If being a Christian were a crime, what kind of evidence would be presented to convict you? What does living a life in Christ really mean?
I Peter 2:12; I John 3:18
A courtroom. JUDGE is seated behind a desk or table, a chair SR of this table serves as the witness stand for the DEFENDANTS. ATTORNEYS may have small tables of their own PROSECUTING ATTORNEY's SR, DEFENSE ATTORNEY's SL, with notepads and briefcases setting on top. Both ATTORNEYs should have a large number of papers in seperate files that they use for exhibits and evidence.
Three defendants face the criminal charge of religious activity. In all cases the outward evidence may or may not reveal the true nature of the defendants. Personal tesitmony is critical, but we find that self-deception also plays its part in this courtroom. In the end, we discover that the Son of God himself is seated in judgement, and the sentence he passes upon a true servant is "Well done, my good and faithful servant".
(As lights come up ATTORNEYS are seated at their respective tables BALIFF stands SL of the JUDGE's table. Alternatively, all characters may walk in from off-stage, or file in from behind audience. DEFENDANTS should be seated in the audience if possible and wait until they are called.)
BALIFF: All rise!
This branch of the high court is now in session. The Honorable Justice presiding over the cases to be heard today.
JUDGE: You may be seated.
(ALL sit except for BALIFF)
Baliff, what do we have on the dockett today?
BALIFF: Three cases today, your honor. All defendants under violation of the Religious Act, code 352 and related sections.
JUDGE: Religious crimes, eh? Prosecuting attorney, have you prepared your cases?
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: I have, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Good. If they are guilty, I want these people, do you understand me?"
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: You can count on me, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Defense attorney, have you prepared your arguments for today?
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Fine, let's get on with it, then. Baliff, will you call the first defendant, please?
BALIFF: Call Norma Rae Thompson to the stand!
(DEFENDANT #1 approaches the bench)
Do you swear to tell only the truth in this, most hollowed court of law?
DEFENDANT #1: I do.
BALIFF: Be seated.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your Honor, may I present the evidence that led to the arrest of the woman you see before you today. She has been sighted frequently, if not, if you'll excuse the term, "religiously", in her local place of worship. You will note her name on the church mailing list, which I will present as exhibit "A".
(PROSECUTING ATTORNEY hands a paper to BALIFF, who then gives it to JUDGE)
I submit as exhibit "B" to the court the fact that the defendant has a bumper sticker which reads "Nuclear attack or rapture, it's all going to burn". Droll in its humor, but the religious connotations cannot be denied.
(PROSECUTING ATTORNEY hands a paper to BALIFF, who then gives it to JUDGE)
I also submit to the court affidavits from other members of her church testifying to her attendance to many church functions outside of the normal church services, signifying some degree of dedication to her belief, marked exhibit "C".
(PROSECUTING ATTORNEY hands a number of papers to BALIFF, who then gives them to JUDGE)
In closing, Your Honor, I submit exhibit "D", copies of cancelled checks toward charities, missions, and her church itself, showing her financial support of these criminal activities. (PROSECUTING ATTORNEY hands a number of papers to BALIFF, who then gives them to JUDGE)
JUDGE: Thank you for your evidence for the prosecution. Will the attorney for defense please present his case.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Certainly, your honor. First of all, may I point out that there is quite a difference between being "religious" and being "religiously enamored", which is the true charge that my client is facing today. Religion, per se, is not entirely a criminal offense, but it is the actions of those who take the ideals of religion to its logical and criminal end that the Religious Act addresses. Religion by definition may be entirely benign and therefore not subject to the spirit of the Religious Act--religiously watching television, for example, or playing golf--"
JUDGE: I am perfectly aware of the difference between religiousity and the criminal actions as stipulated by law, counselor. Please continue.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Of course, Your Honor. It is just that the grey area between the criminal act and harmless behavior must be examined when considering my client. While circumstantial evidence has been brought before my client, it is certainly a matter of inner belief that constitutes criminal behavior.
