About

Daniel J. Sparks

Welcome to my website. I’m an Anglican evangelical minister, teacher, speaker, and writer. I minister in the Anglican Reformed Archdeaconry of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). I live in Missouri, where I minister to military veterans.

Before coming to Missouri, I worked with veterans in Georgia; served as vicar of a small church in Indiana; and served as assisting pastor and interim headmaster of a classical school in Texas.

A few years ago, I served as a chaplain in the U.S. Army, with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. My experiences in the military shaped me a great deal, and my heart still quickens when I think about my soldiers and their families, about war, and about the ministry of chaplains. On occasion, you may see this come through my writing–I assure you, however, that whatever surfaces is only the tip of what is within my heart.

My writing here is sometimes ordered and sometimes rambling. I’ve arranged the topics I address into these categories:

  • Faith: items about the Christian faith, pastoral ministry, and Anglicanism.
  • Citizenship: reflections on society, including the responsibilities of citizenship and governance.
  • Family: thinking on the bonds of matrimony and family life.
  • Miscellany: remarks about myself or other passing matters.

I’m a native son of Alabama, and though I’ve lived in six other states, I still consider it my home. I was educated in a rural public school (from which I am still recovering) and at The University of Alabama (for which I have a fondness, but from which I am also recovering). I completed seminary at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School (about which I have mixed feelings as I watch the university drift from its Christian identity).

Before my time in the military, I worked in parish and non-parochial ministry in Alabama. I was deeply engaged in events surrounding the public expression of Christian faith and the sanctity of human life. These are matters that remain important to me, and I am learning how best to continue my involvement–particularly in this time when there is a rise in public intimidation of Christians in these United States.

If you find something helpful in these pages, I hope it may be very helpful. If you discover something unhelpful, I hope it will rapidly pass from your mind. If you find something harmful, I hope you will inform me post-haste.

May the peace of our Lord, which passes all understanding, guard your heart and mind as you trust in him.

Daniel J. Sparks

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Bill Pryor

The Treachery of Bill Pryor

treachery
n. pl. treach·er·ies
1. Willful betrayal of fidelity, confidence, or trust; perfidy.
2. The act or an instance of such betrayal.
(The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.)

I’ve written before of the treachery of Bill Pryor, former Attorney General of Alabama and now sitting judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. With the looming vote on Pryor’s nomination to a lifetime appointment to that court, I offer more reflections.

Jeff Sessions served as Alabama Attorney General until his election to the U.S. Senate. Governor Fob James appointed Pryor to the office vacated by Sessions. At the time, Circuit Judge Roy Moore, of Etowah County, was defendant in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) because of prayers Judge Moore allowed in his courtroom and a Ten Commandments plaque in the courtroom.

Gov. James steadfastly defended Judge Moore and showed his solidarity by speaking publicly on the issues involved. When Gov. James was considering Pryor for appointment to the office of Attorney General, he questioned Pryor about his support for Judge Moore and the Ten Commandments display. The governor was assured that Pryor, like him, would stand in defense of Judge Moore.

Judge Moore had stated that he would not obey any court order to remove the Ten Commandments plaque from his courtroom. Pryor had defended this type of “non-acquiescence” in conversation with Gov. James and had even written in favor of such an approach in the Tulane Law Review. Pryor publicly stated that he would defend Judge Moore and that, even if some court ordered that Judge Moore remove the Ten Commandments from the courtroom, he would stand with Judge Moore in refusing to obey the order. On April 12, 1997, I attended a “Ten Commandments Rally” on the lawn of the state capitol in Montgomery. At that rally, Attorney General Pryor vocalized–before thousands of supporters–that he stood firmly in agreement with Judge Moore and Gov. James and even that he had become an attorney so he could fight the ACLU.

Later, when Judge Moore became Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and installed a Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building, Attorney General Pryor defended him. He appointed two of Chief Justice Moore’s lawyers as deputy attorneys general. The chief justice was sued in his official capacity and the state defended him in that capacity (albeit, at no cost to the state).

