NEW YORK — A pacifist pastor who lost his New Jersey ministry after a 2003 trip to Iraq sued the U.S. government Wednesday, saying regulations banning travel there were unconstitutional.
The Rev. Frederick Boyle, 57, asserted violations of the First and Fifth amendments and international law in his lawsuit against the Treasury Department in federal court in Manhattan.
He asked the court to stop the government from enforcing travel sanctions imposed in January 1991 that prohibit U.S. citizens in most instances from traveling to Iraq.
The Methodist minister said he was penalized $6,700 for what the Treasury Department called unauthorized travel to Iraq in February and March 2003 to protest the imminent bombing of Baghdad.
Until April 2008, when the statute of limitations runs out, the pastor also could face a $1 million fine and 12 years in prison if he’s convicted of knowingly committing the civil violations with which he was charged.
Boyle’s anti-war activism was shunned by his parishioners at the Titusville United Methodist Church in New Jersey. He was transferred to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, a part-time ministry in suburban Nyack averaging 10 worshippers per service, and his pay was halved.
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Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said the department does not comment on pending litigation.