Justice Department Forces Christian Pastor to Testify on Islam Views

BREAKING UPDATE: This article appeared August 31, 2017.  On September 1, 2017, the federal court entirely dismissed the case over DOJ's objections.  Story and opinion here.

The United State Department of Justice has issued subpoenas to force a Christian pastor in Virginia to disclose under oath his views on Islam.

Pastor Steve Harrelson of the Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Boston, Virginia, has been served with a wide-ranging subpoena by lawyers for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. The subpoena demands his presence to testify under oath in response to questions from Justice Department lawyers about his views on Islam as well as several other issues:

DOJ Subpoena listing documents targets must provide to the government

Harrelson is not a party to any lawsuit or other action brought by the Justice Department. He is a private citizen. The Justice Department subpoena also demands that the pastor bring any papers or documents that he has to his deposition with government lawyers that relate to or mention Islam and turn them over to the government.

Pastor Steven Harrelson

In addition to Harrelson, other Christian third-party private citizens have also been subpoenaed to reveal under oath their views on Islam and to deliver any documents they possess related to Islam to federal attorneys.

The Justice Department case alleges that Culpeper County refused to grant a permit to allow the Islamic Center of Culpeper to pump and haul away sewage. The case was brought under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. The mosque purchased land that was unsuitable for a septic system at the time of purchase.

The United States Department of Justice is pursuing the case against Culpeper County and forcing a Christian pastor and other Christians to testify under oath about their views on Islam even though the mosque itself has already settled all claims with the county. (Full settlement here).

The fact that the mosque settled with the county led one federal judge to call into question the Justice Department’s zeal to continue to pursue the case even though the purported victim is satisfied and will be building a mosque:

At a federal court hearing Friday at which the county argued to dismiss the suit for a second time, Judge Moon sided with Culpeper in providing his take on the sustained complaint, saying the continued litigation still puts the Islamic Center at odds with the county.

“It’s an artificial division of a settlement agreement. They tried to come together, said they would try to live together peaceably, now it seems you are putting a wedge between the county and the Islamic Center of Culpeper,” he told the federal attorney arguing against dismissing the case. The Justice Dept.’s continued pursuit of the lawsuit does not help the Islamic Center, Moon added.