This treatise consists of a profile of the author - plaintiff and defendant - in two litigation cases, in which he was a plaintiff in one and a defendant in the other one.
The vast amount of the information is presented verbatim and includes letters from the client's attorney and what was in its original form a twenty-page decision handed down by Henry W. Shatford, Judge in the Superior Court of Los Angeles.
It is also important that the author state why he has decided to make public in this printed booklet this information, at this time, more than 40 year after these litigations were concluded. Succinctly, let me say that I am making this information available because housing discrimination 40 years after Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1968, one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., prohibiting discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing, defacto housing segregation is increasing, mainly because of poverty, the imprisonment of African American black men who traditionally were the breadwinners and the impact of legal and illegal immigration on African Americans, particularly, with regards to employment and education.
Religious freedom is again challenged in the twenty-first century with a greater intensity than it has been for more than a half century, with the demand for religious freedom for all religions in face of a new way of looking at religious freedom since 9-11-01 and terrorism.
These are two formidable issues that are certain to be battleground issues in the twenty-first century. It is the author's conviction that the information presented in this treatise will help readers to become better equipped to address these concerns individually and collectively and contribute effectively in promoting a greater justice for all Americans.
Section One: Profile of Plaintiff/Defendant
A Brief Memoir
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
It seems appropriate to begin with profiling Uriah J. Fields, the plaintiff in Court Case One and the principal defendant in Court Case Two, i.e., by presenting some pertinent information relatively to his involvement with the judicial system prior to his involvement in these two court cases that will be presented in detail. Fields will now tell his own story.
In July 1962, I left Montgomery where I had lived just two months less than a decade. In September of 1952, following my four-year tour of duty in the U.S. Army that included two years during the Korean War, and five months as an employer in a Chicago post office, I returned to my native state of Alabama where I arrived just in time to enroll as a student for the 1952-53 school year at Alabama State College.
During my four years at Alabama State College I was elected president of the freshman class and some two years later president of the student body. In 1953 I became the pastor of the Bell Street Baptist Church. This was one year before Martin Luther King, Jr., became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
After the arrest of Rosa Parks on December 1,1955, four days later African Amercian leaders organized the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) for the purpose of providing organizational leadership for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. During the organizing meeting that was held the same day Rosa Parks had been found guilty of violating the segregation laws of Alabama Martin Luther King, Jr. was elected president and I, Uriah J. Fields, was elected secretary of the MIA.
My first experience with the courts was in March of 1956. However, nearly six years earlier because of my involvement in a racial incident at a restaurant in Maryland just outside of the Fort Meade military base where I was stationed, I avoided going to trial and probably being confined in the stockade when President Harry S. Truman ceased calling the fighting in Korea a "police action," based on the large number of body bags returned to the United States, and declared it to be the Korean War. Within days after that the soldiers in my regiment were shipped to Korea or training camps.
But on march 19, 1956, when King, the first of eighty-nine leaders to be indicted, appears in a Montgomery courtoom for the four-day trial I too was there. I had not been indicted but had received summons to appear as a State witness. My summons contained the words "Duces Tecum," instructed me, "to bring and produce at the trial all minutes of meetings of the Montgomery Improvement Association." Judge Eugene Carter finds King guilty of leading an illegal boycott and sentences him to pay a $50 fine plus court costs or serve 386 days in jail. The sentence is suspended when King files an appeal and is released on $1000 bond. Following my testimony, Circuit Solicitor William F. Theford told the "Montgomery Advertiser" that I was the most recalcitrant witness the State had ever summoned during his many year in that office.
In his book, the second book to be published about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, after the release of King's book, "Stride Toward Freedom" (1958), L.D. Reddick, in his book "Crusader Without Violence" (1959), regarding me at the trial, writes: "The Reverend U. J. Fields, then recording secretary of the MIA, skirted the edge of contempt by his indirect, evasive and at times impish answers to questions that the prosecution put to him actually, appeared to toy with the solicitor. Accordingly, he was the hero of the moment in the Negro community.
After court hours whenever Negroes met, they would laughingly ask, "Man, did you see Fields playing with them today?" (p. 143).
After I severed my ties with King some leaders in the Montgomery community seduced some of the members of Bell Street Baptist Church to take action to oust me as their pastor. On a Sunday I was charged with disorderly conduct after I removed the locks two deacons had changed and entered the church sanctuary. A deacon of this church had issued a warrant for my arrest.
After I had preached a sermon I was arrested by the police and taken to jail. A number of members loyal to me followed me to the jail. Some disgruntled members with outside support, including support from the pastor of the largest black congregation in Montgomery sought an injunction that would deny me the right to enter the church building. They were disappointed when Montgomery's Circuit Court judge Walter B. Jones refused to issued an injunction. Instead, he ordered that a vote of the members of the church be taken under the supervision of court-approved masters, one representing each party to determine whether or not I would remain as pastor of the church. I received a majority of the votes, a strong vote of confidence. I woud remain pastor of Bell Street Baptist Church and as an activist in Montgomery for another five years, long after Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy, also a prominent boycott leader, had left Montgomery and took up residences in Atlanta.
Just days after the bus boycott ended following the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that declared segregation on Montgomery buses to be unconstitutional, on January 10,1957, in the wee hours of the morning, die-hard segregationists bombed four churches and two parsonages. Bell Street Baptist Church was the worst of the bombed churches, as Taylor Branch, noted, "Bell Street Baptist suffered the most destruction on the night of the bombs." ("Parting the Waters," p. 200). The Church was rebuilt under my pastoral leadership and sixteen months after the bombing the spirited congregation entered their new sanctuary.
