[Civilized peace among people requires] that each man shall do, towards every other, all that justice requires him to do: as, for example, that he shall pay his debts, that he shall return borrowed or stolen property to its owner, and that he shall make reparation for any injury he may have done to the person or property of another.
[Peace among human beings also requires] that each man shall abstain ... from committing theft, robbery, arson, murder, or any other crime against the person or property of another.
So long as these conditions are fulfilled, men are at peace.... But when either of these conditions is violated, men are at war. And they must necessarily remain at war until justice is re-established.
Lysander Spooner, Natural Law (1882)
A loud banging on the door pried Rob Rudnick from sleep's insistent embrace shortly before 7:00 the morning of March 10.
When he opened the door to the Carrollton, Georgia warehouse that serves as unofficial headquarters for Neal Horsley's gubernatorial campaign (and sleeping quarters for volunteers), "the first thing I saw was a SWAT shield and a bunch of machine guns pointing at me," Rudnick recalled to Pro Libertate.
Within minutes, Rudnick, Horsley, and campaign volunteer Esther O'Toole were lying handcuffed, face-down on the floor with machine guns pointed at their backs. Although Rudnick and Mrs. O'Toole were released, Horsley was dragged off to jail. Before the end of the day, he and Esther O'Tool'e husband Jonathan (who was arrested in the late afternoon) would be behind bars, charged with making "terroristic threats" against the life of "Sir" Elton John.
Neither Horsley nor O'Toole has ever met Elton John, or displayed any interest in trying to make his acquaintance. Neither has said or written a syllable indicating an intention to harm him in any way, and they haven't the means to do so even if that were their desire.
The flamboyant, superannuated British pop singer is immensely wealthy and constantly surrounded by a phalanx of security personnel. The little-known Horsley is a pugnacious and controversial Christian activist and provocateur (which is not to say that he's an agent provocateur) of severely limited resources.
Despite all of this, Horsley and O'Toole were targeted for a daybreak paramilitary raid conducted by what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution called "members of the Atlanta police fugitive squad and U.S. Marshal's office." Rudnick expanded that description by telling Pro Libertate that he saw "a couple of guys wearing FBI SWAT gear" as well.
By day's end the two were charged with making a "terroristic threat" against John, as well as "criminal defamation" and using the Internet to communicate a death threat. As Rudnick said, "This was all about Neal's recent videos about Elton John."
Lochinvar he ain't: "Sir" Elton, whose title proves that, as is the case with Nobel Peace Prizes, they're just giving knighthoods away these days.
In a recent Parade magazine interview, "Sir Elton" was quoted describing Jesus of Nazareth as "a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man."
He subsequently amended that comment by claiming that this was how he chooses to see Jesus, and blaming Parade's editorial staff for engendering controversy by presenting his remarks poorly.
It's reasonable to surmise that John's meaning was understood by tens of millions of Christians who were offended by the characterization.
Few took greater offense than Horsley, who is preparing a stunt campaign for the Georgia Governor's office on a platform calling for Christians to secede from the United States. Horsley produced two videos for distribution via his YouTube channel.
The first video documented a protest Horsley and O'Toole conducted outside John's Atlanta condominium in which they held signs proclaiming "Elton John Must Die," the fine print of which was the reference "Hebrews 9:27": "... it is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment."
Horsley and O'Toole did not intend to kill John, nor were they soliciting the services of someone else to accomplish that criminal deed, but rather a recognition of a biological reality from which John is not immune, coupled with a warning, rooted in biblical teachings, about a judgment to which he will be liable.
Horsley claims that his intention is "remind Elton John that he has to die" -- that's a statement of a biological reality, not a threat of incipient violence -- and that his desire is not see Elton John suffer, but rather to repent.
If Horsley, who appears quite sincere in his beliefs, were acting out of hatred toward Elton John, calling him to repentance wouldn't make much sense: After all, if he hated the singer and was convinced he was going to hell, wouldn't Horsley simply get out of his way?
That being said, this must be said as well:
Reasonable people -- including those who (like myself) are committed Christians -- can consider this to be tasteless and counter-productive. It takes a considerable gift for creative dishonesty coupled with something akin to clinical paranoia to treat it as a threat of any kind, however.
Reginald Dwight (aka Elton John), pre-knighthood and pre-Hair Club for Men (or its British equivalent).
The second video posted by Horsley (which has apparently been removed from YouTube) is unambiguously tasteless and offensive in an unqualified sense. It is a palimpsest of the hideous video record of Daniel Pearl's execution by a clique of Islamist terrorists.
In Horsley's rendering, the face of the murdered American reporter is altered with the insertion of Elton John-style star-shaped eyeglass lenses.
