DOJ tried to force pastor to testify on his views of Islam

Christian Adams at PJ Media reports that the United State Department of Justice issued subpoenas to force a Christian pastor in Virginia to disclose under oath his views on Islam. Fortunately, today a federal court dismissed the underlying case that gave rise to the subpoena. Nonetheless, the saga reminds us of the abusive leftism of the DOJ.

Steve Harrelson is the pastor of the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Boston, Virginia. He is not a party to any lawsuit or other action brought by the Justice Department. He is a private citizen.

Nonetheless, the Department of Justice subpoened him to testify as to his view of Islam and other matters, and demanded that he bring any papers or documents he has to the deposition with government lawyers that relate to or mention Islam.

The underlying case is a Justice Department action alleging that Culpeper County refused to grant a permit to allow the Islamic Center of Culpeper to pump and haul away sewage. The site of the Islamic Center was unsuitable for a septic system at the time of purchase.

The Center has settled all possible claims against Culpepper County. Under the settlement, the Center will be allowed to pump and haul away sewage.

However, DOJ is pursuing a case against the County. It claims that the County, not Pastor Harrelson or any individual Christian citizen, discriminated in zoning decisions regarding an application to build a mosque. That case is the vehicle for forcing a Christian pastor and other Christians to testify under oath about their views on Islam.

The government’s theory? It’s a novel one developed during the Obama administration. As Adams describes it:

[Z]oning boards can be saddled with any “naked animus or resistance from the community.” In other words, if some people don’t want a mosque in the community, then any zoning decision against the mosque must be because of citizen opposition. It’s the everyone-is-racist if anyone-is-racist theory advanced by academia and others.

DOJ filed the case shortly before President Trump took office. It has continued to pursue it, notwithstanding the advent of the Trump administration.

The two DOJ attorneys listed on the subpoena documents appear to be hard-charging leftists. According to Adams, Onjil McEachin came to the Justice Department from the Department of Housing and Urban Development — purveyor of the notorious “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” regulation. At HUD, McEachin’s office was deeply involved in advancing disparate impact legal theories to prove racial discrimination.

The other DOJ attorney, Sameena Majeed, was formerly with the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. At Yale, she won the Steere Prize in Women’s Studies for a paper called “Feminist Voices: An Ethnographic Examination of Feminist Consciousness in Urban Pakistani Women.”

McEachin and Majeed are typical of the lawyers hired by the Civil Rights Division during the Obama years. Indeed, PJ Media demonstrated that every lawyer hired was a partisan or ideological leftist. This led the inspector general to recommend that the department end certain hiring criteria that have led to the perception that only lawyers of a certain leftist ideological perspective are hired.

Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez refused to implement the recommendations of the inspector general. Perez may not be “wicked smart,” as former President Obama described him, but he isn’t stupid.

Fortunately, Pastor Harrelson will not have to testify about how he perceives Islam. As noted above, a federal judge today did what the Trump administration should have done months ago — he pulled the plug on the DOJ’s case. Judge Norman Moon ruled that the case was moot because the mosque settled with Culpeper County.

Judge Moon explained:

Taken together, the Government’s additional measures are marginal quibbles that overlook the forest for the trees. They are based on a presumption of bad faith by the County, a presumption supported by little more than bald assertions and which the County has overcome with compelling and unimpeached evidence.

This ruling ends the matter unless the Justice Department appeals. If the Trump DOJ appeals, we’ll have a big story on our hands.

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