In July of 1962 I resigned as pastor and accepted an assignment in the Peace Corps. At the time just a few more than 1000 persons had been accepted to serve in the Peace Corps. While I was in the process of leaving Montgomery and headed for the University of Pittsburgh where I was to receive my orientation before going to Africa to teach I was directed by God, in a message that was clear as any I had ever received from Him, not to go East but to go West, to California. I followed Divine intuition and drove my 1956 station wagon that had been one of the vehicles used to transport people who boycotted buses in Montgomery. During the boycott, printed on each side of this station wagon in large letters was "Bell Street Baptist Church - Rev. U. J. Fields, Pastor." There were the names of other churches and their pastors printed on other vehicles that were owned by the Montgomery Improvement Association. We bus boycott leaders decided that with churches being the gift owners of these station wagons we could avoid being charged with violating city's laws regulating taxis. No fee or donation was accepted from people transported in these station wagons. Bell Street Baptist Church was a dispatch station as were some other churches.
After the boycott ended the Bell Street Baptist Church purchased the station wagon that bore her name and the name of her pastor from the MIA and two years later the Bell Street Baptist Church donated the station wagon to me. I repeat, on my departure from Montgomery I drove this station wagon to California.
Section Two: Court Case One
Housing Discrimination Case
Now a new resident of California, as stated earlier, I was not a stranger to courts and the judicial justice system. My first encounter with the courts in California was in early 1963. I had attempted to rent an apartment in a new apartment complex building that was being advertised in the Los Angeles "Herald-Examiner." The owners, Mr.and Mrs. David Klein, had refused to rent an apartment to me and it was obvious that they had done so because I was an African American. After several attempts to rent an apartment I gave Mr. H. Mann, a Caucasian and a member of the local Congress of Racial Equality, the amount of the deposit and ask him to see if he could rent an apartment in that building. He was able to rent an apartment, as he put it, "with no questions asked."
I decided to file a suit against the owners, that charged them with housing discrimination against me because of my race. Most states, in the North as well as the South, had no provison for African Americans to sue in a housing discrimination case with any possibility of receiving justice in the courts. But recently, California had enacted the Unruh Civil Rights Act that stipulated a sum of money that discriminators would have to pay if found guilty in a court of law.
I will now let the correspondene I received from my Attorney George Baltaxe tell the story of this case that involved my encounter with housing dicrimination. I was aware of the interest the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), located in Pasadena California, had in fair housing. When I contacted a represenative of that group it was suggested that I may want to contact Attorney Baltaxe Law Firm, that was located in Beverly Hills. In March of 1963, I met with Attorney Baltaxe and after a brief conversation paid him seventy-five dollars and agreed that he would receive one-half Per Centum of any money that I received as a settlement in the matter.
In a letter dated June 11,1963
Rev. U. J.Fields
Re: Fields vs. Klein
Dear Reverend Fields:
The Court has set the trial date for the above entitled matter for January 9, 1964, at 9 a.m. in Division 1 of the County Courthouse at 110 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, California.
I am sure I will be talking to you before that time, however, you should contact me at least two weeks before that date so that we may adequately prepare this matter. In the meantime, naturally shoud you have any questions about the progress of this litigation, please feel free to call me.
Very truly yours,
Willard and Baltaxe
In this letter from Attorney Baltaxe dated January 12, 1964.
Rev. U. J. Fields
Re: Felds vs. Klein
Daer Reverend Fields:
I am please to inform you that I have received a check for the sum of $250.00 in payment for your claim against the owners of the apartment dwelling located at 1917 Montrose Street, Los Angeles, Californnia under the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
The payment represents the statutory penalty for an act of discrimination in housing. I consider the payment a tacit admission of discrimination against you and a full vindication of your rights.
Please endorse the check and return it to me. I will then hold the check for approximately one week to make sure that it is good. I shall then send you a check for $125.00 pursuant to our retainer agreement and dismiss the lawsuit against the various defendants.
Thank you very much for referring this Case to me. I hope you are pleased with the results.
Very truly yours,
Willard and Baltaxe
On January 24, 1964, I received this final letter from Attorney Baltaxe regarding this housing discrimination case:
Rev. U. J. Fields
Dear Reverend Fields:
I am pleased to enclose herewith a check for $125.00 representing your share in the settlement figure of $250.00 in the above entitled matter.
As you well recall this case involved a refusal to rent an apartment to you at 1917 Montrose Street, Los Angeles, California because of the fact that you were a Negro. You will recall that you answered and Ad in the Herald Examiner and that despite the availability of the apartment you were refused as a tenant and not withstanding the fact that you offered to make the proper deposit.
Subsequent negotiations and discussions with the owners of the premises, Mr. and Mrs. David Klein, and discussions with their attorney revealed that undoubtedly this was a case of racial discrimination.
The owners' action initially was one of complete defiance of the law and of your civil rights. The owners of the building, the manager, and their lawyers indicated that you were not to be permited to rent there and that they would pay you no damages pursuant to law.
After consultation with me, at your request I filed a lawsuit in the municipal Court of the Los Angeles Judicial District under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Said action was vigorously contested. A number of court hearings had on legal issues involved availed the defendants nothing. It was ultimately set down for trial on January 9, 1964.
On the day before trial, when face with the prospect of appearing in court and defending their illegal activities, the defendants decided to pay the full amount of the penalty under the Unruh Civil Rights Act in the sum of $250.00, thus tacitly admitting their guilt in this instance.