JUDGE: Duly noted, please continue.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Certainly, Your Honor. Concerning her attendance to these church activities presented by the prosecution, my client's entire interest centers around
meeting people and specifically a certain gentleman that she would like to get to know better socially. All the extra-curicular activities involving church centered on making friends and capturing the attention of this individual, as attested by these affidavits of her conversations with friends outside church, highlighted here in defense exhibit "A".
(DEFENSE ATTORNEY hands papers to BALIFF, who then gives them to JUDGE)
I asked my client about her finacial support to the institutions in prosecutions exhibit "D", and my client informed me that it is her belief that if she contributed to these causes, that she would be returned in kind in her own prosperity, namely a new car she had been wanting, and some other various personal items of pleasure. Charity for pleasure is hardly criminal under the Religious Act.
Outside of the influences of these institutions my client becomes more responsible. I have signed statements here from her co-workers that on several occasions, August 3, September 14, October 9, and November 22 of last year, she denied any allegience to her church, and that as late as the 15th of January this year she was quoted as saying "...Christianity is nothing but a big waste of time, the whole idea is really foolish."
(DEFENSE ATTORNEY hands a paper to BALIFF, who then gives it to JUDGE)
As for her bumper sticker Your Honor...well, in light of the evidence I have put before you, I should think that she'd have more to worry about a misdemeanor against the Bad Taste Act.
JUDGE: Thank you for your evidence, counselor. Will the defendant rise, please?
(DEFENDANT #1 stands)
You have heard the charges brought against you , the evidence presented before you, and the case presented in your favor. Is there anything you wish to say before a decision is made concerning your case?
DEFENDANT #1: Well, Your Honor, I do go to church, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm a criminal. All the things the defense attorney said were true. I try to live a relatively "good" life, and I thought that going to church might help, but I don't want to do anything against the law. I never tried to be serious in any way, I just thought it might help me. And the bumper sticker wasn't mine, I bought the car used.
JUDGE: I see. The defendant will remain standing for judgement. Norma Rae Thompson, by weighing the evidence, and by your own testimony, I declare you innocent of the charges brought against you. You may leave today cleared of suspicion of past crimes of this nature. You shall leave this court. Baliff, remove her, please.
DEFENDANT #1: You mean, I'm free, I may go?
JUDGE: You may go. That is all.
DEFENDANT #1: Thank you, Your Honor.
(DEFENDANT #1 is a little unsettled by the JUDGE's remarks as the BALIFF escorts her from the stand. DEFENCE ATTORNEY receives her from BALIFF and enthusiastically shakes her hand in congratulations. She returns to her seat in the audience)
JUDGE: Baliff, will you call the next case, please?
BALIFF: Call William Stephen Kendall.
(DEFENDANT #2 enters, faces BALIFF just before the witness stand)
Do you swear to tell only the truth in this, most hallowed court of law?
DEFENDANT #2: I do not swear by anything on heaven or on earth. And the only thing hallowed is the name of Jesus Christ our Savior. Or, rather, (looks around) my Savior.
BALIFF: Your Honor?
JUDGE: This court is familiar with your position on swearing and the authority of this court--
DEFENDANT #2: There is no authority on this earth that can declare the message of Jesus Christ as unlawful, nor can it restrict His followers from carrying out the Great Commission.
JUDGE: History is full of examples that would differ with you, Mr. Kendall. This court is not ready to debate Theology, Philosophy or Existentialism for that matter, but it is prepared to enforce the law that has been set down by higher authorities, authorities YOU are subject to as a citizen of its land, Mr. Kendall. Baliff, will you instruct the defendant to AFFIRM his pledge to truth, please?
BALIFF: Do you affirm that you will speak only the truth in this...most hallowed court of law?
DEFENDANT #2: Of course I will speak The Truth.
BALIFF: Be seated.
(DEFENDANT #2 sits at the witness stand)
JUDGE: Prosecuting attorney, your case please.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: A repeat offender, Your Honor. Only his popularity with the people have kept him from being locked away for a long time. William Stephen Kendall, also known as "William the Warrior", has been before the gavel on no less than six seperate occasions, for various religious crimes, ranging from passing out literature of a religiously criminal nature, to public speaking with intent to incite others to religiously criminal acts.
