Preacher Does Time For Writing That Judge Could Be Punished By God

The Rev. Edward Pinkney was the Green Party candidate for Congress in Michigan's 6th District. He earned a respectable 3,500 votes despite his inability to leave his prison cell to attend campaign events.

According to an AP story, Pinkney was convicted in 2007 of "paying people to vote in a Benton Harbor election." He was placed on probation.

Months later, he wrote an article in a Chicago newspaper, People's Tribune, saying the judge who handled his case, Alfred Butzbaugh, could be punished by God with curses, fever and "extreme burning" unless he changed his ways.

For that exercise of free speech, Pinkney's probation was revoked. A different judge imposed a 3 to 10 year prison sentence. The ACLU is helping Pinkney appeal. Today it asked the appellate court to release Pinkney on bond while his appeal is pending. [more ...]

"To our knowledge, this case marks the first time in modern history that a preacher has been imprisoned for predicting what God might do," said Michael Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU in Michigan.

Of course, that's not how the sentencing judge saw it. You never want to be sentenced for threatening a judge.

"Those are words that would ... put the fear of God into anybody, as a threat that this could happen to them if they do not do what Mr. Pinkney wants him to do, whatever that might be," [Judge] Wiley said, according to a transcript [of the sentencing].

With due respect, Judge Wiley, putting "the fear of God" into somebody is what preachers do. Do you really fear that God does Rev. Pinkney's bidding? Do you really believe Pinkney made a true threat to inflict "curses" and "fever" on his sentencing judge? If he didn't, the First Amendment protects Pinkney's right to preach his beliefs and to criticize public officials.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Damn! (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Peter G on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 09:26:23 PM EST
    ... oops ...

    If I thought God did Pinkney's bidding (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by tim maguire on Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 07:23:30 AM EST
    I wouldn't make an enemy of him.

    At the risk of not properly laughing at this absurdity, Judge Wiley's own actions give the lie to his words--he clearly does not have the fear of god in him.

    I'm thinking more about those listening (none / 0) (#2)
    by blogtopus on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 09:56:38 PM EST
    in his virtual congregation who believe he is calling on them to be God's hand.

    Is there any doubt that a muslim cleric in Detroit saying the same thing would have been treated the same or worse?

    Maybe it's time for some 'old-school' religious leaders to start speaking in non-fire-and-brimstone-ese?

    That said, I don't think he should have been put in jail for that long. What are you supposed to do if you say something dangerous/offensive towards those who control your destiny? Who do you call, Ghostbusters?

    hopefully, (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 10:41:05 PM EST
    cooler (and more learned) heads will prevail at the appellate level.

    what should truly concern the local judicial review board is that judge butzbaugh (no, it's just too easy!) apparently seriously believes that rev. pinkney is able to personally direct the hand of the almighty.

    as the commercial says, "makes you wonder what else he believes."

    oops! (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 10:42:22 PM EST
    that should have been judge wiley!

    Nuts (none / 0) (#5)
    by Ellis on Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 05:19:54 AM EST
    I don't know who sounds nuttier -- the preacher or the sentencing judge.

    Pinkney sounds like a loon, but unless he was a lot more threatening than this thread makes it sound, he doesn't belong in prison.

    Reminds me of... (none / 0) (#7)
    by arabica00 on Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 08:28:40 AM EST
    ...a story that has circulated on the internet in various forms -- unlikely to be true, but kind of funny:

    In a small mid western conservative town, a new bar/tavern started a building to open up their business. The local Baptist church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers.Work progressed, however, right up till the week before opening, when a lightning strike hit the bar and it burned to the ground. The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, till the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible forthe demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means The church strongly denied all responsibility or any connection to the building's demise in its reply to the court. As the case made its way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork at the hearing and commented: "I don't know how I'm going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner that believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation that does not!!"

    From http://gravellyark.blogspot.com/2007/07/extra-trips-to-dessert-table.html via snopes.com.

    That is too funny.... (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by kdog on Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 08:47:52 AM EST
    I guess the congregation's faith has a monetary limit...classic.  You'd think they would have been happy to pay the bar owner and have it on the record that god destroyed that evil bar at their request:)

    Come to think of it...water into wine, couldn't Jesus be considered the world's greatest bartender of all time?  


    I do not think Pinkey is USSC material (none / 0) (#8)
    by Saul on Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 08:39:52 AM EST
    I never have really liked judges.  They always seem to intimidate all those that come before them.  They all want you to fear them and they all want to let you know the power they have if you step out of line in their court.  

    The fact that a judge's bench is the highest fixture in the court room is by design.  In order that he can looked down at you like he is God peaking from the heavens.  Just that alone will intimidate anyone.

    Theological refinement (none / 0) (#10)
    by JAL on Thu Nov 13, 2008 at 09:17:38 AM EST
    blogtopus wrote: I'm thinking more about those listening  in his virtual congregation who believe he is calling on them to be God's hand.

    Is there any doubt that a muslim cleric in Detroit saying the same thing would have been treated the same or worse?

    Not to turn this into a theological discussion, just to introduce another perspective on this comment --

    As a bit of theological refining here ... while there are some in Christianity who feel called to be God's "instruments of judgments" my understanding is that that concept is more likely to be found in Islam. I.e. "jihadists" are used by Allah to bring judgment.  

    In contemporary Christianity Christians are more likely to let God reign down frogs and disease all by himself.

    That can be seen in recent history as well as the two religions theological positions on such things.   (And yes, I am aware of the radical abortionist who shot the physician and Eric Rudolph's bombs.  Those are aberrations to the main positions of even the "evangelical" churches, as are Fred Phelps & Family.)

    Pinkney's "virtual" congregation I don't think could be expected to follow through on inflicting fever -- and "extreme burning" would seem to represent Hell.  Maybe he didn't want to say "you're on your way to Hell" in a family newpaper?  

    Not to mention since many people don't believe that God exists, or that he is particularly concerned about this world if he does, who cares?  If the judge has a clear conscience why would he care one way or the other?

    Colorful chaaracter, this Pinkney guy.