CALLED UNTO LIBERTY, 21ST CENTURY SERMONS
By Francis J. Manion, ACLJ
On October 1st, I had the privilege of defending Mr. George Krail, of Burlington County, New Jersey in a trial in Cherry Hill New Jersey Municipal Court. Cherry Hill, a prosperous stretch of post-World War II suburban sprawl that buried the once blooming orchards of South Jersey beneath miles of asphalt and shopping malls, hosts not one, but two, thriving abortion businesses. At the Cherry Hill Women’s Center unborn babies up to six-months’ gestation are slaughtered at a breathtaking clip. The Center was the site of thefirst Operation Rescue sit-in back in 1987, and more recently was the location of the notorious viral video by a young actress (an employee of the Women’s Center) who filmed and posted on the web her own abortion. Not surprisingly, then, the place has been a focus of protestors, sidewalk counselors, and prolife activists of all kinds for three decades now.
One of the most faithful of those folks has been George Krail. George, along with his equally zealous wife, Tina, has long been a fixture on the sidewalks surrounding the Women’s Center. A self-described “outlaw biker for Jesus,” George looks like what John the Baptist would have looked like if John the Baptist had worn a leather vest and denim instead of a leather belt and camel’s hair. And while George’s message to the patients entering the Center has always been one of compassion – he and his wife have sheltered in their home literally dozens of frightened, abused, desperate women who were about to have abortions – his message to the abortionists and their henchpersons has always been full bore, all-out John the Baptist. “I tell them they need to repent,” Krail says. “I give them the whole Gospel, not just the nice parts; that God hates the shedding of innocent blood, that Jesus said it would be better to have a millstone put around your neck and be thrown into the ocean than to harm one of His little ones.”
It’s true that not all prolifers necessarily care for George’s approach. But it’s hard for anybody to argue with his, and Tina’s, record of saving women and their babies from the abortionist’s grasp. I myself once held in my arms one such baby saved by George and Tina’s “whole Gospel” approach, while I argued to a municipal court judge that – given the very tangible (and very squirming) results – the court should forgive the Krails their trespasses at least that one time.
This week’s case involved a charge of “harassment” brought against George by the Director of the Cherry Hill Women’s Center. Among other things, the case illustrated one of the dangers Christians in this country face living in a decidedly post-Christian world, a world that daily loses touch with even a semblance of connection to the Christian roots of Western culture. There was a time in this country when people of all religions, or no religion, were at least familiar with and had some vague notion of the Biblical origin of phrases like “the blind leading the blind,” “a house divided against itself,” “casting your pearls before swine,” “all things to all men,” and dozens of others. But no more.
So when George Krail, in April of this year, stood outside the Cherry Hill slaughterhouse and yelled in the direction of the Director that “Jesus said, anyone who harms one of these little ones would be better off having a millstone placed around his neck and being thrown into the sea,” he found himself facing a charge of criminal harassment for threatening tohang the Director and dump her body in the Atlantic ocean!
Now, there are plenty of legal arguments, constitutional and otherwise that we are making in answer to this ludicrous charge, arguments the court reserved decision on following yesterday’s trial. (The judge asked the parties to submit further written arguments, after which the he will issue a decision.) But what particularly struck me during the trial was just how profound has become the disconnect between the average American and familiar Biblical allusions that used to be part and parcel of a common cultural matrix. The judge himself expressed surprise to hear Krail testify that the phrase about millstones and harming little ones and being thrown into the sea was actually from the Bible. Likewise the prosecutor and, obviously, the Complainant herself. The good news is that the judge seemed receptive to our argument that, in all likelihood, what happened here was that the Complainant simply misunderstood George’s quotation of Scripture and, being completely unfamiliar with the source, misconstrued it into a literal threat to her immediate safety. Krail might just as well have been speaking Martian.
The great translator of Scripture, St. Jerome, once wrote that “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” But Christians, beware! As this Krail case shows, the ignorance of Scripture that now pervades our post-Christian world could also be hazardous to your liberty.
Francis J. Manion is Senior Counsel with the ACLJ who emphasizes First Amendment law and pro-life legal matters before state and federal courts. A 1980 graduate of Seton Hall School of Law, Manion honed his litigation skills with more than 15 years of experience as a trial attorney in private law firms where he served as trial counsel on behalf of pro-life demonstrators. He joined the ACLJ in 1996 and emphasizes protecting constitutional rights in the public school, the work environment, and the public arena. Manion also emphasizes defending the public displays of the Ten Commandments and other historic displays that are part of our nation’s heritage. He also focuses on safeguarding the rights of medical personnel who are often required by employers to violate their consciences and religious beliefs by participating in pregnancy-ending procedures.