Grand Jury Abuse in the US (80594-C1-R250)
Amend and readopt Resolution 250
Jesus' words, "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged" (Matthew 7:1 NRSV), surely imply that all judgments are made in the light of God's truth. Scripture reveals that hidden judgments often lead to destruction. In the book of Esther, Haman schemed behind the scenes and manipulated his relationship with the King in his attempt to destroy all of the Jews throughout the Kingdom (Esther 3:8-10). In the New Testament, the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus, even utilizing false witnesses against him (Matthew 26:59-60). Scripture also shows how righteous judgments made in full public view can lead to truth and accountability. The prophet Nathan rebuked David for his sin against Uriah and it led to David’s repentance (2 Samuel 12). Jesus publicly exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-36) and still, counted among his followers were some of these same religious leaders (Mark 15:42-43, John 3:1-9).
The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state boldly that "governments, no less than individuals, are subject to the judgment of God" (¶ 164F
E ). Such a social principle causes us, appropriately, to view with concern the government's use of the grand jury to control dissent and to harass those who act under the constraint of conscience. The grand jury is envisioned in American law as a protector of citizens from unwarranted prosecutions. It is for this reason that its proceedings are secret and it has the power to subpoena witnesses. Evidence indicates that in recent years, the extraordinary powers of the grand jury often have been used not for the protection of citizens, but in subjecting them to harassment and intimidation. Historically, political dissidents, antiwar activists, and leaders of minority groups and religious organizations have been particularly vulnerable to these abuses. A government prosecutor can control the grand jury, thus distorting the grand jury's power to monitor and moderate the actions of the prosecution. The prosecutor can use the subpoena powers of the grand jury to conduct investigations that are the responsibility of law enforcement agencies. As an example, the United States Congress has never given the Federal Bureau of Investigation subpoena powers, yet agents routinely threaten uncooperative persons with subpoenas from a grand jury. In fact, subpoenas are often served at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The use of the powers of the grand jury to harass and pursue political dissidents is a departure from its proper constitutional function, and it is a threat to public order, lawful government, and true domestic security. Witnesses called before a grand jury may be given little or no warning of their subpoenas, may be forced to travel to court at distances from their homes, may not know whether they are targets of prosecution, may have little understanding of their rights, and cannot have legal counsel in the chambers. Comprehensive grand jury reform legislation is needed to restore the constitutional guarantees of protection for citizens. The United States Constitution's Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and false accusation must be reestablished and reinforced.
The United Methodist Church calls on all United Methodist congregations, under the
leadership of the General Board of Church and Society, to advocate for
, therefore, supports legislation designed to enhance the rights to due process of law including preserving habeas corpus, freedom of association, effective legal counsel for witnesses excluded from immunity appearing before the Grand Jury, the presumption of innocence, and the privilege against self-incrimination of persons subpoenaed to testify before grand juries. ADOPTED 1980, AMENDED AND READOPTED 2000
See Social Principles, ¶ 164E and F.