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Quote the Bible, go to prison?
By Ashahed M. Muhammad
Assistant Editor
Updated Jun 24, 2009 - 10:04:14 AM

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Farrakhan speaks at rally for pastor jailed over biblical reference

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan speaks at Lake Michigan College on June 5, 2009.
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. (FinalCall.com) - The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan told political leaders, grassroots activists and concerned residents here June 5 that God's universal law of justice is at work and those responsible for dispensing justice have a weighty responsibility, in a message delivered at Lake Michigan College.

The Minister was speaking during a support rally on behalf of embattled community activist Rev. Edward Pinkney, who is under house arrest.

“I want to talk to you about this principle of justice that easily flows from the lips, but is a difficult principle to carry into practice, because justice as the Hon. Elijah Muhammad taught us is a principle of fair dealing. All of us want to be dealt with fairly,” said Min. Farrakhan. The lack of fair dealing in society has caused problems in schools, homes, houses of worship, government institutions and the justice system, he added.

“The symbol of justice is a woman blindfolded,” said Min. Farrakhan. “She just has a scale, and on one side of the scale is the weight of facts, and on the other side is the weight of action directly corresponding to the weight of facts.”

Was community leader targeted?

In May 2007, longtime activist Rev. Edward Pinkney was convicted by an all-White jury on four felony counts and one misdemeanor count of voter fraud and ballot tampering. His supporters maintain these were trumped up charges, with the reverend accused of possessing absentee ballots and buying votes.

CW from top left: Benton Harbor Mayor Wilce Cooke, Dr. Iva E. Carruthers, Student Minister Marcus Muhammad, Dorothy Pinkney, wife of Rev. Pinkney, Atty. Warren Ballantine. Photos: Adrian S. Burrows/Burrows Photography
After being denied a new trial by Berrien County Judge Alfred Butzbaugh, Rev. Pinkney wrote an editorial in the November-December 2007 edition of the Chicago-based People's Tribune, and paraphrased a portion of Deuteronomy Chapter 28.

Rev. Pinkney wrote: “Judge Butzbaugh, it shall come to pass; if thou continue not to hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe to do all that is right; which I command thee this day, that all these Curses shall come upon you and your family, cursed shalt be the City of St. Joseph and Cursed shalt thou be in the field, curses shall come upon you and your family and over take thee; cursed shall be the fruit of thy body. The Lord shall smite thee with consumption and with a fever and with an inflammation and with extreme burning. The demons shall Pursue thee until thou persist.”

Another Berrien County judge, Dennis Wiley, ruled the words were threats, declared Rev. Pinkney had violated the terms of his probation and rendered a 3 to 10 year prison sentence the reverend's supporters say was retaliatory.

With the help of the ACLU of Michigan, the reverend was released on bond in late December 2008, however, there were several stipulations: He must wear an electronic monitoring device, for which he has to pay $105 per week. He is not allowed to give speeches, not even in his own church. Community activists have petitioned Gov. Jennifer Granholm to vacate the conviction or grant Rev. Pinkney clemency. His legal team has filed a series of appeals. At Final Call press time, defense arguments were to be heard June 9 in the State Appeals Court of Michigan in Grand Rapids.

Rev. Pinkney was not given permission to attend the rally to meet face to face with his supporters. However, in an exclusive interview with The Final Call after Min. Farrakhan's message, he spoke of his excitement and thanked all who showed support for his cause. Despite the fact that he has spent 13 months behind bars, he is filled with the spirit of activism.

Rev. Pinkney said he, his family and his lawyers were “shocked” after the jail sentence.

“The first thought was this person has to be out of his mind thinking that I would threaten him with a Bible scripture, and then later, I thought maybe he is doing something so terrible that maybe he really thinks God is going to punish him,” said Rev. Pinkney.

Asked why he chose that portion of the Bible in his writing, Rev. Pinkney said the book of Deuteronomy is his favorite, and that section “told the story that I wanted him and the world to hear.”

“I was directed to that verse by the holy spirit and that was the one I used,” said Rev. Pinkney.

He listened to Min. Farrakhan's entire message and the words of supporters via a live radio simulcast provided by “The Beat” 103.7 FM.

In his message, Min. Farrakhan said the judge had the power to prevent God's wrath from descending by adhering to the true principles of justice. If a curse befell the judge, it would come as a result of his own actions and rulings, Min. Farrakhan said.

“Dear judge, Rev. Pinkney has no power to call down God's wrath on you, by quoting the scriptures of his wrath,” said Min. Farrakhan. “Dear sir, with all due respect and honor to you, the greatest position that one could occupy in the world is to be a judge over the affairs of fellow human beings, and that is such a high calling that one who judges must be careful that you are not corrupted by powers that wish you to make a cruel, unjust ruling or who will pay you, give you favors to make a ruling that favors persons that are powerful. Or out of just plain wickedness, you use the office that is such a high office to dispense injustice, in the name of justice.”