When Myron Thompson, judge of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, ordered that Chief Justice Moore remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama judicial building, the chief justice refused. Attorney General Pryor then set out on a crusade to portray himself in the best possible light and Judge Moore in the worst; he appeared on television programs and gave several interviews to the press in which he vilified the action of Chief Justice Moore and painted himself as a man who had to do an unfortunate duty because of the wild, unbridled reveling of a hardened criminal. Pryor lobbied the associate justices of the Alabama Supreme Court to remove the monument themselves. The associate justices did so.

A complaint of ethical misconduct was filed against Chief Justice Moore before the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) and he was suspended from the bench pending an investigation. The JIC initially acted as a grand jury, considering the evidence against Chief Justice Moore and deciding whether the complaint warranted an ethics trial. The Commission concluded that there was sufficient reason to bring the case to trial; at this point, the JIC became the plaintiff in a case against the chief justice before the Court of the Judiciary (COJ).

When the JIC brought the case to the COJ, Attorney General Pryor became the prosecutor. Chief Justice Moore’s attorneys protested Pryor’s prosecution of the chief justice because Pryor had been privy to Moor’s defense of the Ten Commandments case–if Pryor were to prosecute the chief justice, the attorney-client privilege would be violated. Not only would this have been problematic; the attorney general’s own prior statements were in support of the chief justice and his subsequent prosecution of Moore would have been a betrayal of the chief justice and the state’s position on the display of the Ten Commandments and the public acknowledgement of God.

However, this was not the only conflict of interest at issue. The terms of two members of the COJ had expired. The attorney general issued an advisory opinion to Governor Bob Riley, stating that it was acceptable for the two members to remain on the court even though their terms had expired. In effect, Attorney General Pryor was hand-picking two judges of the very court before which he would prosecute Chief Justice Moore. Every one of the several challenges of the chief justice’s attorneys to the numerous conflicts of interest in the case were denied by the court.

On November 13, 2003, I sat in the courtroom of the Alabama Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Moore was tried for ethical misconduct. I witnessed Attorney General Pryor stand before the COJ, questioning the chief justice about his actions. The attorney general and his deputies played for the court a news video tape of Chief Justice Moore speaking at a rally at the state capitol on August 16, 2003, wherein he stated that he could not and would not obey the order of Judge Thompson to remove the Ten Commandments monument. This was the entirety of the prosecution’s argument. The defense attorneys called Moore to the stand; after the chief justice’s attorneys had completed their questioning, Attorney General Pryor stepped up to cross examine him.

Thrice Pryor asked Moore if he would continue to acknowledge God no matter what any man told him. Thrice Moore answered in the affirmative. Here follows a snippet of the official court transcript:

Pryor: “And if you resume your duties as Chief Justice after this proceeding, you will continue to acknowledge God as you have testified that you would today?”

Moore: “That’s right.”

Pryor: “No matter what any other official says?”

Moore: “Absolutely. Without–let me clarify that–without an acknowledgment of God, I cannot do my duties. I must acknowledge God. It says so in the Constitution of Alabama, it says so in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It says so in everything I’ve read.”

Pryor: “The only point I am trying to clarify, Mr. Chief Justice, is not why, but only that, in fact, if you do resume your duties as Chief Justice, you will continue to do that without regard to what any other official says. Isn’t that right?”

Moore: “I … must.”

Bill Pryor has shown that he is untrustworthy; he is faithless. He violated the promise of his appointment which he made to Gov. James. He violated the statements of his own conscience made publicly, without duress. He violated the Alabama Constitution of 1901, Section 3, by prosecuting Chief Justice Moore for his religious beliefs. He violated the U.S. Constitution, Article 6, by imposing a religious test for qualification of a state judicial officer. Pryor attempted to coerce a state constitutional officer to violate his oath to uphold the Alabama constitution and to defend the rights of the people.

If all those things weren’t enough, Bill Pryor, who is supposedly a devout Roman Catholic, asked Roy Moore, a Christian, to deny God before men. This is the very thing that Satan tried to convince Christ to do (Matthew 4:8-10):

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, ‘Alll these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.’ Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.'”