This time, however, investigators following his activities have placed together no less than one hundred violations of the Religious Act. Most notable and startling of his offenses include using magic in his actions--
DEFENDANT #2: Miracles! Miracles, counselor! I'll not have God's glory be mixed with the devil's tricks!
JUDGE: The defendant will be quiet. While the court recognizes that one man's magic is another man's miracle, in the interest of the defendant, we shall term those items that refer to "magic" in evidence, as "miracles" in testimony, although this court is not obliged to recognize one for the other.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Understood, Your Honor. The "miracles" performed by the defendant include a number of healings documented by local hospitals, ranging from chronic pains cured to terminal diseases vanishing. The defendant made no pretenses that they were anything but blatent premeditated acts of his faith.
"William the Warrior" has repeatedly been outspoken in the community, defying court orders issued to prevent him from speaking, and in doing so has lead many others into criminal religion.
DEFENDANT #2: Christianity. I lead people to Christ, not to criminal acts.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: He shows complete and utter disrespect for the laws of this land, and swears to continue on his crusade until his last dying breath. It is the hope of this office that his last dying breath be made in a cell far away from others who might fall into this religious hysteria.
The prosecution rests.
JUDGE: Thank you, couselor. Will the defense attorney now present his case.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I'm afraid my client has waived his right to counel, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Excuse me, counselor?
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He wishes only to speak for himself.
JUDGE: Very well, Mr. Kedall, you may defend yourself, but I warn you--even the slightest sign of contempt from you and I'll have you whisked out of here before you can say "Hallelujah". Do you understand me?
DEFENDANT #2: Yes, Your Honor. Your Honor, members of the court, counselors, I live by a Law tht does not acknowledge national boundaries, one tht does not recognise race or gender. That Law is the Sovereign Laws of the Gospel of Christ, to preach to the ends of the earth the Good News of His saving grace, to heal the sick, and lift up the poor and downtrodden; that all may be saved and enter into the glory of His Kingdom.
The fact that laws have been passed against this belief and the spreading thereof is immaterial to my mission. If I am here under these charges I shall not deny them, nor will I deny my Lord even if threatened with death, suffering, or any punishment that this court would sentence against me. I am confident that my Lord will sustain me.
JUDGE: By your own words you have all but sealed your fate.
DEFENDANT #2: That is of no consequence to me. My death or persecution may only serve for others to rally to my cause and increase His manifestation tenfold.
JUDGE: So, you maintain that by carrying out sentencing against you, we only serve to further your cause?
DEFENDANT #2: You may find yourselves to be the instruments of God, despite yourselves.
JUDGE: I am not sure you understand the purpose of this court, Mr. Kendall. We pass no moral judgements. We only enforce the laws as they are written and do our best to interpret them according to individual cases.
DEFENDANT#2: So you say. But I will continue with my ministry despite the laws or your interpretations.
JUDGE: Before I pass sentencing, I would like to ask the defendant some questions concerning this "ministry", as you call it.
DEFENDANT #2: Of course, I'd be glad to share anything with you.
JUDGE: This "ministry" of yours, what is its purpose?
DEFENDANT #2: It is to further the Kingdom of God, to make His glory manifest here on earth. God is the King of heaven and earth, but it is through His followers that He can administer His Kingship. We are His hands, His mouth, His ambassadors on earth, if you will.
JUDGE: I see. And this ministry, these actions of yours, are to do the works of God in His stead?
DEFENDANT #2: We are the arm of God here on earth. What we do on earth is done in heaven. The manifestation of His Kingdom is defined by what we do.
JUDGE: And this manifestation is the aim of your ministry?
DEFENDANT #2: Yes it is.
JUDGE: I see. Thank you. I think I understand, now. The defendant will rise for sentencing. William Stephen Kendall, by the evidence presented before me, and by your own words, I suspend the charges brought before you. Instead, let it be recorded that I judge this man to be incompetent, and should be turned over to the court's care for observation, treatment, and rehabilitation.