The caption points out that in the Islamic religion, Jesus of Nazareth -- while not worshiped as Lord and Savior -- is revered as a prophet second in stature to Mohammed. Indeed, it is common for devout Muslims to pronounce a ritual benediction ("peace be upon him") when making reference to Jesus, just as they do when mentioning Mohammed.
Horsley's point, which is made allusively, is that Muslim militants of the same kind who were so theatrically aggrieved by a Danish newspaper cartoon of Mohammed might well take offense over Elton John's characterization of Jesus Christ.
For the past several decades, Horsley has cultivated a reputation for high-profile, confrontational activism, much of it focused on abortion. He helped organize (but reportedly had no official position in) the group that created the "Nuremberg Files" website, which published information about abortionists and their associates "in anticipation that one day we may be able to hold them on trial for their crimes against humanity."
A federal court ruled in 2002 that the information on that website constituted "true threats" against the abortionists profiled therein and awarded Planned Parenthood -- which is already choking on taxpayer subsidies -- a huge civil judgment.
Horsley's activism has led to many collisions with law enforcement officials both locally and across the country. His history with the police includes an early-1970s drug conviction that led to a prison term, during which he became familiar with Chuck Colson's prison ministry and converted to Christianity.
Although there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of his pro-life beliefs (which included, to his credit, opposition to the Vietnam War long before he became concerned about abortion), many of Horsley's would-be allies are put off by what could be seen as an appetite for publicity and a juvenile penchant for vulgarity. The latter trait is perhaps best illustrated by his bizarre intimation that prior to becoming a Christian he engaged in bestiality.
That Horsley is an irritant to the local police is obvious (and, taken in and of itself, could be considered admirable). Rudnick told me that a few days prior to the raid, "we got a call from the Carrollton police asking Neal to go downtown and talk with them about the Elton John videos. He wasn't willing to go, and when they got insistent he said, `Well, you'll just have to arrest me.'"
That conversation illustrates quite convincingly that Horsley -- despite being a certifiable annoyance -- was not a threat of any kind. (It's worth considering, as well, that if Horsley were actually involved in terrorism of any sort, his bail would most likely have been set higher than $40,000.) Defying an invitation to talk to the police is not a criminal offense, nor does one commit a crime by daring the police to arrest him.
Clearly, somebody -- most likely employed by the federal government, given the admitted involvement of the Marshals Service and the reported involvement of the FBI -- is trying to make a point, and probably to create a despotic precedent. (In light of the fact that the abortion lobby decreed that March 10 would be commemorated as the "Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers," perhaps a functionary connected to that lobby ordered Horsley's arrest that morning as a celebration of sorts; stranger and more whimsical things have happened.)
The other charges against Horsley are just as facially absurd as the terrorism-related count. If, as any honest person would recognize, Horsley's protest falls within the legal category of "innocuous speech," then he can't be prosecuted for transmitting that speech over the internet.
Invoking Georgia's little-used and best-repealed "Criminal defamation" statute is a classic use of a "cover charge" by police to justify slapping the handcuffs on someone they consider obnoxious but whose behavior cannot honestly be described as criminal.
The relevant portion of that statute (section 6-11-40) declares: "A person commits the offense of criminal defamation when, without a privilege to do so and with intent to defame another, living or dead, he communicates false matter which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead or which exposes one who is alive to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, and which tends to provoke a breach of the peace." (Emphases added.)
If Horsley's protest falls within that definition, Elton John's original statement should as well: His comments as published in Parade certainly have no basis in the extant records describing the individual known as Jesus of Nazareth -- whether one considers Him to be alive or dead, divine or merely a moral teacher.
Elton, who maintains his home in Atlanta with the man he calls his "husband," certainly knows enough to understand that characterizing Jesus as he did would inevitably "provoke a breach of the peace."
The provocation becomes even more acute in light of Elton's publicly expressed desire to abolish organized religion -- something that could only be accomplished through terroristic means.
Just as Horsley could be accused of using his rhetoric to foment violence against Elton John, "Sir" Elton's remarks about banning religion could be seen as enjoining anti-Christian violence from people with the means to imprison, kill, and otherwise persecute people who espouse that faith.
This being the case, why isn't Elton John also being investigated under the criminal defamation statute? John is at least as plausible a threat to Horsley as Horsley is to John -- which is to say that neither poses any material threat to the other. Both of them said things that can be regarded as hateful and offensive, but neither committed an offense against the person or property of the other -- and that is the threshold consideration when determining if an actual crime has taken place.
Yet one of them was thrown face-down to the floor with a gun barrel at his neck and thrown in jail because the subject of his intemperate -- but constitutionally protected -- speech is wealthy, politically well-connected, and a member of a specially protected class.
Be sure to get your daily dose of sedition each weeknight from 6:00-7:00 Mountain Time on Pro Libertate Radio -- courtesy of the Liberty News Radio Network.
Dum spiro, pugno!