I believe in this case your position has been completely vindicated. I hope that it will serve as some sort of an impetus on the Negroes of the community to utilize thier rights under the law. If this were done the amount of discrimination in existence in housing would greatly diminish by my opinion.
Thank you very much for referring this case to me. I hope you were satisfied with the outcome.
Very truly yours
Willard and Baltaxe
Before presenting the next case on religious freedom it seems appropriate to say the following: I have been a defendant or plaintiff in serveral other court cases, including two of which I was my own attrorney. With these two cases I lost one and won one. I have heard more than a few times that "only a fool will be his own attrorney." My expereince proves that sometimes an alleged fool wins in court.
As for the case that will be presented in Secion Three, Attorney George Balaxe who represented me in the Housing discrimination case will represent me and the three other defndants in this case in the Los Angeles Superior Court and in the Appeal Court. My co-defendants referred to Attorney Baltaxe as "Our Beverly Hills Attorney," I suppose they did so because his office was located in Bevery Hills.
Not quite a year after I arrived in California I was the principal founder of the American Missionary Society that later became an auxiliary of the America Christian Freedom Society (ACFS) of which I was the principal founder and president. Slightly over a year after I arrived in California ACFS was incorporated, eleven days before the November 23, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The day President Kennedy was assassinated I arrived in Boston where I was when I first heard the news that the President had been shot. At the time I was on a speaking tour. I was scheduled to deliver an address that very evening on "God, Country and Family" and to speak the next day at St. John the Divine at Harvard University. Of course, these events, like so many other events throughout America, were canceled once the shocking news came that President Kennedy had been assassinated.
In Section Three I will present the 20-page decision Judge Henry W. Shatford rendered in "Sierra Madre vs. Fields, et.al. - American Missionary Society" and the decision rendered following that decision when the District Court of Appeal denied Sierra Madre's request to transfer this case to the Appeals Court. Following is the decision, presented verbatim, that was rendered in the Municipal Court of the Pasadena Judicial District County of Los Angeles, State of California.
But before presenting this case, here is a brief word I want to say about the City of Sierra Madre. This is a small city, located about twenty-five miles from Los Angeles that adjourns the City of Pasadena to the north. Although a small city, she had her own police force and jail. When my missionary collagues and I were arrested while engaged in community misisonary work we were arrested and placed in jail. The city was all-white. It was general knowledge that some white parents in Pasadena who did not want their children to attend school with African American students enrolled their Children in the Sierra Madre all-white public school system.
Section Three: Court CaseTwo
Religious Feedom Denied
In the Municipal Court of the
Pasadena Judicial District
County of Los Angeles,
State of California
The People of the State
Plaintiff No. M. 74254, M 74252
M. 74253, M 74255
Uriah J. Fields,
Sunnniez Leaveain Todd
Nathaniel Ball and
Johnnie Felton Cameron
THE FACTUAL SITUATION
The American Missionary Society made an "Application For Solicitations Permit Under Ord. 617" (Sierra Madre City Code Section 3382) on February 24, 1965 (Peoples Ex. No.6). On March 2, 1965 City Administrator, Lawrence C. Bevington, denied the application. In a letter to the American Misisonary Society dated June 8, 1965 (People's Ex. 5) the said City administrator advised the Society "that the said application was denied on the grounds of inadequate information supplied by your organization and for the reason that the same did not meet the basic requirements of the Sierra Madre ordinance with respect to charitable or religious solicitation." The American Misisonary Society appealed the decision of the City Administrator to the City Council. A public hearing was held on Apirl 13, 1965 but no evidence of competent nature was received to show any statements made in the subject application were not true. The public hearing was closed, as revealed by the official minutes of the City Council, (People's Ex. No. 4) after request made of a representative of the American Missionary Society that the applicant "consent to a check with other cities," presumably about the 'Society's activities and reciept in same. (See Official Recorded Tapes, Defendants' Ex D). After the closing of the said meeting on April 13, 1965 a subsequent public hearing was held on April 26, 1965. Again no competent evidence as presented to the City Council to show any statements contained in the subject application were not true. After discussion of a report entitled "Background Investigation Report - American Missionary Society" (People's Ex. No 10) the following motion was made by Councilman King and unanimosly adopted:
"That the application of the American
Missionary Society to solicit funds
in the City of Sierra Madre be denied
for the reasons as contained in the
report read by the City Clerk and in-
cluding the fact that the amounts of
money which they spend for solicita-
tion exceed that which we consider a
legitimate organization should spend;
and they did not submit, as required,
a statement identifying the recipients
of their funds; there were complaints
regarding the operation and technique
found them to be inaccurate in their
Thereafter, on July 16, 1965, Uriah J. Fields, Sunniez Leaveain Todd, Nathaniel Ball and Johnnie Felton Cameron were arrested for violation of Section 3382 of the Municipal Code.
No good purpose is to be served in analyzing the testimony of all of the Sierra Madre residents called upon by the various defendants. Suffice to say and the court so finds, that although at times clumsily offered there can be no question but that the conduct of each defendant as such was to indicate that the purpose of the visit was to obtain a donation for the Society to use in the purchase of bibles for those unable to do so in furtherance of its religious dedication. Such failure to communicate the message as did occur was as largely the exhibition of the total disinterest in any religious donation by the particuar householder for monetary as well as religious reasons, perhaps best illustrated by one person who saw the word "catholic" written in large letters on an item held by the particuar solicitor and not being of that persuasion refused to hear further what the soliciting call was being made for.