DEFENDANT #2: What? This is an outrage!
JUDGE: The baliff will please escourt Mr. Kendall out of this courtroom.
DEFENDANT #2: I object! I appeal this descision!
JUDGE: I have declared my sentence, and there is no appeal motion in this court.
DEFENDANT #2: Incompetant?
(DEFENDANT #2 breaks away from BALIFF's grasp)
How dare you call me an incompetant Christian! How can you deny all the evidence before you? Those healings alone should be enough to open your blinded eyes! I have converted thousands in defiance of the law! You have got enough on me to declare a hundred life sentences--
JUDGE: Baliff, remove this man.
DEFENDANT #2: Oh, I see. You just don't want to make a martyr out of me, do you? (
BALIFF begins to escort DEFENDANT #2 off-stage)
You want to discredit my name and my ministry! You can't fight God! He'll have his way!
(DEFENDANT #2 is escourted off-stage, while some discussion between the two ATTORNEYs, causing some verbal commotion)
JUDGE: Counselors, may I have some semblence of order in my court please? Thank you. Baliff, will you call the next defendant, please.
BALIFF: Call Paul Quincy Sullivan to the stand.
(DEFENDANT #3 enters, faces BALIFF in front of the witness stand)
Do you swear to tell only the truth in this, most hallowed court of law?
DEFENDANT #3: I do.
BALIFF: Be seated.
JUDGE: The prosecution will state its case.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your Honor, we have collaborated stories testifying to Mr. Sullivan's aberrent behavior. Besides the normal symptoms of religious offenders, church attendance, monetary support, church related activities, actions which are nominal under the Religious Act, the defendant's actions have become so...disturbing, so devious as to dictate apprehension and prosecution.
On his way here to the courtroom he committed three misdemeanors in speaking to the guards escorting him, inquiring about their families, asking if there was anyone he could pray for, and engaging in evangelistic and other behavior prosecutble. Clearly he is a menace.
JUDGE: Have we another "William the Warrior", counselor?
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Not in the classical sense, your honor. Our defendant here has held no public rallies, has not stood in public squares with criminal orations, but uses a much subtler means.
Our intellegence has gathered quite a dossier on Mr. Sullivan that shows impressive covert criminal activity, chiefly through his immediatel sphere of influence. We have affidavits from neighbors in the surrounding blocks of his residence that are familiar with Mr. Sullivan, his religion, and his views.
(PROSECUTING ATTORNEY hands BALIFF a number of papers, who then gives them to the JUDGE)
You will note the references to those that have admitted even at risk of prosecution that they had been "converted" under Mr. Sullivan's directions. Others have received favors, finacial assistance without terms, strenuous work, and other works of charity from him that they concur are a direct result of his religious beliefs.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Objection: hearsay and speculation.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your Honor, these people are his neighbors. They must be allowed as character witnesses so that we may build an accurate profile of the defendant. Their statements are duly documented as per official procedure.
JUDGE: Objection is overruled. The prosecution will continue.
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Thank you, You Honor. His compatriots at work have all testified that they have been subject to his religious influence. Although they have mostly resisted his criminal behavior, they remark at his persistance and seductive means that make him at once likeable as well as dangerous. After all, who would turn down an offer of prayer for a sick loved one? He is quite clever and subtle, your honor.
Continuing in the investigation of Mr. Sullivan, we find him in the run-down area of our urban center, spreading his religious views to those poor destitute that are victims to his administrations. These people can't think for themselves, and Mr. Sullivan preys upon them and injects in them a false hope. At the same time while entreating them to coffee or a meal, he begins seducing them into joining his crimes.
No, Your Honor, this is no William the Warrior, but he is just as dangerous, maybe even more so. He is not just a deviant, he is a pusher, preying on the helpless and the sick, and others at the most vulnerable time in their lives, and thus deserves no less than than the full enforcement of the law.
