What does the federal hate crimes law inspired by the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. have to do with an internal dispute among the Amish in which the beards of men and the hair of women were forcibly sheared?
"The scissors used to cut the hair were manufactured in one state and used in another," explained Edward Bryan, defense lawyer for Amish bishop Samuel Mullet Sr., who was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.
Bryan, in an interview with radio host Michael Savage Thursday night, said the Commerce Clause is one of the federal government's primary justifications for intervening in the dispute in eastern Ohio among members of the Christian sect.
U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach, of the Northern District of Ohio, argued in the indictment that the "Wahl battery-operated hair clippers" used in the assaults "were purchased at Walmart and had travelled in and affected interstate commerce in that they were manufactured in Dover, Delaware."
The 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act stipulates any crime prosecuted under the law must involve crossing state lines or using “an instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce.”
In a September trial, Mullet was convicted of organizing a series of raids in 2011 against religious enemies and disobedient family members in which the men’s beards were forcibly sheared and women’s hair was cut. Fifteen other Amish members were sentenced to prison terms of two to seven years. Mullet lost his request Tuesday to be released from prison in Texas while he appeals his conviction and sentencing.
Prosecutors argue the 16 Amish men and women were justly convicted under the hate crimes law because hair has spiritual significance to them.
Savage told WND he's astonished not only by the prosecution of the religious dispute but by the lack of attention paid by fellow conservatives.
"The indifference of the Christians and so-called conservative media both revolts and shocks me," he said. "They've learned nothing from history and are so trapped in their doxies they cannot see injustice unless it is broadcast for them in talking points from the Republican establishment."
Calling Mullet's 15-year sentence "the most disproportionate I've ever seen," Savage said Obama's nominee for Labor secretary, Thomas Perez, bears responsibility for the prosecution in his current capacity as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
Perez, he said, is "a radical's radical" who has made carrying scissors across state lines a federal hate crime.
"If we do not come to the aid of the Amish, they can trump up a case against anyone for any reason," Savage said.
Jacob Sullum, a senior editor at Reason magazine, pointed out in a column last fall that Dettelbach argued Mullet chose his victims because of their "actual or perceived religion."
"They are effectively being punished for their religious beliefs, since they would not have been prosecuted under federal law if their motivation had been nonreligious," he wrote.
Since the law applies to offenses involving actual or attempted "bodily injury," prosecutors had to argue that shorn whiskers and hair qualify for that description, Sullum noted, calling it "a bit of a stretch."
The defendants, Dettelbach said in the indictment, also used "a pair of 8 [inch] horse mane shears which were manufactured in the State of New York and sent via private, interstate postal carrier to [a retailer] in Ohio for resale."
The defendants took pictures of their victims with "a Fuji disposable camera from Walmart" that "travelled in and affected interstate commerce in that it was manufactured in Greenwood, South Carolina." They used "an instrumentality of interstate commerce" (i.e., a highway) to reach victims in Trumbull County, Ohio.
The indictment also mentions a letter – carried by the U.S. Postal Service – was used to lure one of the victims.
'Abuse of power'
Mullet's attorney, Bryan, considers the prosecution an unconstitutional abuse of federal power.
He pointed to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer that found the individual insurance mandate at the heart of President Obama's health care law was not enforceable under the Commerce Clause.
The case against the Amish, he said, represents a narrowing of congressional authority over interstate commerce.
The hate crimes law, he insisted, was never meant to prosecute a religious group’s dispute among its own members.
'Most radical Cabinet member'
Meanwhile, Obama's choice for Labor secretary, Perez, will face a Senate confirmation hearing next week.
Former Justice Department official J. Christian Adams, in a column last month, said Perez, if confirmed, "would be the most radical cabinet Secretary since Henry Wallace headed the Department of Agriculture for President Roosevelt."
Adams, who served in the Civil Rights Division under George W. Bush, said Perez is "a radical progressive" who "has amassed a record demonstrating contempt for the rule of law, hostility toward the private sector and an aversion to telling the truth under oath."
"If the GOP Senators cannot stop Tom Perez, they cannot stop anyone," he said.
Adams noted 41 Senators has sent a letter to the White House urging that the nomination be withdrawn.
He presented what he called an "abbreviated list of Perez’s misdeed which render him unqualified to serve in any government position, much less as Secretary of Labor":
- Perez launched a series of "harassing court fights" against peaceful pro-life clinic protesters;
- He was "dishonest under oath about what he knew about racialist rot inside the Justice Department." An Inspector General report documents a pervasive attitude "that laws are only meant to protect black victims from white defendants in cases like the voter intimidation lawsuit I brought against the New Black Panther Party";
- He has "twisted the rule of law to bring a lawsuit against Mohawk Central School District in New York to ensure 8th grade students can dress in drag";
- Perez "waged war against voter photo identification laws";
- He has "attacked states like Alabama, Arizona and South Carolina over state immigration laws;
- He has "defiantly ignored the Supreme Court by continuing to advance racial hiring preferences";
- He has sued the New York City Fire Department "to force them to hire black applicants who failed the employment tests even if white applicants passed the test."
- Perez has "attacked business using the same rotted disparate impact theory, including banks for not lending enough money to 'people of color'";
- Perez also blocked the release of a new version of an Amazon Kindle "because the button to make it talk was not in Braille";
- He also was behind the threats to delay pool openings across the nation for any pool that did not install a chair lift costing many thousands of dollars;
- He's behind the Justice Department’s refusal to enforce the National Voter Registration Act’s requirement that voter rolls be cleaned up of dead and ineligible voters.
- His Civil Rights Division has ignored hate crimes such as the racially motivated beatings at the Wisconsin state fair.
Meanwhile, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa, R-Calif., has subpoenaed the private emails of Perez as part of an investigation into an agreement Perez brokered last year to withdraw a lending discrimination lawsuit before it could be heard by the Supreme Court.