his or her religion or from engaging in a religious service by means of a threat, directly communicated to such person, to inflict an unlawful injury upon any person or property, and it reasonably appears to the recipient of the threat that such threat could be carried out is guilty of a felony. 11412. CA Codes (pen:11410-11414). http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=11001-12000&file=11410-11414 (accessed: April 25, 2011).

The mention of those three particular sections of California’s Penal Code indicate, to me, that Pastor Esses wants to avoid some religion on religion crime. Under Allan’s new and improved constitution you couldn’t simply say that your God™ told you to physically restrain any Muslims from entering their mosque for prayer services and get away with it.

What about the three different versions of that long paragraph of stuff that would be added? What would it do? My personal thought is that the first thing it would do is be unconstitutional. I’m not a constitutional scholar, though, so mine is not a terribly educated opinion on that matter. Let’s just hit some of the highlights for a general idea of what Allan wants.

The phrase “…any part of the Bible’s content as authority…” brings up an interesting issue. My first question would be, “Which Bible™?” Should we use the Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh? How about the 81 books in the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible?

At this point, Allan would probably be spluttering, waving his hands, and stammering something about there only being One True Bible™, that being the Authorized King James Version. That particular version is the source of the verses quoted on Allan’s web site. There are even a few variations of a King James Only movement. Yes; they’re that sure that a four-hundred-year-old translation of texts originally written in Classical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic, and Koine Greek many centuries earlier is the only true Word of God™.

Pastor Esses then uses this phrase (the most recent version): “…may freely speak, pray, write, discuss, publish, preach, teach, hear, share his or her faith, to proclaim Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father, engage in street witnessing, distribute written material or otherwise communicate…” Note that these are things that people are already allowed to do. The big difference is that Allan wants people to be able to do these things under circumstances that are currently considered illegal. I’ll say more on this aspect in a moment.

Next comes a litany of the vile, disgusting, evil things Pastor Esses wants leave to preach to people about. Yoga? Really, Allan? Necromancy is on his list, too. I can see that. Nothing would thrill me more than to be able to reduce the number of zombies running around. Allan wants to preach about the evils of other religions, too. What’s this “other” about? Is Allan implying that there is only One True Religion™, and that it just happens to be the one he practices and preaches about?

The next part is very important: “…at any public or private gatherings, school, church. or other place of worship, Bible Study group or sidewalk…” Think about that: Allan wants to be allowed to preach his gospel to you at any public or private gathering, and there would be nothing you could do to stop him, thanks to the removal of that sentence from the Article I, Section 4, even if he was trespassing on your private property. He could legally block your passage on the sidewalk to make you listen to his sermon.

The Crux of the Matter

crux I think that last part is at the heart of what Pastor Allan Esses truly desires. He doesn’t want to preserve the religious liberties of the people of California. He doesn’t want to protect his rights to free speech from being further eroded. He doesn’t yearn for equal protection under the law. What Pastor Allan Esses wants is to be able to legally force every person to stop and listen so that he can preach to them about their wicked, evil ways. He wants to force people to allow him to denigrate them and their lifestyle if they don’t agree with his interpretation of what God™ wants.

Allan isn’t really afraid of being persecuted. He wants to be the persecutor. I get the distinct impression that Pastor Allan Esses would raise a hue and cry because of the news that someone in a Muslim nation was stoned to death for an offense, while secretly wishing that he was legally able to stone adulterers in our country.

I’m thankful that Allan Esses is very much in the minority in his beliefs. I’m thankful that we have the Constitution to protect us from people like Pastor Allan Esses, even were he part of a majority. I’m upset that there are still many people like him, however, who think that their God™ has given them a mandate to preach to everyone, whether they like it or not. I’m upset that there are people who will stop at nothing to codify their belief that they are better than everyone who doesn’t have the same zealous religious fervor that they do. I’m upset that Pastor Allan Esses has the temerity to even suggest the outrageous, unconstitutional garbage that he does. I’m happy to say that I will, however, defend to the death his right to do so.

6 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. Troythulu

    Wow. This guy has one faux persecution complex. I’ve noticed that it’s increasingly common for conservative religious leaders to take that tone, and all it does is show how defensive and out of touch they are in a world where the relevance of their often literally medieval belief system is in its decline. Excellent post.

    1. antonio cordero

      There are some beahviours now considered ok by many, yet the Bible calls them sin, the most controversial one is probably homosexuality (for political reasons I believe), I think pastor Esses fears that what happens today in the UK may happen in America soon. See this news: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/7668448/Christian-preacher-arrested-for-saying-homosexuality-is-a-sin.html

      Most christians continue to believe that homosexuality is a sin, just as adultery, robbery or idolatry, off course Jesus died for all sinners and loves them too, but they all need to repent from their actions when the Bible calls them a sin, in order to be forgiven by God.

      Some in America want christians to go to jail for saying just that, pastor Esses wants to avoid it. Sin is anything that displeases God, and christians want to continue to teach others about it: for example: abortion is a sin, homosexuality is a sin too, we don’t want to called haters because we say so, on the contrary, we believe we show love by warning others over the risks of sinning, for God loves every sinner and wants them to repent and be saved.

  2. Jason Thibeault

    tl;dr

    (I kid! I kid!)

    Seriously, there’s only so many words one can expend on making the case that the pastor doth protest too much.

  3. Liz

    I too agree with Allen are you the son of Michael Esses???

    1. Dan Johnson

      You agree with Allen that his particular flavor of religion should be the law of the land?

  4. Dự án River view

    Greetings from Florida! I’m bored at work so I decided to browse your website onn my
    iphone during lunch break. I really like the knowledge you present here and can’t wawit to take a look when I get home.
    I’m amazed at hhow fast yoour blog loaded oon my mobile .. I’m not
    even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, very good blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>