Peace pastor faces penalties for Iraq trip

NEWARK, N.J. — The Rev. Frederick Boyle lost his New Jersey ministry, half his pay, and 25 pounds, all for his opposition to the war in Iraq.

The pacifist Methodist could lose much more _ his freedom and more in fines _ on charges that he violated a U.S. Treasury Department ban on travel to Iraq.

“They have sent me a prepenalty notification letter in which they say they intend to fine me $10,000,” said Boyle, the bearded, graying former pastor of Titusville United Methodist Church.

Boyle, 55, attracted widespread attention when he traveled to Iraq in March to protest the consequences of an imminent bombardment of Baghdad.

Last February, he ate a communion wafer to end a 22-day hunger strike he had staged in protest of what human rights groups said were abuses of Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops.

The threatened $10,000 fine would be a civil penalty. Boyle’s lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, said the pastor also could face criminal penalties of $1 million fine and 12 years in prison if he is prosecuted and convicted of knowingly committing the violations he is charged with civilly.

Since breaking the fast, the 6-foot pastor has regained his normal weight of 160 pounds.

Boyle’s anti-war activism was shunned by his former parishioners. He was transferred to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Nyack, N.Y., a part-time ministry averaging 10 worshippers per service, where his pay was cut in half.

He gave his first sermon there on July 4.

“I did have to tighten my belt,” said Boyle, referring to the pay cut, not the fast. “In the world according to Frederick, my public activism and standing up for what I believe would have been Jesus’ position should have gotten me a position in a church with a 1,000 people.”

Instead, it got him into trouble with the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which had placed restrictions on travel and business dealings with Iraq before Boyle made his trip. Thursday was the deadline for Boyle’s response to the June 22 prepenalty notice.

“While in Iraq, you planned to join a group shielding the government of Iraq facilities from possible U.S. military action,” the notice read. “You also engaged in travel-related transaction, expending currency for the purchase of food, lodging, transportation, and souvenirs.”

The notice followed Boyle’s refusal in June 2003 that he report his travel and expenses in Iraq to the agency.

Hafetz said that to threaten a fine without holding a hearing violates Boyle’s constitutional rights.

“This is a proceeding that violates the most fundamental principles of due process,” said Hafetz, who is handling the case for free on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

Hafetz concluded his response to the federal government by writing, “the Iraqi sanctions are unlawful and OFAC may not impose a monetary penalty or any other sanction against Reverend Boyle.”

Molly Millerwise, a treasury spokeswoman, said the agency would not comment on any individual case.

She said prepenalty notices are typically sent out 30 days before a fine is imposed, and that the agency sometimes drops the matter, depending on the response.

The department also refers some cases to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.

At least three others are in a similar predicament.

Judith Carpova, a 59-year-old freelance journalist who splits her time between Hudson County, N.J., and the Hudson Valley in New York State, also faces a $10,000 fine. Her lawyer, Michael Sussman, said Carpova’s response, also due Friday, was similar to Boyle’s.

“We’re basically all on the same page,” Sussman said.

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