A federal judge has refused an emergency request to restore a blogger’s 2nd Amendment rights after a state judge in Arizona apparently agreed that the writer’s online discussion about the “wages of sin is death” suggested a threat to the life of a reader.
The case developed for Mike Palmer, a a 55-year-old Christian missionary from Phoenix, when a reader, Melody Thomas-Morgan from Prescott, Ariz., complained that the online discussion was a threat to her life.
Her legal allegations alleged Palmer was threatening her with “death,” with that word in quotes in the legal filings.
Palmer explained, “It is true that the blog, ‘That Woman Jezebel,’ talks about spiritual life and spiritual death. … Spiritual ‘death’ as in ‘The wages of sin is death.’ (Romans 6:23) … It is not true that the blog ever mentions the ‘death’ of Miss Thomas-Morgan.”
Kenton Jones, superior court judge for Yavapai County, eventually agreed with the woman’s complaint and ordered Palmer not to have any guns.
Judge Kenton Jones
“The order says that I am not allowed to possess firearms or ammunition, and directs me to turn over any weapons to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office,” Palmer told WND.
His response was to turn to the federal courts to seek protection of his constitutional rights. But he was rebuffed this week by District Judge G. Murray Snow.
“Plaintiff argues that Judge Jones’s determination that he has threatened Ms. Thomas-Morgan violates or chills his First Amendment rights to speak on his internet blog. Plaintiff further argues that the injunction, as issued, unconstitutionally prohibits him from possessing firearms during the term of the injunction,” Snow wrote.
“This court does not necessarily know all the facts under which the state court determined that the injunction without notice should issue … Thus, it cannot determine the extent, if any, to which plaintiff is suffering immediate and irreparable injury by virtue of the injunction without giving defendants the opportunity to be heard,” he wrote.
“In such cases, it is appropriate for a federal court to abstain from exercising its jurisdiction until the state courts have the opportunity to decide the question,” said Snow.
Palmer indicated he does not own any weapons at this time.
Palmer told WND Snow “has essentially determined that 1) being unarmed on Phoenix is not dangerous (i.e., if Palmer, his loved ones or fellow man is killed as a result of being unarmed, there is no harm) 2) that, even though there is no law allowing Arizona courts to revoke your 2nd Amendment, Snow is not going to defend your 2nd Amendment right…”
Palmer said he plans to serve the state Supreme Court justices and others next in his lawsuit against them, and address the issue during a hearing for a preliminary injunction, which typically would be a next step in the process.
He said he also will consider a further appeal of the federal judge’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, although that decision hadn’t been determined.
Palmer had filed the federal lawsuit against a number of judges when a hearing in which he was not allowed to participate resulted in a state judge’s decision to disarm him.
“I certainly want my gun rights,” he added. “There is no law in Arizona which allows the courts to suspend any constitutional right, in this instance, my Second Amendment right. And, of course, my life’s in danger now. I can’t defend myself, I can’t defend you. I can’t defend my fellow man.”
He wonders if the Christian nature of his blogging has anything to do with the action taken against him.
“Being a Christian seems to make me fair game,” he said. “I bet if I were Muslim and writing about physical beheading on a blog, no judge would dare touch me with an injunction. Ironic.”
Not only is Jones named as a defendant in Palmer’s suit, so are five other jurists on the state supreme court, including Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch.
The issue is reminiscent of another Arizona case, where a local judge ordered Michael Roth of Quartzsite, Ariz., to surrender his weapons because Town Councilman Joe Winslow was offended when Roth allegedly called the lawmaker a “turd.”
In fact, Palmer has set up a blog called Michael’s Law in honor of the Roth case to tell his own story.
Quartzsite Councilman Joe Winslow lists reasons he sought a restraining order against resident Michael Roth, claiming his entrance to town hall was blocked and that he was called a synonym for dog feces.
Winslow told Karen Slaughter, the elected justice of the peace for the region, what he wanted was that Roth and others with similar views “not be allowed to walk around armed. To me, I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, but I have been diagnosed with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) … that’s what I’m concerned with, that he’s gonna get so far into my personal space that I’m gonna react without thinking. I’m not making threats or anything like that. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the way I am.”
“I know that I’m 71 years old,” Winslow said. “I don’t want to be a statistic, I don’t want to go to jail and I don’t want to go in the hospital. But based on my history of 24 years in the service, I am more concerned about my reaction to his aggression than anything else, especially now that I believe that he is carrying a handgun. His actions have demonstrated in the past to me that he is not in full control of his emotions.”
After WND’s coverage of Roth’s case, Slaughter eventually reversed her decision on the weapons ban, but Roth says she refused to dismiss his attorney fees.