Action Letter




April, 1998

Dear AFA friends,

Perhaps the illustration on the front of this envelope shocked you. It portrays the mugshot of our Lord Jesus Christ as if He were arrested as a common criminal. But isn't that what happened to Him 2,000 years ago? Arrested, tried in a "fixed" legal proceeding, and executed between two thieves?

And isn't that what is being done to His followers even today? When Saul of Tarses was persecuting the early church,Jesus asked him in Acts 22:7, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" When people receive the message of the church, they are receiving Christ; and when they reject the message of Christ's church, they are rejecting Him (Luke 10:16).

Ask yourself this question: If Christ were physically present on the earth today, would He not cry out against the murder of the unborn? And if He did so in front of an abortion clinic, would He not be arrested as a lawbreaker, booked, fingerprinted, photographed and thrown in jail?

I believe He would. Furthermore, that is exactly what is happening to His followers today.

Maybe when I tell you the story that AFA Law Center attorney Bruce Green told me, you'll say, as I did, "This can't happen in America!" But it did. As I've said over and over these last few years, it seems every group in our country has had their rights affirmed, except Christians - particularly Christians who want to speak out on the great moral issues of our time.

This assault on the free speech rights of so many peaceful, God-fearing Americans is one of the main reasons we founded the AFA Law Center several years ago.

Where does this latest example of blatant bigotry come from? Ironically, from the great state of Virginia, a state long known as America's cradle of freedom. Here's what happened.

On February 17, 1998, in Lynchburg the leader of a national pro-life organization was sentenced to one year in jail (with six months suspended) for - believe it or not - misdemeanor trespass! Unbelievable!

Phillip "Flip" Benham, Director of Operation Rescue National and a friend of the AFA, is

now serving a sentence more severe than that given many people convicted on drug charges.

The City of Lynchburg is using Flip's case to intimidate pro-life Christians and let them know that their views will not be tolerated in public.

Is it now a crime in Lynchburg to peacefully protest the killing of unborn babies and to explain to high school students the truth about abortion?

Obviously, it is! The Assistant Commonwealth Attorney told a local newspaper that her office was pleased with the conviction and sentence because it would send a message to future protesters.

We are outraged because the severity of Flip's sentence was directed at him as a pro-life protester, rather than as a trespasser.

Here are the details of the case. On November 10, 1997, Flip and John Reyes, student leader of a pro-life group from Liberty University, distributed religious tracts and peacefully protested on sidewalks surrounding E.C. Glass High School and on sidewalks and parking lots on campus.

Flip and John expected only a few Liberty University students to join them, but were surprised when 150-300 supporters showed up before classes began. The pro-life college students stood in groups singing Christian songs, holding pro-life signs, distributing gospel tracts and praying.

Although no one was arrested or cited for any unlawful activity that day, a month later, Flip, John and a student who was interviewed on television were indicted on three misdemeanor counts: failure to acquire a permit, disorderly conduct, and trespass. The grand jury indictment process is unheard of for such minor charges.

Nevertheless, they were tried on February 17 and were found guilty of trespass and not guilty of the other two counts. Flip and John were sentenced to one year in jail (the maximum allowed) with six months suspended, plus a $500 fine. Flip is currently serving his six month sentence. John is out on bond pending appeal.

Forty-five police officers were at the demonstration. No one was arrested and no citations were written. At trial the police testffied that Flip was cooperative, cordial and polite.

In fact when police convinced him the protest was not completely on public property, Flip gathered the students, prayed and left. The police officer who advised Flip that he was not on public property told an AFA lawyer that Flip was a "gentleman" during the incident.

Flip Benham and Operation Rescue have conducted numerous other such protests at public schools around the country without any citations, arrests or indictments. He has never been charged with any criminal offense at such a gathering. But now he sits in the Lynchburg jail separated from his family in Texas for six months.

Flip is a champion for Christ, and your AFA Law Center is proud to defend him - of course, without charge.

We know that a terrible injustice has been done and Flip should not have to spend huge legal fees because some judge wants to send a message to pro-life protesters.

A one-year sentence for a misdemeanor trespass is a travesty of justice! It's like a $50,000 fine for going 60 in a 55 mph zone! Even those convicted for marijuana possession frequently are required only to attend drug education classes.

I hope that you are as shocked and upset about this as I am. If you are, here are three things you can do to show your support for Flip, register your protest and support the work of the AFA Law Center.

First, sign and mail the enclosed postcard to Flip. Better yet, write him a personal note if you can and tell him you are praying for him and appreciate his courage.The address is on the postcard.

Second, sign and mail the enclosed postcard to Virginia's Governor James S. Gilmore, III.

Third, send as generous a gift as possible to support the vital work of the AFA Law Center in defending the rights of courageous Christians.We must continue to be ready to stand with people like Flip as Christians face increasing hostility in our culture.

Again, perhaps the illustration on the front of this envelope shocked you, maybe even offended you. It shouldn't. You should expect it. You just shouldn't accept it.

P.S. The enclosed note from AFA Law Center General Counsel Bruce Green gives you a sense of the harsh treatment Flip and our attorneys have received in the court and the press.


Text of this document provided by Biblical America Resistance Front solely for the purposes of research, education, and comment.