From Persecution to Vindication: My Inspiration to Attend Law School—Part I

November 18, 2014

By: Joshua Valentine

“If you don’t sign this paper that you will stop praying for your children, we will be back by eight o’clock tomorrow morning to take all the children in your Christian school.”  These were the words of a Department of Social Services’ (DSS) worker to my pastor, when I was only nine years of age.  My pastor refused to sign the paper, and the social worker did not take any of us children.  But it was a rather lengthy battle.  At the time, however, it was very difficult for me to understand how something like this could possibly happen in the United States, a country established on the very principles of religious freedom.

On an unexpected basis, workers from the DSS would appear at my school to challenge me and other students about our beliefs.  “Do you like your mommy?  Do you want to leave your family? Why were you reading your Bible?”  These were the absurd and offensive questions that I was personally asked as a boy who loved my life.  Daily, I feared that the government had the ability to separate me from my family, my friends, and my church; take us into custody; and deprive us of our faith.  These personal experiences, followed by years of intense persecution and litigation involving my school and church, placed a compelling desire within me to boldly fight against religious persecution and to stand for justice.  This was my inspiration to attend law school.

Who We Are

The Word of Faith Fellowship (WFF) is a Protestant, non-denominational church located in rural Western North Carolina.  Our beliefs are traditional, evangelical doctrines of the Bible—we strive to live our lives in accordance with the Scriptures.  We believe in preaching, teaching, praising and worshiping God, as well as the Biblical practices of strong prayer.  In addition, WFF maintains a private Christian school ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and over 90% of the school’s students have excelled in higher education.  Inspired by the persecution we endured, the school created an internationally renowned Holocaust Museum, comprised of over 600 pieces of artwork, which has travelled widely both across our state, as well as out-of-state to Washington D.C., New Mexico, Texas, and Florida.  Our church also has outreach missions to prisons, nursing homes, our surrounding community, and other nations including Brazil and Ghana.

The Word of Faith Christian School Holocaust Museum

The Word of Faith Christian School Holocaust Museum

What We Endured

It is because of our Biblical beliefs and practices that we became the subjects of hatred, persecution, bigotry, and discrimination through Inside Edition tabloid television, local and international media, social media, hate crimes, and several heated lawsuits.  Church members’ personal businesses were boycotted; we experienced a drive-by shooting; mine and other members’ homes were sprayed with graffiti and egged; our pastor’s lives were threatened; we were called slanderous names in our local stores.  We were investigated by local law enforcement, the DSS, the State Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Prominent lawyers, judges, and most of our community made a vigorous attempt to close our church doors and stifle our First Amendment freedoms.  Our legal battles took us to the North Carolina Supreme Court and even to the United States District Court.  Ultimately, after years of intense litigation, lower court rulings were overturned and we were vindicated with victory in every case.

My personal experiences caused me to realize that any of us can lose the freedoms that our forefathers sacrificed their lives to acquire.  They can be lost right here in the United States, in our courts.  As the assault on my church, my faith, and my religious freedoms continued to grow and intensify, I began to wonder, “If this is happening to us, in rural Western North Carolina, where else is this happening?”  But I soon realized that all over America, the right to pray, the right to say the name of God, the right to religious freedom is being challenged.  If we lose the fundamental rights upon which our nation was founded, what will we have left?  This was my inspiration to attend law school.

Check back in the upcoming days to learn specifically about a custody battle and a federal civil rights action that attributed to my inspiration to attend law school.


A Dangerous Reality: The Law Used as a Tool for Destruction

October 31, 2014

By: Gabrielle Valentine

The Holocaust was “the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.”[1]  Many people are bewildered by the atrocities of the Holocaust, as they consider how so many people could join together to obey the orders of one dictator and eventually murder over six million people.  Although many perpetrators of this horrendous genocide were brought to justice at the Nuremburg Trials, where the Nazi leaders were tried for war crimes, the startling reality is that these war crimes were committed under the disguise of the law.

The people of the war-stricken, depression-battered Germany fell to the Nazi party’s illusory promises of peace and prosperity.  Appealing to and indoctrinating the minds of the Germans through propaganda and lies, the Nazis obtained the majority of the German parliament, and appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany in 1933.  Later that same year, the Nazis set fire to the German parliament building.  Hitler used this occurrence to declare a state of emergency and assume dictatorial power.  The Parliament now consisted of one party—the Nazi party, which merely rubber-stamped Hitler’s proposals.