Code Sections of Part 6 of the Sierra Madre City Code, being sections, 3380, 3381, 3382, 3383, 3384, 3385, 3386, 3391 and 3392 are attached hereto, marked "Appendix "A" and made a part hereof as though set forth in full.
The court is called upon to determine if the defendants are guilty of violating Section 3382 of the Sierra Madre City Code which requires a permit to be issued prior to the solicitation of funds for religious purposes.
There is no question but that the City Administrator of the City of Sierra Madre did not follow the mandate of City Code Section 3386. There is likewise no question but that the City Council of the City of Sierra Madre failed to appreciate the nature of what it was called upon to hear in the appeal from the said Administrator's conduct; failed to conduct a proper public hearing; and improperly denied the requested permit.
But none of the foregoing gave the defendants the right to proceed with their religious solicitation without a permit if the ordinance requiring same were constitutional. No matter if the acts or motive of the City Administator or City Council were wrongful and by same a permit denied which shoud have been granted the relief from same is to be obtained by appropriate action in the Superior Court and not by adding another wrong in proceeding against the clear mandate of the law. The case of People Andur, 123 Cal. App. 2nd. Supp. 951, supports this determination.
The American Missionary Society, hereinafer referred to as the "Society," had a clear avenue of legal relief by applying to the Superior Court for a writ mandamus to compel the City of Sierra Madre to issue the permit. There is no question in the court's mind that a writ woud have been issued upon proper application therefor. Hence if this is all the court were called upon to consider the defendants would each be found guilty of the offense charged.
But in this case the real issue is whether the subject ordinance constititional.
Obviously the Fourteenth Amendment becomes immediately involved when municipalities determine to regulate in the field of religion, said amendment preventing the states (and municipalities as a part thereof) from making any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment Lowell v Griffin, 303 US 444. The Historical emergence of the colonists from their beginnings until the adoption of the United States Constitution is one which mirrors considerable religious conflict, the result being a clear decision of the great majority that come what may the government was not to control religion. Separation of church and state was to remain inviolate.
The right to believe according to the dictates of one's own conscience has not afforded any real difficulty. Problems arise when people engage in acts relative to their beliefs. A man may believe in polygamy but may not act to enjoy his belief by acquisition of more than one wife. Society determined this kind of conduct destructive of public welfare and laws were eenacted against polygamy under the police power and held to be constitutional. Obviously there is a point in each particular case where the acts of those having particular religious beliefs may become so onorous to the majority of peope and so affect their right to believe and act that some sort of restraint must come into play.
Just as some acts of those with particular beliefs have been met with legal restaint so has it been regarded as necessary to protect the public from crooks and charlatans who woud use religious quackery to feather their own disreputable nests. It is in ths area of municipal motherhood that the great conflict arises as to where the general line of governmental control is properly protective and where it prohibits free exercise of religion.
The Supeme Court of the State of California has clearly held that municipal regulation designed to determine the legitimate nature of charitable-religious solicitation is legal. Gospel Army v City of Los Angeles, of Los Angeles, 27 c2nd. 232. But said case is not determinative of the matter now before the court since here the concern is solely with religious soliciation conducted as an integral part of the religious belief not having a severable lay-type charitable business operation attached thereto, as was involved in the Gospel Army case.
Hence there does not exist the terrible problem the Supreme Court has in the Gospel Army case of working its way around the words of the Apostle Paul in Chapter XIII of the first Epistle to the Corinthians containing the immortal verse: "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
In this case the court finds as fact that the defendants were each involved in an activity non-severable from the religious belief itself and therefor one of the greatest constitutional guarantees is involved, which cannot be undermined in the guise of municipal regulation. The law must be read carefully to see whether it merely impinges upon the practice of religion and forms a breeding ground for intolerance or is such as to provide reasonable inquiry to prevent fraud. Reasonableness must be most carefuly interpreted as to safeguard religious liberty, which liberty far outweights what may be a more imagined necessity to protect the warmheated, bilkable citizenry than actually exists. Once a religious group has been determined to be bona fide the municipality does not have the right to inquire and seek to control its religious life as contrasted with purely lay business. Once funds are determined to be religious funds acquired as an integal part of the operation of the faith itself it is not for the City Administrator or City Council to pry into or determine how much monies shall be spent. Few, if any, would dispute that government iself offers the best illustration of rising costs and uncetainties of expenditures. Would government have those whose only concern is religion be better advised? Should a church in its seeking benefits as a part of its ministry know of the precise nature of the demand there will be for such funds in this troubled world? Can the costs and expenditures in seeking funds be calculated as to amount by a City Administrator or City Council? Does the City of Sierra Madre really know what its costs or budget juggling is going to be before the start of each fiscal year? Can not the power to make inquiry and demand by government be a most efficient weapon to destroy? And where in the police power is there found the basis to circumscribe the activities of every organization dedicated to a religious doctrine?
Absolute and positive legal support for the nature and kind of government inquiry into the soliciation, use, and disposition of funds obtained or sought by religious organizations engaging in their particular belief must be found or sections 3381, 3382 and 3383 of the Sierra Madre City Code or same must be declared unconstitutional as to the defendants, it being obvious that said sections go far beyond any reasonable, pertinent or germane inquiry to determine if any religious entity is bona fide.
Examing the applicable code sections of the City of Sierra Madre City Code, the following is ascetained:
Section 3381 (c) specifically excludes soliciting funds for religious purposes as being solicitation for charitable purposes, the section specifically stating:
" 'Religious' and 'religion' used
herein shall not mean and include the
word 'charitable' as herein defined... ."
