Victor Petersen – Protecting Individual Rights

On 3/15/2011, Victor Petersen was asked this question: “What is your primary role as a Council Member?” Without hesitation, he answered “Protect individual rights.” (“LD22 Gilbert Council Candidate Forum, Minus the No-Shows”)

He is the only candidate running for Town Council, including the 4 incumbents (Linda Abbott, Dave Crozier, Les Presmyk and Ben Cooper), to make this profound statement. Mr. Petersen is very familiar with the Federal Constitution and the Arizona State Constitution, and has read Gilbert’s Municipal code.

On Mr. Petersen’s website, he states, “My goal is to always keep an eye on decisions and policies so that we maintain the proper constitutional balance. Following the Constitution is a legacy worth protecting.”

Why is this important?

Over a period of about two months, the Town of Gilbert managed to violate its citizens’: 1) freedom of speech; 2) right to petition the Town for redress of grievances; 3) free exercise of religion; 4) the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and 5) FERA (Free Exercise of Religion Act), an Arizona law, among others.

Would these violations of our Constitutional rights have happened if Victor Petersen had been on the Council?

In one of these scenarios, Gilbert finally made the national news…”Banished! City Forbids Bible Studies in Homes.” (World Net Daily) Now there’s some PR for you.

02/9/2010. Minutes before the Council meeting takes place, the Town Attorney advises Mayor Lewis that, per ARS 9-500.14(A), the citizens will no longer be allowed to speak out in the Council meetings either for or against the proposed tax increase.

That ban would have stood had it not been challenged by a handful of citizens who stood up on their feet and said, “NO!” But the majority Council ignored emails from its citizens who stated that their First Amendment rights were being violated. Even Linda Abbott, who teaches Civics at Mesquite High School.

These citizens appealed to the Goldwater Institute. This very busy government watchdog defends ordinary citizens against government abuses on a daily basis. They took the case, and the citizens prevailed. The Council allowed citizens to speak out. (“Goldwater Institute Enters Free Speech Fracas.”)

03/13/2010. In late 2009, Pastor Joe Sutherland of the Oasis of the Truth Church received a “cease and desist” letter from Code Compliance Officer Steve Wallace. Mr. Wallace cited the Town’s Land Development Code, advising him to stop holding church services in his home. Pastor Sutherland explained that his services included only 7 friends and family.

This had no effect on the “professional judgment” of Senior Planner/Zoning Administrator Mike Millilo who upheld Mr. Wallace’s order. On 2/26/2010, he issued a zoning interpretation, charging Pastor Sutherland $305 for this document, telling him that “without guidance from the code, the Zoning Administrator must apply his best professional judgment……The assembly activities associated with the church, including bible studies, church leadership meetings and church fellowship activities are not permitted.”

The Town Attorney was copied on the 2/26/2010 letter and did nothing.

In essence, the Town Attorney saw nothing wrong with the Town forbidding a group of 7 people from holding a bible study in the privacy of their home.

Pastor Sutherland appealed to the Alliance Defense Fund (see link on Gilbert Watch). On March 10, 2010, The Alliance Defense Fund issued a 10-page appeal, which was hand-carried and faxed to the Town.

Did the Town Attorney take action? Did the Council?

Not until 3/12/2010, when their phones started ringing off the hook from news reporters across the county, did they detect that something was amiss.

And that, my fellow Gilbert conservatives, is one more reason you want Victor Petersen on the Council, “protecting individual rights.”

See the link to Victor Petersen’s website on Gilbert Watch’s Home page.