A Veteran Gets Criminal Treatment and Censored over Chickens

Leo Hendrick has earned the right to have his say about liberty. 

An Army veteran of the war in Afghanistan, he served from 2003 to 2006, and was recalled in 2009.  Now he's back home trying to raise a family.  The forces against liberty are making it difficult for him.

The City of Northwood, Iowa censored Mr. Hendrick in a trial with potential criminal implications -- over a dozen chickens.

This past summer Leo decided to raise chickens on his property to help feed his family of four.  He believes in the health benefits of chemical-free food, and thought it important to teach his two children lessons of responsibility.

Northwood is city in northern Iowa of about 2,000 residents.  It has an ordinance that prohibits livestock within the city limits "except by written consent of the council or except in compliance with the city's zoning regulations."

Hendrick had asked the city council to change the ordinance, but received a cold reception.  By the bye, Hendrick flies the Gadsden flag in front of his home.  Hendrick also owns the Spartan Arms gun shop, and last spring he and others fought and defeated a proposed ordinance to ban guns on city-owned property.

Northwood's attorney John Greve prosecuted Mr. Hendrick over the chickens.  He told me it's nothing personal against Leo, but he did, however, sound agitated that Hendrick wanted to argue his constitutional rights.  "The Constitution doesn't mention chickens," Greve told me.

Greve is right, obviously.  No chickens mentioned in the Constitution.  But the Constitution also doesn't mention Greve's car, watch or other individual items of property. 

Greve is typical of lawyers for the government:  Power must be served, and the Constitution must be read as narrowly as possible when that fits the government's interests.  And, government critics need to be kept in their place, even at the local level.

The Constitution does, of course, protect speech.  Greve filed a motion in limine -- a motion to limit what Hendick could say before the jury.

Hendrick served his country to protect property rights and other liberties that Greve and all of us exercise -- and the very justice system that prosecuted him. 

Leo, however, was censored before a jury of his peers.  He was prohibited from raising facts about other jurisdictions with no such limits on chickens, and "asking questions about or making comments or arguments about:

n  any other violations of the City of Northwood, Ordinance with respect to livestock, including poultry;

n  the beneficial attributes of home grown chickens or food in general;

n  Jury Nullification including any comments contrary to the proposition that the sole duty of the jury is the trier of facts and not the law; and

n  any individual disagreeing with" Northwood's ordinance.

As to the last bit of censorship, Hendrick's neighbors supported him.  That's a fact that the city lawyer surely wanted to keep away from the jury, for it would make the city look foolish and overbearing.  Can't have that, now.

Under these conditions, Hendick lost his case, of course.

Even though I did not ask, Greve made sure to emphasize that this prosecution was not personal against Hendrick.  It's just that if one person were allowed to have chickens, then there'd be no stopping others within Northwood from demanding their own chickens, Greve told me.

Better that people live off government subsidies, which are famous in Iowa, than raise their own chickens without government help and by popular will, it seems.  Or, better yet, people should grovel before the city council as the ordinance says so the political leaders can dish out the chickens to those who kowtow.

Hendrick said that people in the community will take his chickens, but he is not done pressing the issue.

Pam Holloway brought Mr. Hendrick's case to my attention.  Pam and her husband Glenn are two veterans who founded Go Farm University

Go Farm U was initially established to work with returning veterans, but has been expanded to the general public -- anyone concerned about holistic farming methodology and land stewardship.  They teach healthy, holistic farm management designed to educate people to manage land for a healthy sustainable future.

Sounds granola-crunchy?   Pam and Glenn are free-market, Christian, constitutional conservatives.  They are leaders and teachers in a wave of liberty for small farmers, and for healthy food free from dysfunctional, counterproductive government interference.

While Washington pays lip service to the plight of farmers and veterans, the Holloways and organizations such as the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund fight an uphill battle against government that tramples on the rights of entrepreneurial farmers.

The Holloways understand what farming can do for veterans.  Veterans have the highest rate of unemployment.  Wounded veterans and their families meet unacceptable backlogs at the Veterans Administration to get treatment.  They put their lives at risk to protect our freedoms, and then are neglected and forgotten.  Farming can be a healthy way to be more self-sufficient.

Petty bureaucrats make life difficult for the Leo Hendricks of the world.  It seems that the real crime is that we in America can't get things right for our veterans or our small farmers.