A federal judge has ruled the seizure of thousands of Gospel tracts from a Texas ministry by U.S. Secret Service agents not only was illegal, it violated Fourth Amendment protections against an overbearing and intrusive government.The Gospel tracts in question can be viewed at this link and are harmless pieces of paper used by a number of evangelists in sharing their faith. I have even passed them out myself. Don't tell the feds; I have some in my room as I write.
The decision [Monday] by Judge Jorge Solis of the Northern District of Texas came in the long-running dispute over a tract deliberately made to look like a $1 million bill.
The tracts bear the image of Grover Cleavland--a nice classical liberal president--so you know they would never put him on a real bills, they are for the amount of $1 million, and they explicitly state that it is not legal tender. Problematic, I know...not.
The judge correctly noted, "The Million Dollar Bill, taken as a whole, poses no reasonable risk of deceiving an honest, sensible, and unsuspecting person. First and foremost is the fact that the Million Dollar Bill purports to be worth a million dollars. There is no genuine curency in this amount."
Only a federal bureaucrat could be fooled by such a harmless device. And only the government would use force against such an undeserving party. And boy did they use force!
According to the court's opinion, the agents then threatened arrest if the workers did not cooperate.This is nothing short of despicable behavior. Lacking a warrant and realizing that they could intimidate the Christian evangelists, the agents knowingly violated the Fourth Amendment rights of the victims. Then they lied on the witness stand to cover their tracks.
"Agent [Mickey] Kennedy was not subtle in the manner by which he implied that he was taking the Million Dollar Bills with him no matter what – even if it meant arresting Mr. [Timothy] Crawford in the process. The facts and circumstances surrounding Agent Kennedy's statements to Mr. Crawford on June 2, 2006, leave no doubt that Mr. Crawford believed he would be arrested if he did not retrieve the Million Dollar Bills from the closed closet in which they were hidden out of the agents' sight," the judge ruled.
Further, the judge concluded that the agents involved in the seizure later "conspired together to cover up the actual events that took place at GNN's office.
"Agents Kennedy and [Erin] Erdman persisted in covering up these events by being untruthful when they took the witness stand during the bench trial for this case," the judge concluded.
So besides the blame that rightfully should fall upon the agents who carried out the illegal seizure, is there more blame to go around? Sure there is.
First, this happening reveals the ridiculous monopoly our government has on money and the outrageous lengths it will go through to maintain that monopoly. What we have is a government that prints worthless money attacking citizens for handing out worthless money. Can you see how crazy this is? Not only were the tracts not real money, they were not even trying to be real money. But that is not enough for our government. We are obsessed with legal tender laws, we are obsessed with monetary manipulation, and now we must be obsessed with putting a stop to the equivalent of Monopoly money.
Second, this event shows our government's disrespect for the Fourth Amendment. For far too long our civil liberties have been trampled in the name of security and justice. But violation of the Constitution can only lead to insecurity and injustice. When civil libertarians have come out against these types of violations in the past, those on the Left and Right have called paranoia and claimed that only the bad guys would suffer. Is this still the case? Are Christian evangelists the hardened criminals or vile terrorists one expected to "deserve" Forth Amendment violation? I would think not!
Thomas Jefferson once said, "It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others: or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own." The same is true of any tenet of liberty. We must defend liberty at all turns, for another's case may, by change of circumstances, become our own someday.
We see in the aforementioned case an example of a government gone awry. It has done so because we have allowed it. If we do not truly value liberty and contend for it, we will see more of the same. Moreover, we see that not only the "bad guys" suffer when the government goes beyond its constitutional bounds; we all do.