Jews captured by German troops during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April-May 1943.

Jews captured by German troops during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April-May 1943.

The democracy of Germany was destroyed from within—by its government, in its courts, and through its exercise of the law.  Free, political debate no longer existed.  Trade unions no longer existed.  Freedom of speech no longer existed—in fact, speech against the Nazi regime meant concentration camps, torture, and death.  Freedom of the press no longer existed—books, newspapers, and magazines not consistent with Nazi ideology were burned in public.  Professionals not subscribing to the Nazi ideology were prohibited from practice.  Governments and leaders were able to commit heinous crimes for years, because any opposition was suppressed and stifled through the Nazi war machine.

The law in Germany was implemented as a tool of serious destruction, to strip away the very values of humanity.  As early as 1933, laws were passed to remove Jews from professions of government and legal service.  Very soon, the Nuremburg Laws stripped Jews of their citizenship.  Most public places were marked “No Jews Allowed” or “Only Germans.”  Jews were expelled from public facilities; Jewish children were expelled from public Aryan schools; and Jewish businesses were boycotted.  Jews were removed from numerous other professions, and Jews were forced to transfer their property to non-Jews, and quickly Jews were not allowed to own any businesses.[2]  Under the guise of the law, millions of precious human lives were targeted for annihilation.

A woman sits on a park bench marked “Only for Jews.” Austria, ca. March 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Wiener Library Institute of Contemporary History.

A woman sits on a park bench marked “Only for Jews.” Austria, ca. March 1938. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Wiener Library Institute of Contemporary History.

According to the Nazi racial ideology, the Jews were a biologically inferior race seeking to take over the German nation and were polluting the “Master Aryan Race.”  Hitler not only persecuted Jews, but also homosexuals, Gypsies, Masons, and Jehovah Witnesses, all in order to “purify” the Aryan race.  The Nazis sought to eradicate the handicapped, “mentally retarded,” and “useless eaters” through euthanasia, also known as “mercy killing.”

Anti-Semitic conditions worsened until public violence against the Jews progressed to cold-blooded murder.  What began as racial targeting soon progressed to deportations and ghetto confinement.  In only a few short years, the persecution progressed to a massive planned extermination program through death in concentration camps and gas chambers.  Even when many of the Nazi war criminals were brought to justice at the Nuremberg Trials, most of them claimed innocence under the law, since they were “only following orders.”

So, how is what happened during the Holocaust relevant to us today in the 21st century? Most students in schools across our nation are taught very little, if anything, about the Holocaust.  Further, men and women throughout America and the world are denying that the Holocaust ever happened, even in the face of volumes of evidence and eyewitnesses that attest to this truth. The Holocaust is only one of many murderous genocides of the 21st century.  Throughout the world, racial discrimination, hatred, and murder are still dangerous forces of destruction against humanity.  We have a responsibility to stand firmly against evil and to not allow such hatred as prevailed in the Holocaust to ever prevail again.

Display of Holocaust denial at a demonstration in Tehran, Iran. 2006. United Press International

Display of Holocaust denial at a demonstration in Tehran, Iran. 2006. United Press International

Stacks of German documents collected by war crimes investigators as evidence. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD

Stacks of German documents collected by war crimes investigators as evidence. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD

Martin Niemoller, a protestant pastor who narrowly escaped execution during the Holocaust, famously wrote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.[3]

May these words be an everlasting remembrance to us that we should never turn our eyes from injustice as did the “bystanders” during the Holocaust.  Whether guardians of the law through the legal profession or baggers of groceries at the local store, we as Americans must stand boldly to safeguard justice and humanity, and ensure that the law is never used as a tool for dangerous destruction.  We must always stand up for what we know is right and never forget the power of one lie spread through the propaganda of a power-thirsty, racist dictator.  For if we forget the past, we are condemned to repeat it.

[1] http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005143

[2] See United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: Examples of Anti-Semitic Legislation, 1933–1939 for a description of the laws that deprived the Jews of various rights.

[3] http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392


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