Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We are all criminals in the eyes of oppressive government bureaucrats

Dear Mr. Leonard Henderson,

America is rapidly spiraling into an authoritarian vortex from which there appears to be no return. In such an environment, the law becomes yet another tool to oppress the people.

Indeed, whereas our laws used to focus on penalizing wrongful conduct such as treason, murder, theft and the like, today the emphasis is largely on altering social and economic behavior. At the federal level alone, there are more than 5,000 so-called crimes on the books, with as many as 300,000 regulatory crimes. And still Congress continues to create new crimes at an average rate of one per week. Boston lawyer Harvey Silvergate, author of Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, estimates that the average American now unknowingly commits three felonies a day. The problem, of course, is that this overabundance of vague laws renders otherwise innocent activity illegal. The aim is absolute control by way of thousands of regulations that dictate when, where, how and with whom we live our lives.

In such a society, we are all petty criminals, guilty of violating some minor law.

Consequently, we now find ourselves operating in a strange new world where small farmers who dare to make unpasteurized goat cheese and share it with members of their community are finding their farms raided, while home gardeners face jail time for daring to cultivate their own varieties of orchids without having completed sufficient paperwork.

This frightening state of affairs—where a person can actually be arrested and incarcerated for the most innocent and inane activities, including feeding a whale and collecting rainwater on their own property (these are actual cases in the courts right now)—is due to what law scholars refer to as overcriminalization. “Such laws,” notes journalist George Will, “which enable government zealots to accuse almost anyone of committing three felonies in a day, do not just enable government misconduct, they incite prosecutors to intimidate decent people who never had culpable intentions. And to inflict punishments without crimes.”

Consequently, The Rutherford Institute is increasingly being called on to defend individuals who are being charged with crimes for such innocent activities as holding Bible studies in their homes, passing out free bottles of water on hot days, and playing cops and robbers on the school playground.

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The City of Phoenix is a perfect example of a government bureaucracy consumed with churning out laws, statutes, codes and regulations that reinforce its powers and value systems, while choking the life out of our individual freedoms. For instance, The Rutherford Institute has been called on repeatedly to intervene after Phoenix officials, attempting to enforce misapplied zoning codes, not only prohibited a Christian family from having more than 12 people in their home at one time but actually raided the family’s home, fined them more than $12,000, and jailed the father, Michael Salman, for 60 days—all because they committed the so-called “crime” of holding a weekly Bible study in their home, allegedly in violation of the city’s building codes.

What happened to the Salmans should never have happened in America.

There is a long road ahead, but The Rutherford Institute will continue to work for those people who have been subjected to the overbearing bureaucracy which is strangling our nation. For the sake of the many battles still to be fought, I hope you will affirm your support of our work by standing with us as a “card-carrying member” of The Rutherford Institute in 2013 by making a tax-deductible donation of whatever you can afford, whether it be $25, $250 or $500.

Yours faithfully,

John W. Whitehead

P.S. It’s midnight in America right now. But the real question is, will there be a dawn? That’s up to you and me. The future is in our hands. Thus, for the sake of all those today who are groaning under the weight of an oppressive government’s demands, please do your part to help us fight back and keep freedom alive in America.

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Founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute is a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and human rights have been threatened or violated.

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