Pastor Paul Doyle: “It feels like she’s trying to intimidate me.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James campaigned for office on her plan to use all the prosecutorial resources of the office to investigate and prosecute Donald Trump. [Featured Image via YouTube]
James held true to her promise, and has targeted Trump and his businesses, advancing to the point that Trump invoked his 5th Amendment privilege while excoriating what he perceives as prosecutorial misconduct in the campaign pledge and follow up.
James, however, has not limited her attack to Trump or his businesses. James also issued a letter threatening a church hosting an event by a Trump-favorable group that included Eric Trump in advance of the event warning that her office was monitoring the event and would act if any civil rights or other laws were broken. This pre-emptive attempt to chill speech has been reported, though it did not receive much national attention, with the church asserting it viewed the warning as an act of intimidation.
We obtained the letter from the church, and the letter is shocking in its threatening and bullying tone using the threat of possible investigation and prosecution in advance of the event in what reasonably could be seen as an attempt to get the church not to host the event.
The group in question is the Reawaken America Tour that has traveled through cities across the country since April, 2021, and includes former General Michael Flynn. The New York leg of the tour was originally scheduled to be held in Rochester, but after a campaign by local officials and an online petition, the owner of the Main Street Armory declined to host the event. That’s when Cornerstone Church in Batvia came into the picture.
The Legal Insurrection Foundation obtained a copy of the letter that James sent to Cornerstone Church (addressed to General Michael Flynn and event organizer Clay Clark), dated August 3, 2022.
The letter begins by reminding the church that James is “New York’s top law enforcement officer” and has “significant concerns that the ReAwaken American Tour…could spur extremist or racially motivated violence.”
These concerns center around the event’s proposed dates, which coincide with the five-year anniversary of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and past extremist statements made by yourselves and the other featured speakers on the tour. I am especially concerned about featured speakers’ regular allusions to white nationalist ideals connected to the “Great Replacement Theory,” a conspiracy theory that warns of white genocide and efforts to replace native born immigrants. The theory is frequently linked to violent actions, including the racially motivated mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo.
There were overt threats of possible investigation and prosecution:
The Office of the Attorney General writes to remind you that New York law prohibits racially motivated violence, harassment, or interference with another person in the exercise of their civil rights. New York Civil Rights Law §79-n empowers the Office of the Attorney General to investigate acts of violence, intimidation, threats, or harassment directed at people based on a belief or perception regarding an individual’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability, or sexual orientation. In addition to actual damages, any person who violates this statute can be held liable for $5,000 in penalties for each violation.
Additionally, New York Civil Rights Law §40-c prohibits discriminating against another person in the exercise of their civil rights-including theory right to peacefully protest- based on similar protected characteristics. Finally, New York Executive Law §63(12) empowers the Office of the Attorney General to take action against any business engaged in significant fraud or illegality- including the violation of New York’s civil rights laws.
The letter also singled out the content of the future speech as being objectionable to the Attorney General:
I am especially concerned about featured speakers’ regular allusions to white nationalist ideals connected to the “Great Replacement Theory,” a conspiracy theory that warns of white genocide and efforts to replace native born Americans with immigrants. The theory is frequently linked to violent actions, including the racially motivated mass shooting that killed 10 people at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo. 1 Especially in light of this racist mass shooting, and other recent episodes of racially motivated violence in New York and throughout the country, the Office of the Attorney General is concerned that such rhetoric could contribute to violent or unlawful conduct at the ReAwaken America Tour’s upcoming event.
The letter ended with threatening language:
The Office of the Attorney General has a duty to protect New Yorkers from extremist and racially motivated violence. We stand ready to investigate any violation of the laws above and, if necessary, to enforce them to the fullest extent available. You are therefore instructed to take all necessary steps to ensure that the event complies fully with the requirements ofNew York’s civil rights laws and all other applicable state and federal statutes
Pastor Paul Doyle of Cornerstone Church which hosted the event said that there was no validity to the suggestion that the event was promoting racism or violence.
“I take exception to the words she uses, like extreme views,” he told The Associated Press. “What’s that mean? What’s extreme? We’re conservative Christians. Now we’re extreme?”
He said the letter had scared members of his congregation, a group of about 150 to 200 people, which he described as multi-ethnic and multi-racial.
“It feels like she’s trying to intimidate me. We’re a small-town church,” Doyle said.
Pastor Doyle described the letter as: “Harassment from our own government. I feel harassed. I am a law-abiding — I’m a businessman. I’m law-abiding, I’m God-fearing, and I’m hosting an event.”
[added 8-18-2022] In an email to Legal Insurrection, Pastor Doyle added:
This letter is a deliberate and arrogant act of government intimidation and harassment. The letter is filled with inaccurate and irresponsible language. The past events that the Attorney General indicates had absolutely nothing to do with this event. It clearly has a politically partisan agenda to it by calling the views of some of the speakers as “extreme”.
By carelessly using the terms “racist” and “violence” it attempts to skew people’s perspective of the agenda of the event.
I feel it is defamation of the event, its speakers, Cornerstone Church and me personally as pastor of the church.
The event which drew a crowd of approximately 3,500 people came and went without incident. “For all of the worry and concern expressed beforehand about violence, there apparently was none. “
Some highlights from the speakers:
“We had an interesting week this week … I got in my office in Trump Tower — had a great day, it’s beautiful outside, the sun is out. All of a sudden, I get a call from my team down in Mar-A-Lago —’The FBI is raiding us as we speak.’ I go, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Eric Trump said.
“Most of the time, if anybody was to get a call from somebody saying the FBI is raiding their home, they would be shocked by it. But after the first impeachment, the second impeachment … and the (Robert) Mueller witch hunt and what they do to us every single day and (New York State Attorney General) Letitia James and how they weaponize politics against our family every single day, as the FBI was raiding and rummaging through Melania’s closet, I wasn’t even shocked.”
“But here’s where I think the country is at. I think the country has a wall being built around it and I call these ‘bricks of fear.’ They are putting up this wall around all of us — around our individual lives, around our families’ lives, around our churches, our communities and definitely around this country.”
Flynn went on to list the “bricks of fear,” which included free and fair elections and COVID pandemic.
Flynn talked about the FBI and Department of Justice, which he said are targeting moms trying to protect their children at school board hearings.
“They’re clearly politically persecuting people. I want a rule of law in this country that’s respected. All of us do,” he said. “We need such massive reform of those institutions because we cannot continue to live like this. We teach our little kids what to do when they’re babies. That’s when we start to teach them what’s right and what’s wrong. We cannot have, in this country, a disrespect or a lack of trust in the rule of law or those institutions that are supposed to protect us.”
And by the way, there were plenty of protests to the event, which also occurred without incident.
Attorney General James’ pre-emptive attempt to chill free and lawful speech is extremely troubling, and has nothing to do with support for or opposition to Trump. The Attorney General, with her immense prosecutorial power, should be protecting freedom of speech and association, not taking substantive sides and attempting to intimidate churches or other forums from hosting lawful events.DONATE
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