Said section 3381 by the above-quoted wording removes Gospel Army v City of Los Angeles, supra, as controlling case law as said case concerns itself solely with charitable religious soliciation, not plain religious solicitation as herein involved, which religious soliciation constitutes a prat of the very religious belief itself. The difference as to the freedom of religion guaranteed by both the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, is enormous.
Section 3382 provide for permit exemption merely because a religious organization "has continuously had a bona fide place of worship or a bona fide office in the City of Sierra Madre for more than five consecutive years last past." Hence it is that a new Catholic, Episcopal, Quaker, Baptist, Jewish or other church upon beginning is suspect and must submit to the rules and regulations framed within the herein referenced code sections. This kind of classification is clearly a denial of equal protection under the law since it gives to the religious groups presently in Sierra Madre greater privileges and immunities than those who would start now. Hence if the Church of the Latter Day Saints had come into existence in 1964 instead of earlier in our national history, it would suffer the invasion of its solicitation and all other church records by the City Administrator or City Council who would then suffer said church for explantions as called for in the following sections. Nothing could be further from proper exercise of police power or public benefit or fraught with greater potential destruction of religious freedom.
Section 3382, referred to above, states "no person shall solicit contributions for any religious purpose within the city without a permit from the Administrator authorizing such solicitation..." So this includes the request for money to feed and house the minister, rabbi or priest so that the great work of these religions may go on, as well as everything else connected with religious life including the obtaining of funds with which to provide religious works, a vial part of nearly every faith.
Section 3383, headed "Application for Charitable Solicitations permit" includes, by reference to aforesaid section 3382, religious solicitations. Now it is very important to note that as to relgious solicitation the following things are demanded or one must show cause to the Administrator, by whom no standard of guidance is given, as to why such requested information cannot be furnished.
Section 3383 (c) the purpose for which such solicitation is to be made, the total amount of funds proposed to be raised hereby and the use or disposition to be made of any receipts therefrom.
3383 (d) A specific statement supported by reasons and if available figures showing the need for the contributions to be solicited;
3383 (e) the names and addresses of the persons or person by whom the receipts of such solicitations shall be disbursed.
3883 (g) An outline of the method or methods to be used in conducting the soliciation.
3383 (k) A financial statement for the last preceding year of any funds collected for charitalble or religious purposes by the applicant, said statement giving the amout of money so raised, together with the cost of raising it, and the final distribution thereof.
3383 (o) Such other information as may be reasonably required by the Administator in order for him to determine the kind and character of the proposed solicitation.
Reading not only the section as set forth above but the entirety of seciton 3383 it is evident said section was drawn with a thought to charitable solicitations such as the cancer and heart funds and NOT with any real conception of application thereof to religious soliciations, or even charitable-religious solicitations, the latter issue which is not faced herein.
The quoted sections go far beyond any effort to esablish identity of the religious organization, authority of the persons involved to act on its behalf or any reasonable inquiry that the applicant entity is in fact a bona fide religious organization.
When a Caholic, Jewish or Protestant church solicits fund for religious purposes, as must be done to carry on their works, where lies the right of the City of Sierra Madre to say or inquire as to the disposition of the funds collected, as section 3383 (c) requires of those not established for five years? What more onorous trespass into religious liberty can trere be than this?
By what great manifesto does the City of Sierra Madre determine the need for religious funds? To what shrine shall the City Administrator or City Council adjourn to seek guidance? If the majority of the Council were composed of persons opposed to any or all religions would their decision to issue a permit be different than if composed of those whose belief would be the same as the applicant? Suffice it is to say that any government determination as to the need of religious organizations for funds is a blatant violation of the right of all churches in great constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state.
Are those in charge of disbursing the funds of any church to have their names disclosed to anyone? Again this section was written without religious organizations engaging in purely religious work in mind. Must the churches who shall come to Sierra Madre in the future advise the City of Sierra Madre how their solicited funds are spread throughout the world? Must each dollar be ear-marked for some a particular purpose for some unknown benefit to the City Manager or the City of Sierra Madre? Where is there any slightest or remote benefit to the people of Siera Madre that such an invasion of the private affairs of churches be made?
To further discuss section 3383 would be to unduly belabor the obvious point that the requirements of said section go far beyond any conceivable police power and are clearly unconstitutional.
While the court finds section 3381 to be unconstitutional in its application to religious soliciation there should also be mention made of section 3385, 3386 and 3391.
Sectioin 3385 provides, in part, as follows: "Upon request by the Adminisrator the applicant shall make available for inspection by the administrator or any person designated in writing by the Administrator as his representative for such purpose, all of the applicant's books, records and papers..." Not even in California's broad discovery statues can one find such a blanket right to invade the business affairs of a party. To grant such a broad, undefined power to anyone in respect to the affairs of religious orgnizations is frigfhtening in the threat to religious activity it provides. The fact this section may be designed for non-religious charity solicitations does not provide it any shield from it being unconstitutional.
