A federal judge has ruled the seizure of thousands of Gospel tracts from a Texas ministry by U.S. Secret Service agents not only was illegal, it violated Fourth Amendment protections against an overbearing and intrusive government.
The decision yesterday by Judge Jorge Solis of the Northern District of Texas came in the long-running dispute over a tract deliberately made to look like a $1 million bill.
The Million Dollar Bill tract was created by evangelist Ray Comfort, who also is author of “Nothing Created Everything: The Scientific Impossibility of Atheistic Evolution,” and “You Can Lead An Atheist to Evidence, but You Can’t Make Him Think.”
“The Million Dollar Bill, taken as a whole, poses no reasonable risk of deceiving an honest, sensible, and unsuspecting person,” the judge wrote. “First and foremost is the fact that the Million Dollar Bill purports to be worth a million dollars. There is no genuine currency in this amount.
“Million” Dollar Bill tracts
“More importantly, the amount the bill purports to be worth would lead any unsuspecting, honest, and reasonable person to become suspicious of the [bill’s] genuineness. Though many people would readily accept a one-hundred dollar bill without thinking there was a need to even give the bill a cursory examination, a reasonable and honest person would suspect that a bill purporting to be worth a million dollars is not genuine.”
Further, the judge ruled that the agents who confiscated 83 packets of the Gospel tracts from the Denton, Texas, offices of the Great News Network violated the U.S. Constitution.
Solis noted that the agents went to the office and confronted workers, demanding the tracts. The workers told the agents ministry leader Darrel Rundus was the only person who could give them permission to take the privately owned property. Rundus had said he would cooperate if the agents got a warrant or a court order, which they had chosen not to do.
According to the court’s opinion, the agents then threatened arrest if the workers did not cooperate.
“Agent [Mickey] Kennedy was not subtle in the manner by which he implied that he was taking the Million Dollar Bills with him no matter what – even if it meant arresting Mr. [Timothy] Crawford in the process. The facts and circumstances surrounding Agent Kennedy’s statements to Mr. Crawford on June 2, 2006, leave no doubt that Mr. Crawford believed he would be arrested if he did not retrieve the Million Dollar Bills from the closed closet in which they were hidden out of the agents’ sight,” the judge ruled.
“Agent Kennedy’s coercive tactics not only resulted in an unconstitutional search and seizure, it also resulted in bringing disrepute to the noble profession of law enforcement,” Solis wrote.
Further, the judge concluded that the agents involved in the seizure later “conspired together to cover up the actual events that took place at GNN’s office.
“Agents Kennedy and [Erin] Erdman persisted in covering up these events by being untruthful when they took the witness stand during the bench trial for this case,” the judge concluded.
WND contacted Secret Service offices in Dallas and in Washington, but no one would comment on the case.
Rundus told WND he was pleased with the outcome, and his attorney, Steve Crampton, said he was pleased with the ruling, given the stonewalling and coverup that appeared to have taken place throughout the government’s case.
“Hopefully, they will go back and rethink their big-picture strategy,” Rundus said.
The tracts at issue invite a recipient to answer the “million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven?”
The tracts clearly state they are not legal tender and contain the Gospel message.
They are published by the Living Waters ministry of evangelist and author Ray Comfort, who says he has distributed millions over the years.
Rundus sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for violations of the Constitution’s First Amendment right to free speech and the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unlawful search and seizure. The judge wrote that because he decided the tracts are not illegal, he didn’t have to reach a conclusion whether the statutory provisions the government alleged were being violated were constitutional.
Rundus has reported the tracts are extremely effective. He uses them to share his faith with others. While the front of the tract has markings similar to paper currency, it states “This bill is not legal tender,” “Thou Shalt Not Steal” and “Department of Eternal Affairs.”
The judge noted those are among the indicators, along with the biblical quotations, that would tip off a “reasonable” person, along with the fact there is no such bill.
The dispute arose when a North Carolina bank brought the bill to the attention of local Secret Service agents. The agents contacted the Dallas office, which dispatched agents to the GNN ministry offices.
The confiscation drew local news coverage:
“There is no reasonable risk that an unsuspecting, reasonable, and prudent person would accept the Million Dollar Bill as genuine U.S. currency,” the judge wrote.
The judge noted that government attorneys repeatedly tried to convince the court that it could be mistaken for real currency when viewed from a distance. But the judge wondered who would figure a $1 million bill – viewed from a distance – was real.
“The problem with the government’s argument is that it is impossible to believe that any reasonable person would accept a bill purporting to be worth a million dollars under the circumstances counsel for the government tried to create. … Any person that would accept a bill purporting to be worth a million dollars without holding it or at least looking at it from closer than five-feet away is not a reasonable person,” he said.
The Barack Obama “million” dollar bill tracts
Besides the original million-dollar tract, Comfort also now offers tracts featuring caricatures of celebrities and the image of President Obama. Another has President Lincoln, with the amount of $1 trillion.
The million dollar tract bears the message: “The million-dollar question: Will you go to Heaven? Here’s a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God’s name in vain? Jesus said, “Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.” Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell. That’s not God’s will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you. Jesus took your punishment upon Himself – ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’ Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.”
A website called Prank Place says its currency for sale “looks and feels real. Great conversation tool. Our funny money and fake million dollar bills look just like real U.S. Currency. These are very high quality, designed by an incredibly talented artist. Our fake money make great gifts, additions to greeting cards, or even sales promotions and sales tools.”