Syndicated radio talk show host Warren Ballantine was in Washington, D.C., June 1 when he received a call from Min. Farrakhan inviting him to the rally. Atty. Ballantine said he didn't hesitate and made plans to attend.

“When the evil of one man, or the evil of an unjust justice system is taking place anywhere, if we sit back and do nothing, we are just as evil as they are,” said the popular radio host. Mr. Ballantine said the Black community, in general, and the community in Benton Harbor, in particular, must unite.

A higher law in the universe

Min. Farrakhan recalled the words of the Hon. Elijah Muhammad who said, “Justice is the law that distinguishes between right and wrong.” The Minister also pointed out that his teacher said, “Justice is the weapon that God will use in the Day of Judgment.”

“All of us have to reap what we sow,” he said.

“There is not one nation on this earth that has been permanent, no matter how powerful that nation has been. Every civilization that you read about in history has a dawn, a zenith and a fall, because there is no permanence to anything that is corrupt and unjust.

“There is a higher law, and that's the law that Rev. Pinkney was talking about. That higher law that is represented by this universe in which we live, set up by a God that loves justice. So whenever we (engage) in our unfair dealings (in which) our evil outweighs our good, there is a law in this universe that operates against individuals, tribes, races, nations—when our evil outweighs our good the law that governs the universe begins to operate against us.”

Student Minister Marcus Muhammad, who leads the Nation of Islam's study group in Benton Harbor and coordinated the event, told the audience Rev. Pinkney's suffering is similar to others, such as the Hon. Marcus Garvey and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who stand up for Black people.

“When you stand up to be a drum major for justice in a world that is built on injustice, then you can see how these things happen,” said Mr. Muhammad.

‘Organizer who dared to speak truth'

Dr. Conrad Worrill said in November 2008 at the State of the Black World Conference in New Orleans, it was Rev. Pinkney's wife, Dorothy, who first told him about the plight of her husband of 13 years.

“How do you put a man in jail for quoting the Bible? I have never heard of anything like that and I've been in the movement for a very long time and this was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard of,” said Dr. Worrill, a self-described “honorary member of the Nation of Islam underground.”

“I don't go to church that often but I do know that if you quote the Bible, you are supposed to be a man of God, you don't go to jail do you?” Dr. Worrill asked.

Dr. Iva Carruthers, Mrs. Pinkney and Dr. Worrill talked with Min. Farrakhan about the case and the Minister decided to help bring awareness to Mr. Pinkney's case.

“We have a pastor who quoted the scripture who was imprisoned. We have a man who is a community organizer who dared to speak truth to power who was imprisoned, and we have a sentence that is unjust which now has another Black man unable to take care of his family, and that is unjust,” said Dr. Carruthers, general secretary of the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, an interdenominational interfaith coalition.

Min. Farrakhan said Rev. Pinkney angered some in power, and may have even angered some Black spiritual leaders and political officials who received grants or financial benefits from corporate powerhouses at the expense of the people they serve.

“An activist is a person that acts against that which is not in the common good,” said Min. Farrakhan. “If he agitated and upset you, it was not personal, it was because a principle was being violated, so activists by the very nature of their activism upset folks.”

Rev. Pinkney monitored court cases and advised people at the Benton Harbor courthouse for seven years, and by his account, in over 1,800 instances helped downtrodden, poor and oppressed residents get justice. He never charged anyone. “I don't believe in taking money from people who don't have it,” Rev. Pinkney said.

Leading protests against corporate takeovers and speaking against economic disparity between Benton Harbor and the nearby beachfront city of St. Joseph also made the reverend some enemies. The locales are referred to as “Twin Cities,” but demographics paint two starkly different portraits.

According to census statistics, Benton Harbor is 92 percent Black with a median annual household income of $17,471. St. Joseph is 90 percent White with an annual household income of $37,032.

According to lifelong resident and Benton Harbor Mayor Wilce Cooke, who is midway through his second term, the 2010 census should yield different results. The population has grown and, though there are challenges, he sees a great future for Benton Harbor. Mayor Cooke welcomed Min. Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam to aid him and the people of the city.

Rasul Muhammad, Michigan representative of the Nation of Islam, said the Minister's message of unity was clearly delivered. “It's now the responsibility of Benton Harbor to take the message of Min. Farrakhan, and move themselves,” he said.

Wrapping up the evening, Min. Farrakhan announced everyone in attendance would receive a free copy of his lecture. In another surprise announcement, Min. Farrakhan said Marcus Muhammad, an administrator and basketball coach at Benton Harbor High School, would be running for a commissioner-at-large position. Voting is scheduled for Aug. 4.

Asked about plans after the end of his house arrest, Rev. Pinkney said, “I'm going right back to the courthouse to pick up right where I left off. They have not discouraged me one bit.”


 


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