More than ample support for holding the subject code sections unconstitutional is provided by the United States Supreme Cout holding in Cantwell vs Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296. In this case a certificate was required to be obtained from the secretary of the public welfare council before solicitation for any religious purpose. The said secretary could determine whether to issue same or not depending on "whether such cause is a religious one or is a bona fide object of charity and conforms reasonable standards of efficiency and integrity." The court found this section unconstitutional. The court stated that the First Amendment as to freedom of religion embodies two concepts - freedom to believe and freedom to act, stating "The first is absolute, but in the nature of things, the second cannot be." "Conduct," the court stated, "remains subject to regulation for the protection of society." After pausing to point out the necessity of regulation for "peace, good order and comfort of the community" in respect to action pertaining to religion the court states as to the secretary authorized to issue or withhold the certificate:
"His decision to issue or refuse it
involves appraisal facts, the
execise of judgment and the
formation of an opinion. He is
authorized to withhold his approval
if he determines that the cause is
not a religious one. Such a cen-
sorship of religion as the means
of determining its right to survive
is denial of liberty protected by
the First Amendment and included
in the liberty which is within the
protection of the Fourteenth.
The court dispenses with the augument that if the Secretary acts arbitrary the applicant has a remedy by court action given several reasons, the most succinct being that "A statue authorizing previous restraint upon the exercise of the guaranteed freedom by judicial decision after trial is as obnoxious to the Constitution as one providing for like restaint by administrative action.
The court in Cantwell is careful to cover legislative right to prevent religious frauds, stating:
Nothing we have said is intended
even remotely to imply that, under
the cloak of religion, persons may,
with impunity, commit frauds upon
the public. Certainly penal laws
are available to punish such con-
duct. Even exercise of religion
may be at some slight inconve-
nience in order that the state may
protect its citizens from injury.
Without doubt a state may protect
its citizens from fraudulent soli-
ciation by requiring a stranger
in the community, before permit-
ing him publicly to solicit funds
for any purpose, to establish his
identity and his authority to act
for the cause he purports to rep-
resent. The state is likewise
free to regulate the time and
manner of soliiation generally,
in the interest of public safety
peace, comfort of convenience.
But to condition the solicitation
of aid for the perpetuation of
religious views or systems upon a
license, the grant of which rests
in the exercise of a determina-
tion by state authority as to what
is a religious cause, is to lay a
forbidden burden upon the exercise
of liberty protected by the con-
stitution. (Emphasis added by
The court in discussing another law not involved in this case touches upon one of the hearthstones of the rights contained in the first Amendment, as follows:
"In the realm of religious faith, and
in that of political belief, sharp
differences arise. In both fields
the tenants of one man seem to
be rankest error to his neighbor. To
persuade others to his own point of
view, the pleader, as we know, at
times resorts to exaggeration, to
vilification of men who have been
or are prominent in church or state
and even to false statements. But
the people of this nation have or-
dained in the light of history, that,
in spite of the probability of
excesses and abuses, these liberties
are, in the long view, essential to
enligtened opinion and right con-
duct on the part of citizens of a
The essential characteristic of these
liberties is, that under their shield
many types of life, character, opin-
ion and belief can develop unmolested
and unobstruced. Nowhere is this
shield more necesasry and in our own
country for a people composed of many
races and of many creeds."
Not only does the Cantwell case emphatically support the defendants' contention that the charge brought against them is based upon and unconstitutional law but Surpreme Court cases cited by the People do so in equal measure.
The people cite Largent v Texas. 318 U.S. 423. In this case the subject ordinance of the City of Paris, Texas, provided that a license would only be issued, "if after investigation the Mayor deems it proper or advisable." Justice Reed summarily reversed the conviction of Daisy Largent, soliciting for a religious group, stating the subject ordinance to constitute "administrative censorship in an extreme form." Likewise in the case before the court administrative censorship given the City Administrator is an extreme form.
Much is made in cases involving municipal ordinances governing door-to-door solicitations; that they are proper for the comfort and safety of the householders and hence well within police power regulation. In each case this type of municipal motherhood by which city government detemines that householders are unable to act as adult persons in relation to their own interests the court has carefully weighted the rights involved and found the compelling benefits of free speech and freedom of religion far outweighing any police power justification. In Martin v Struthers, 319 U.S.141, another case cited by the People, Justice Black, writing the majority opinion, discusses this problem as follow:
"ordinances...may be aimed at the
protection of the householders
from annoyance, including the in-
trusion upon the hours of rest, and
in the prevention of crime, Con-
stant callers... may lesen the
peaceful enjoyment of a home as
much as a neighborhood glue factory
or railroad yard which zoning they
may prohibit...while door-to-door
distributors of literature may be
either a nuisance or a blind for
criminal activities, they may also
be useful members of society en-
gaged in the dissemination of ideas
in accordance with the best tradition
of free disicussion...many of our
most widely established religious
organizations have used this method
of disseminating their doctrines and
laboring groups have used it in re-
cruiting their members...and of course
as every person acqainted with polit-
ical life knows, door-to-door campaign-
ing is one of the most accepted tech-
niques of seekig popular support.. .
freedom to distribute information to
every citizen wherever he desires to
receive it is so clearly vital to the
presentation of a free society that,
putting aside reasonable police and
health regulations of time and manner
of distrbution, it must be fully re-
served. The dangers of distribution
can be so easily controlled by tradi-
tional legal methods, leaving to each
householder the full right to decide
whether he will receive strangers as
visitors that stringent prohibition
can serve no purpose but that forbid-
den by the Constitution."
The dissemination of ideas, free speech, freedom of religion are inseparable in importance and what is said in protection of one applies with equal vigor in the support of anoher. Would not almost every citizen rise to defend the rights of those who will soon be going door-po-door soliciting aid for their particular political pursuasion be same Republican or Democrat, or some right or left field fringe groups, all of whom have as a necesary purpose the obtaining of assistance beyond the householder's vote, as a worker or contributor. This is a part of the heart beat of democracy. And as clealy pointed out in the Jehovah Witness cases their manner of work and solicitation is a part of their religious endeavor or belief and it is as equally important to garantee their religious freedom as any other in like manner as we would protect the freedom of speech and dissemination of political ideas by persons on the same door-to-door basis with the same partial aim that funds be obtained to aid the particular cause.