And this is the very thing that Christ said would lead to damnation (Matthew 10:32-33):

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Not only has Pryor tried to entice another to accept man’s authority above God’s authority, he has done much more. He instructed Alabama’s district attorneys not to enforce, in certain cases, the requirements of the Alabama law against partial birth abortion. He testified before Congress in 2003 that, although Roe v. Wade is “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history”, he would not oppose the terms of that decision if he were to be approved for a federal judgeship–because he is able to separate his personal beliefs from his duty to obey “the law”.

Chairman [Orrin] Hatch: “So even though you disagree with Roe v. Wade you would act in accordance with Roe v. Wade on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals?”

Mr. Pryor: “Even though I strongly disagree with Roe v. Wade I have acted in accordance with it as Attorney General and would continue to do so as a Court of Appeals Judge.”

As a currently sitting federal judge, in the state-sanctioned murder of Terri Schiavo, Pryor refused to even register dissent in the federal appeals court’s decision not to allow a new hearing of her case.

For these reasons, and many more like them, Bill Pryor should have never been nominated to a federal judgeship or given a recess appointment by President George Bush. He should certainly not now be approved by the Senate for a lifetime appointment as a federal judge. How long will we decry judicial activism yet continue to put in place judicial activists? Can we tolerate as a magistrate–who had a duty before God–a man who persecutes others for acknowledging God? How can we tolerate as a magistrate a man who affirms that the destruction of life is morally wrong and that judges who interpret the Constitution to allow abortion are wrong but would still go along with those judges?

Source Documents

  • Transcript of the ethics trial of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore before the Court of the Judiciary. Attorney General Bill Pryor, prosecutor.
  • Video clip of the cross examination of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore by Attorney General Bill Pryor in the ethics trial of Moore. (High Bandwidth) (Low Bandwidth) (Audio Only) (YouTube)
  • Affidavit submitted by former Alabama Governor Fob James to the Court of the Judiciary. James alleged that Pryor was faithless.
  • Affidavit submitted by Fob James, III (son of the former governor) to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. James alleges that Pryor was faithless.
  • Motion to disqualify members of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary. Argued that the terms of two judges had expired.
  • Transcript of the June 11, 2003 U.S. Senate hearing on the nomination of Bill Pryor for federal appeals court judgeship.
  • Federal appeals court for the 11th Circuit en banc order refusing to give a new hearing in the Terri Schindler (Schiavo) case.

Recommended Reading

Friends of God

There were many friends of God in Pinellas Park.

I’ve already mentioned Tracie. She was very kind, and her devotion to godly servanthood was obvious. On Saturday, I bumped into Thomas Bowman, my friend from Kentucky. He had once again travelled long hours from home to stand for God’s truth. Thomas communicates the word of God through his music.

Monsignor Malanowski was very gracious; he and I spoke a couple of times for several minutes, and I could see the clear love he had for Terri and the Schindler family. Brother Hilary and I briefly spoke a couple of times also; his strong support for life was also evident.

My travelling companions were Steve and Jeff, friends from the Huntsville, Alabama area. Jeff had travelled down on Wednesday. Steve and I travelled down together on Thursday evening. Sunday morning, Jeff and I drove back home while Steve stayed another day. These two great men of God have before stood for truth on other important issues. I was honored to be with them in this fight for God’s kingdom.

On Friday, I met Tim Bayly, a Presbyterian pastor who, with a fellow minister, was blogging from outside Woodside Hospice. Tim and I talked briefly and greeted one another a few times afterward. He invited me to join in a service on the grounds Friday afternoon but I was, unfortunately, detained elsewhere during the appointed time. Saturday, I watched as one of Tim’s associates, David Currell, was arrested for attempting to go in to save Terri from starvation. When a handful of protesters became shrill and venomous toward the police officers, Tim reminded us all to respond in love.

Saturday afternoon, a local man named Jeff came by with an offer to marry Terri. He saw this as a solution to the problem by giving him status as her guardian. I explained to him that there would be two problems with this idea: 1) Terri was already married and to marry Jeff would make her a bigamist, and 2) Terri wasn’t able to giver her consent to the marriage, even if it weren’t bigamy. Jeff gave me his phone number, anyway, just in case something worked out. While this may seem a bit strange, it is only a small example of how much people were willing to help save Terri, a person few of us had met but all of us cared deeply about.