The prosecution rests, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Very good, counselor. The defense will now present ts case.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your Honor, I must object to the prosecution's interpretation of the facts concerning my client. While it is true my client attends church, his does not indicate cause for his other actions. You note that these actions involving the neighborhood, work, and downtown charity is in no way dictated or demanded by his church. None of his so-called "pushing" can be connected with any program or institution of his church; the connection is implied and fabricated by the prosecuting attorney.
If you will allow my interpretation of these facts, I am sure Your Honor will see that this man is no danger, and certainly doesn't deserve sentencing. First of all, let us examine the motives for his going to church in the first place. Once this is understood, his actions can be viewed with more sympathy.
My client is told at these meetings that following a proscribed doctrine will enhance his life, his social standing, his self-esteem. Who wouldn't want to be liked by people? Who wouldn't want to feel good about themselves? Who wouldn't consider it a small sacrifice to perform some acts of self-sacrifice in order to reap the benefits promised? Thus endoctrinaed, he begins a series of actions that while are consistant with religious behavior, have no religious grounds after all. He is merely trying to help himself to better himself. Are we to convict a man for this?
The rest of my client's behavior can easily be seen in this light. He feels a sense of self-worth, he tells others about it in order to help them; he goes to the inner city to help the downtrodden and gives them the "secret" to inner fulfillment. Certainly some others are going to be converted to this "positive thinking".
This man is not a religious criminal, Your Honor. He is merely a victim of an oppressive society, trying to pursue his own hapiness. Finding him guilty would be a criminal offense against all people merely trying to find meaning and fulfillment in their lives.
The defense rests, Your Honor.
JUDGE: Thank you, counselor. (pause) Mr. Sullivan, we seem to have two interpretations of your life. One as a vicious criminal who diabolically defies the Religious Act, the other is a man who is merely trying to help himself to be happy. The evidence and the arguments for convictions are strong against you, but the denfense your attorney has presented is quite sound--but only if you confirm what he has said on your behalf.
I wish to hear your own version of the evidence, but be careful of your answer, and weigh your words carefully. Your testimony may tip the scales, determining your innocence or your guilt.
DEFENDANT #3: Understood, Your Honor. First of all, my actions as documented by the prosecuting attoney are quite accurate, and my enthusiasm protrayed by the defense attorney is equally accurate. However, their interpretation of my motivations are both wrong. There is nothing that I have done, mentioned here, that is not done in the service of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Indeed, my whole life is lived in His service, whether it be noble or to my shame.
But you see, I don't count my failures, because of the grace of Jesus who removes my sin as far as the east is from the west--
JUDGE: I would like to remind the defendant at this point that he is periously close to committing a misdemeanor on the witness stand. It would not help your case to commit such an infraction while judgement is being weighed.
DEFENDANT #3: Be that as it may. "I care very little if I am juged by you or any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." I owe my life to my Lord, and my life is His to do as he pleases with it.
JUDGE: That sounds to me as rather reckless.
DEFENDANT #3: On the contrary, Your Honor, my life can be in no better hands.
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your Honor, I object! The defendant cannot be allowed to incriminate himself! I submit that his last statements be stricken from the records!
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your Honor, if the defendant cannot confirm the charges brought against him, or even deny what the defense has suggested, his testimony is worthless. He must be able to speak without hinderance if his testimony is to have any significance.
JUDGE: Objection overruled! But I must remind the defendant that due to the nature of the evidence presented and its conflicting interpretations, the outcome of this trial has become solely dependant on what he says.
DEFENDANT #3: I understand, Your Honor. Contrary to what the defense attorney has suggested, my motivation for self-sacrifice and my "pushing" is not an attempt to fulfill my inner-self. Rather, I do these things in the service of my Lord, "It is God who works in me to will and to act according to His good purpose," and to help my neighbors in need, for "the man who has two coats should share with the one who has none".
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: This is ridiculous! Your Honor, he has only confirmed what I was trying to say! He has just shared his faith with everyone in this courtroom, the very thing for which he was arrested!
PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: Your honor, the defense is out of order!
JUDGE: (to DEFENSE ATTORNEY) Sit down counselor! (to PROSECUTING ATTORNEY) You too! Paul Quincy Sullivan, by your own words and by your actions, I find you guilty as charged--
DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your Honor I object! This is most unfair to my case!