While the court has found ample legal support for its position reason must be suggested why the City of Sierra Madre finds itself with an unconstitutional law on its books in respect to religious solicitation. It appears clear to the court that the problem is created by careless draftsmanship. There can be no justification for such draftsmanship where a municipality elects to involve itself with constitutional liberties. Laws relating to rights contained in the First Amendment must be clear and concise and within the power of the municipality. Laws badly drawn in the field of these great rights are not to be salvaged by some misapplication of the municipal shield that every intendment must be given to enactments of laws in favor of validity.
The subject ordinances of the City of Sierra Made were obviously drawn with the real purpose of covering charitable solicitations, such as the numerous health funds and not even charitable-religious solicitations. Section 3383 is used as a catch-all for all solicitations and it is here that the drafsman of the subject sections made his cardinal error in failing to recognize the great difference in the kind of solicitations blanketed under section 3383, or if he realized same he trusted the matter would never come to light.
Having disposed of the constitutional question the court believes that mention need be made in regard to the failure of the City Administrator and City Council to appreciate the nature of their proper conduct in respect to the law sought to be administered and in regard to matters relating to proper public hearing as it is in the best interest of justice that there be an awareness of what happened so that the future errors of the kind made by the City of Sierra Madre will not be repeated by said city or any other under the same general circumstances.
Reading section 3385 of the Sierra Madre City Code in light of the facts the impact is substantial that neither the City Administration not the City Council were cognizant of their power even under the pertinent code sections, without consideration of their constitutionality. Said section says: "in the case of an application for a permit to solicit for religious purposes if the administrator finds that any of the statements are not true, he shall deny the application. Otherwise he shall grant same." The court finds as fact that the City Administrator never did say that any of the contents of the applicants' application were not ture. All he did say, at best, is what he wrote in his letter of September 15, 1964 (P1. Ex #9) that "the details of your operation, method of solicitation, payment to solicitors and service to the community are of such vague and undescribed terms that this office cannot, in good faith, issue a permit for solicitation." This is not saying anything is untrue. The City Council compounded the error by failing to consider just what power it had in the matter, paying no heed to section 3391 which says, in part,... "the City Council shall (on appeal) conduct a public hearing thereon and make such investigation as it shall direct, and thereafter may take any action upon an application which the administrator could have taken in the first instance. The City Council even went so far as to hear people testify as to what they thought about door--to-door religious solicitations generally and other immaterial coment which had nothing to do with the determining if the subject application was untrue.
Pubic hearings must be conducted pursuant to law. A public hearing is not so conducted where the statutory provisions concerning the particular heaing are completely ignored and evidence of considerable magnitude received upon immaterial matters. One of the great evils of permitting such evidene is that the applicant or the City itself, may become involved in attempting to answer that which has nothing to do with the matter to be determined and the real issue become so beclouded as to negate the possiblity a fair result can ensue.
The City of Sierra Madre could not arbitrarily change its law respecting the statutory limitations governing it by merely ignoring same in the conduct of its affirms. Ordinances are only to be enacted, amended or repealed by pocedure laid down in the Government Code.
In addition to not properly considering the limitations of its conduct the City Council improperly closed the public hearing irrespective of the belabored effort to obtain the applicant's approval of infomation being considered after closing the same.
The idea that there was some sort of waiver by the Society to a public hearing by the request that the City Cuuncil be permited to consider a yet unproduced and undefined report is rejected. To waive something one must have knowledge of what is being waived, which was clearly not done--nor possible under the circumstances--by the Society. The report, as considered by the City Coucil, at the council session, after the hearing was closed represents objectionable evidence since much therein contained is hearsay upon hearsay i.e., someone told someone else something and he told it to the writer of the report. Hence how could the Society even conceive of what it was asked to waive? Obviously it couldn't.
But even laying aside the matter of waiver the City Council should never have considered the report at all. Since the council was called upon to consider the truthfulness of the statement made by the Society in its application the council is setting in a quasi-judicial capacity. The object of the hearing is to consider creditable evidence. How can any fair or creditable evidene as to truthfulnes be made where the truthfulness of evidence presented cannot be tested at all? Obviously the applicant is in no position to interrogate the person who told the person who wrote the report as to the truthfulness of his statements. While administrative hearing are fraught with evidentiary looseness (causing seasoned trial laywers gray hair) there is no license at all for the kind of evidence represented by the subject report being received against the Society. The type of evidene represented by the subject report is no more trustworthy than that of slander mongers spreading evil character assassination behind the cloak of irresponsibility. Those who do not have to stand the acid tests of truthfulness before the accused or suspect should not be placed in the position of being able to bear false witnesss against one bound to appear before those conducting a public hearing to defend the truth of his assertions.
The failure to properly consider the matter before them, the improper request of waiver, the improper closing of the public hearing and the consideration of that which should not have been considered, compound themselves to the conclusion that a fair hearing was not afforded to the Society. Adherence to fair hearing means more than merely acting in good faith. In the case before the court there is nothing in the record to disclose anything other than that the subject councilmen acted as honorable men in good faith. But these facts alone do not produce fair hearing. A gross miscarriage of justice can result where knowledge of the applicable law is lacking. The very success of our constitutional form of government hinges upon government by law and not by the whims and caprices of men, no matter how well intentioned. Therefore the nature of what is to be heard must be known as well as the limits as to how far the hearing body can go to determine the issue, before, during and after the public hearing.