Sunday morning, I went to an early interdenominational service on the grounds. The sun had not yet broken through the clouds when two Protestant pastors led us in singing, Scripture reading, and prayer. The two pastors, whose names I don’t recall, had decided that they were going to attempt to take the Communion elements in to Terri; Father Malanowski had been rebuffed the day before when he attempted to give her Communion. The two pastors went inside a small tent for private prayer together while the thirty or so others of us prayed. We broke off into groups of four.

It was during this time that I prayed with three Roman Catholic friends. One man had been a constant figure on the grounds, frequently carrying a crucifix against his shoulder. The lady, whose name was Mary (if memory serves correctly), had a sweet composure and was obviously seriously concerned with the horror being witnessed. The third prayer companion was David Vogel, a musician and singer. I’d seen him around a couple of times, once while he directed traffic in and out of the area where the Schindler family was stationed. He was one of the first arrested for trying to take water in to Terri.

Our group prayed earnestly for several minutes: the Hail Mary, the Our Father, and other prayers. We finished and looked up to see the police handcuffing the two pastors and placing them in a police car. David shared his deep concern over the horror but also expressed his great joy over the unity of Christ’s body in standing for the value of life.

Indeed, there were Christians from all traditions present: Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Anglican, independent, etc. From rosaries and crucifixes to tambourines and plastic buckets, from highly charismatic extemporaneous prayers to traditional liturgies, the hearts of God’s people cried out for his mercy. Even though our obvious man-made divisions didn’t go away, in the eyes of God, we all stood as his people.

There were many other friends of God and friends of Terri who were present. My memory doesn’t serve well enough to name them all. But, of those whom I can remember, the Ledbetters were among the crowd; Mr. Ledbetter was one of the first to be arrested in Montgomery in the summer of 2003 for standing for the right to acknowledge God through the public display of the Ten Commandments. Also, the Rev. Patrick Mahoney arrived on Saturday evening to lead us in a prayer vigil; he had been on site earlier in the week but had gone to Tallahassee to plead with the governor to intervene.

There was also another fine Roman Catholic man who told me of his arrest experience at the hospice and of his 3 1/2 years in jail for protesting abortion. There was also the professor named George, with whom I had extended conversations in person and via phone about the value of life, the vulnerability of the disabled, and the appropriateness of civil disobedience. George and I will meet again, I am certain; and we will be more prepared.

Tracie

While in Pinellas Park, I met Tracie. She was a volunteer working with the Schindler family. I’m not sure exactly in what ways she helped but I’m certain she was a great encouragement and support to them. She spent five weeks there working for the family.

I was introduced to Tracie by someone who knew she was also Anglican. Tracie had been at the site almost every hour of four weeks and had not been able to receive Holy Communion. Monsignor Malanowski had celebrated Mass with the family and various protesters but Tracie had not been able to participate because she was not Roman Catholic. I enjoyed meeting her and her parents, who happened to be with her at the time.

On the evening of Good Friday, the one day of the year when Eucharist is not normally celebrated, I led a small group in a service of Holy Eucharist on the grass in front of Woodside Hospice. I believed the situation we faced was sufficient cause to give thanks to God. Tracie was able to receive the grace of God in the Body and Blood of our Lord. Thomas Bowman, the minstrel from Kentucky, was present and led us in a few songs accompanied by his acoustic guitar. My travelling companions, Steve and Jeff, joined in worship; along with the other kind souls who participated, we meditated on the Passion of our Savior.

When we had finished, after many tears and several moments of reflection, Tracie bid us all to remember to pray, not only for Terri, but also for the Schindlers. She briefly conveyed how the weight of this horrific event was a heavy burden for Terri’s parents. She also told us of how Mr. Schindler had experienced a heart attack a few days after the last time Terri had been starved (for six days).

I am pleased to see that the Schindlers expressed their great appreciation for the volunteers like Tracie. There were many more like her who helped the family members through a time of great turmoil. May God strengthen the Schindler family and may he reward Tracie and the other volunteers for their service in his kingdom.