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Posted: March 11, 2008
9:13 pm Eastern

© 2008 WorldNetDaily
The prosecuting attorney for Waterford Township in Michigan has been accused of spying on a church’s activities and personally leading police raids on its worship band because he doesn’t like “rock” music.

In a lawsuit filed by the Thomas More Law Center, Prosecuting Attorney Walter Bedell is accused of coordinating raids on Faith Baptist Church and its worship band in which uniformed police officers entered the church without permission or a warrant and accused band members of “disorderly conduct.”

The raids apparently were prompted by a neighbor who complained about being able to hear the church’s worship band from his nearby home, according to lawyers for the Thomas More Law Center.

But from there on, the lawsuit said, things were out of control.

“Without a warrant or other legal authorization, uniformed police officers conducted several raids on Faith Baptist Church in Waterford Township, Mich., and threatened to prosecute several young Christian musicians for disorderly conduct – because the township prosecutor objected to the playing of contemporary religious music,” the law firm confirmed.

Spokesman Brian Rooney called it prosecutorial “overzealousness.”

“He shouldn’t do that as a prosecutor,” Rooney suggested, because of the potential conflict of interest. “Now he’s a potential witness.”

He said the church, in that location for more than 50 years, is close to both homes and an airport. In order to minimize its impact in its own neighborhood, church officials have worked to insulate their building.

Still, one of the neighbors recently complained about hearing the worship band from his yard, the law firm said.

As a result, several police raids were conducted, musicians were threatened with prosecution, and church officials even had to work to convince officers not to interrupt a worship service to take the drivers’ licenses of band members.

“Uniformed police officers entering a church during religious services and young church members being threatened with prosecution is something that happens in Communist China – not in America,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Law Center.

“It is clear that Waterford Township authorities targeted Faith Baptist Church because of the type of religious music it uses in its services. Some of the individual police officers involved in the raids – apparently more sensitive to the constitutional protections surrounding religion than were their superiors – personally apologized afterwards,” he said.

Township Supervisor Carl Solden, who also is a defendant in the case, told WND the police did not “raid” the church. “We haven’t done any raids on churches,” he said.

He said the issue arose from the neighbor who several times has complained about hearing church praise band music in his home. “That was the pretext on which we were there (at the church),” he said. He told WND since he wasn’t there, he had few other details about the situations that developed.

Other defendants are the township itself as well as Police Chief Daniel T. McCaw and his deputy Jeffrey James.

Faith Baptist, which is headed by Pastor Jim Combs, has a congregation of 10,000 who attend services on three campuses. The police raids targeted the Waterford Township campus with 5,000 members, the lawsuit said.

The pastor contacted Thomas More in late 2007 after the raids developed. One happened during a Wednesday night youth service when uniformed police officers led by the prosecutor himself “burst into the church’s sanctuary where the church’s ‘Praise and Worship’ band was warming up,” the lawsuit said.

“The prosecutor ordered the officers to take the names and addresses of all the young people on stage so that they could be charged with ‘disorderly conduct,'” it said.

“The very next Sunday, Waterford Township police again raided Faith Baptist, this time during Pastor Comb’s evening sermon. Officers were about to disrupt the services and remove the ‘Praise and Worship’ band members and order them to surrender their driver’s licenses for personal information. However, an assistant pastor volunteered to bring the members to the police so as not to create an uproar among the congregation.”

The lawsuit described the law enforcement team raid this way:

“These officers were instructed by a supervisor to make liaison with Bedell and inform him that they were en route to FBC. The uniformed officers rendezvoused with Bedell, who, acting in a law enforcement capacity, personally led and directed this raid. Bedell and the uniformed officers, again without a search warrant, arrest warrant or any other legal authority, entered FBC, advanced into the interior chapel, and detained and began interrogating Youth Pastor Jayson Combs. Bedell and the uniformed police officers also detained members of FBC’s band, including two children…”

Then just days later, church officials spotted the prosecutor personally conducting “surveillance” on the church from his parked car, the lawsuit said.

The action alleges violations of the free exercise of religion, free speech and freedom of association rights for the church and band members under both the Michigan and U.S. Constitutions.

“The township prosecutor was very explicit: he told the pastors that churches should not play ‘rock music,’ and threatened that each time he heard music coming from the church he would conduct a raid,” said Brandon Bolling, the Law Center attorney who is working on the case.

“Defendents threatened that every time a complaint is received against FBC, they will conduct a raid, conduct investigation therein, and collect evidence sufficient to charge FBC members with violating the Township Ordinance.”

The multiple claims for relief included allegations the church members “suffered and continue to suffer fear, humiliation, shame, indignity, worry, embarrassment, loss of reputation, and emotional and physical distress.”

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