All matters involving heated community issues generate problems relating to fair hearings. It is but simple recognition of the world of practical politics that councilmen do not live in an untainted vacuum before public hearings. There are pressures from those who would like predeveloped opinioin reducing the hearing to window dressing for the passing of a resolution previously agreed to. The greater the pressure group the harder the problem for the councilman who wishes to wait until all of the evidence is in before he applies it to the legalities of the hearing and makes up his mind.
Predecision by any councilman because of pressure or his own prejudgment is bad enough but a greater breakdown in public hearings occurs when counilmen themselves get involved in secret meetings, back door conferences, round-robin phone calls, pulse sampling from those they seek to please and other acts destined to make a mockery of public hearing. The Brown Act, which represents a definite step toward eliminating the evil of decision arrived at away from public views or inquiry is only a step in the right direction. Neither the Brown Act or any other act can make a councilman act in good conscience. The Act can prevent the most obvious but only direct the proper course of conduct otherwise. Fair hearings only result when those charged with hearing are fully informed as to all facets of fair hearing, and they conscientiously to arrive at a just result.
Being properly advised and acting in good conscience councilmen not only then will serve the general public and persons immediately involved in the subject matter but they do an even larger service in the necessary constant refortification of faith in the democratic form of government. It is in city council hearings that by far and away the greater number of Americans come in contact with goverment in action and hence it is here much of public opinion of how government conducts itself is formed. And therefore the matter of public hearing is no small matter or of little importance, and why the subject matter of same cannot go unnoticed in this opinion.
Sectoin 3383 and 3381 of the Sierra Madre City Code, as construed and applied to the defendants are unconstitutinal, being in contaventioin of the Fourteenth Amendment, which Amendment embraces the liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment. The shogun attempt to cover totally divergent matters by the draftsmanship of the City of Sierra Madre Code Section herein above set forth create a vehicle for monstrous abuse of constitutional liberties which cannot be tolerated. (Emphasis added by underlining).
The defendants are ordered discharged.
Dated January 20, 1966
Henry W. Shatford
THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL
South Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, California
November 8, 1966
American Missonary Society
South Western Avenue
Los Angeles, California
Attention: U. J. Fields
Dear Reverend Fields:
Enclosed find communication from the District Court stating that they will not hear your case.
I would like to thank you very much for referring the matter to me, and I am very gratified to know that you are satisfied with the result.
Very truly yours,
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL
OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT
THE PEOPLE OF THE
STATE OF CALIFORNIA 2d Cr. No. 12587
Plaintiff and Appellant, Superior Trial
Court No. Court No.
URIAH J.FIELDS, CR A6799 NO 74254
SUNNIEZ LEAVEAIN TODD, CR A6931 NO 74252
NATHANIEL BALL, CR A6932 NO 74253 JOHNNIE FELTON CAMERON, CR A6933 NO 74255
The record on transfer in the above entitled cause having been filed in this Court on September 2, 1966 pursuant to certification made by this Appellate Department of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, and this Court having considered the matter of whether such cause should be transferred to this Court for hearing and decision, now, therefor, it is hereby ordered that such transfer be and it hereby is denied.
District Court of Appeal - Second District
F I L E D
J. T. Alley Clerk
(Emphasis added by underlining)
CODA: Is the Judicial System a Friend or Foe?
I suppose people in general can say that the courts have been both a friend and a foe but for African Americans who were the plaintiff and defendants in the cases cited above, the courts have been a friend. However, much too often in cases where African Americans pleaded for justice, the courts have denied them justice.
In the annals of American history the courts have been an enemy to African Americans as evidenced in the Dred Scott case. Scott sued for his freedon in 1847; ten years later, after appeals and court reversals his case was finally brought to the United States Supreme Court. In 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote the "majority opinion" for the case. It stated that because Scott was a slave he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. It further stated that "a black man had no right which a white man was bound to respect."
In 1896 the Supeme Court ruled in "Plessy v. Ferguson" that "separate but equal" was constitutional." That decision emboldened the Ku Klux Klan and led Southern politicians to nullify existing Civil Rights Acts and in the name of states rights enact "black codes" that denied blacks justice and equal protection under the law until nearly fifty-eight years later, when the Supreme Court ruled in the 1954 "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka" that "separate but equal is inherently unequal and unconstitutional."
For African Americans the struggle for justice in the courts continues. The Supreme Court has become politicized. Justices are designated as being conservative or liberal, reflecting to a considerable degree, the political philosophy of the President who appointed them to the courts. Historically, conservative judges, just as conservatives, in general, have not been friends of African Americans. In the first decade of the Twenty-first century, conservative judges are among the voices who contend that we now live in a "post-racial society." Obviously, conservatives have been chief among those who have not contributed to, but often opposed, effecting racial justice. I have not known a single white conservative to die in promoting civil rights but I have known some white liberals to die fighting for black justice.
Today, conservative judges are among those who contend that America is now a "post-racial society." The truth is: Americans do not live in a "post-racial society." America remains a racial society despite the fact that Barack Obama is President of the United States. Racial progress has been made, especially, since the mid-1950s, but African Americans do not have equal justice, and courts are greatly at fault for promoting injustice. May we, in practice be "a nation of laws, not of men."
God give us judges
in our courts who will dispense
justice; who will realize that ultimately
they will be judged and held
accountable for the decisions
Coyright 2009 by Uriah J. Fields