JUDGE: The case is closed! Now both of you, leave this courtroom immediately! Baliff, see them out. The defendant will stay.
(DEFENSE ATTORNEY and PROSECUTING ATTORNEY are led off by BALIFF)
JUDGE: Do you know what you have done? I'll give you one last chance to change your testimony.
DEFENDANT #3: I have said what I have said.
JUDGE: You leave me no option but to find you guilty.
DEFENDANT #3: If my actions in this land require that you pass sentence against me, I do not hold that against you. I am prepared to pay any price for them.
JUDGE: Does that include execution?
DEFENDANT #3: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more." My life is in the Lord's hands. Should I meet him today, I can only hope that he should receive me as His good and faithful servant despite myself.
JUDGE: Well done! You HAVE been faithful to me to the end.
(JUDGE takes off black judge's robes to reveal white robes underneath)
You have confessed me before man, and now I will confess you before Our Father.
DEFENDANT #3: (looks bewildered for a moment, then drops down to one knee) Master!
JUDGE: Rise, my child. It is right that you shoud bow to me, it is also right that you should now look me in the eye.
DEFENDANT #3: Forgive me for not recognizing You...I...
JUDGE: Don't worry yourself. I reveal Myself when I choose. Would you have delivered your testimony if you had seen me in my glory?
DEFENDANT #3: No...no, I suppose not.
JUDGE: Indeed, what kind of a test would this have been if you knew I was sitting in the judge's chair the whole time? Come now, let us go and see the Father--
DEFENDANT #3: Jesus?
JUDGE: Yes, Paul?
DEFENDANT #3: That man. The one before me...
DEFENDANT #3: He confessed You before men, and you turned him away. He certainly did more than I ever did. I've heard him before, and I must say that I admired him. Why--why has he no part in Your Kingdom?
JUDGE: "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers."
DEFENDANT #3: I don't think I understand. Was he all that evil?
JUDGE: His miracles, healings and his entire ministry itself was done because he thrived on the power. For others, it is for other things. He did not heal through mercy, nor for love of the person he helped, but he did so because he loved the power he enjoyed.
DEFENDANT #3: That's terrible. And God still allowed him to do so?
JUDGE: Oh, for certain his faith was great, Paul, and the Father may heal through such a man not because of His intimacy with him, but because of the man's boldness. Remember the man who woke up his neighbor for bread in the middle of the night?
DEFENDANT #3: The man inside would not help him for friendship sake, but because of his boldness and persistance.
JUDGE: Even so, the Father will not be bullied by the whims of man. He can use such a man to heal those of whom He decides to pour His mercy upon. "William the Warrior" became the instrument of the Father "despite himself".
(JUDGE chuckles a little)
DEFENDANT #3: But still, he failed the test? He was cast out?
JUDGE: Paul, I never knew him. I never knew him, because he never wanted to know me. He never wanted a part of communing with me. Rather, he wanted whatever he could get from me; he learned to use his gifts for power and personal satisfaction. But as for the man inside--he never truly understood the Father or myself, though he prayed and prophesided and spoke in tongues, and declared my name to the gates of heaven. I tell you, the Father will show more mercy to the one in court today tht denied Him, than that man that used His name for vain purposes.
DEFENDANT #3: Did he have no love at all for You or the Father?
JUDGE: Of a sorts. Oh, he professed love for the heavenly ideal of the Father, but to his fellow man, he was indifferent. The commandment to love your brother is equal to the commandment to love the Father, remember, for the Father is also manifested on earth by those in need of love. He never understood this.
DEFENDANT #3: That is so sad. For him, I mean.
JUDGE: The man who makes a show of his piety has been paid in full. But, Paul, it's that heart of yours that loves without prejudice that betrays you as one of Mine. And the Father's. Come on, He has been waiting to see you, face to face. We don't want to keep Him too long, do we?
DEFENDANT #3: (smiles) His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. I can't wait. (they laugh as they exit)