Also see John Joe Gray - Dallas Observer has article that could put entire family in harms way. 7/27/2000
Athens Daily Review
Tuesday, December 15, 1998
By Gary Bass
TOOL - Continuing to take a religious stand against earthly government, Embassy of Heaven Church member Racheal Elaine Gray Dempsey chose to not appear in municipal court Friday afternoon.
As a result, Tool Municipal Judge Ralph Yarborough slapped the 24-year-old Trinidad woman with four arrest warrants - one for no proof of insurance, another for no motor vehicle inspection and two warrants for failure to appear in court (one for each charge).
"The court and the state feels that this person was notified to be in court at least three times," said Yarborough as he issued the arrest warrants.
In addition to the bailiff, five Tool police officers stood or sat at the back of the room for the duration of the court proceedings. At the request of city prosecutor Rory Duke, Yarborough moved the Dempsey case to the end of the docket. Also present was Assistant State Attorney General Peter Haskel.
After the hearing on Dempsey, Haskel and another man in civilian clothes stood outside the Oran White Civic Center discussing how best to proceed with the matter with Tool Mayor A. J. "Red" Phillips and members of the police department. None of the men chose to comment on the matter and retreated into Tool City Hall to continue their dialogue.
Ms. Dempsey was arrested Nov. 27 and arraigned the following day at the Seven Points Jail on charges of tampering with a government record and displaying fictitious vehicle registration.
According to Darla Harvey, the Tool alternate municipal judge, Ms. Dempsey declined to be bailed out on the misdemeanor charges and was transferred to the Henderson County Jail. She was issued a copy of the citation which listed her Dec. 11 court date, but refused to sign it.
"That would be putting her back in the system, and we're not in the system," said Dempsey's mother Alicia Gray in an earlier phone interview.
"Anything she signs or anything she does puts her back in the system. We are out of the corporate government system of the United States."
The ordeal began two weeks ago when Ms. Dempsey was pulled over by Tool Police Sgt. Martha Decker on a routine traffic stop on State Highway 274. Decker noticed the vehicle Ms. Dempsey was driving had no license plate light and closer inspection revealed the plate read "kingdom of heaven" where a state name should be.
When asked for her driver's license, Ms. Dempsey presented an identification card issued by the Oregon-based Embassy of Heaven Church. Ms. Dempsey also presented "heaven-issued" motor vehicle registration and vehicle certificate of title papers.
After being held for five days, the County Attorney's Office dropped the misdemeanor charges against her. However, the District Attorney's Office may now present felony charges against Ms. Dempsey before a future grand jury regarding the Nov. 27 incident.
Ms. Dempsey's father, John Joe Gray of Trinidad was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 8 by the Seven Points Police Department on arrest warrants out of Malakoff for failure to appear in court, no valid driver's license and no proof of insurance. He was arraigned on the charges and bond was set.
Mrs. Gray bailed her husband out of the Caney City Jail on Thursday.
Athens Daily Review
Friday, December 11, 1998
By Gary Bass
A recent arrest of a member of the Oregon-based Embassy of Heaven Church attracted national attention on the Internet - in the form of a militia e-mail list urging support and peaceful assistance.
Racheal Gray Dempsey of Trinidad was arrested Nov. 27 after a routine traffic stop in Tool revealed her license plate, driver's license and vehicle registration were all issued by the Embassy of Heaven Church. As a result, she was charged with tampering with a government record and displaying fictitious vehicle registration.
Although her combined bond was set at a relatively low $3,000 (requiring $300 to a bail bondsman), Ms. Dempsey and her family refused to post bond money in order not to recognize the state's authority.
Five days later, the misdemeanor charges were dropped, and the 24-year-old was released from the Henderson County Jail. She still has to deal with a court date in Tool set for today to address misdemeanor charges levied by Tool police, and there is also a possibility she will go before a grand jury on a third-degree felony charge of evidence tampering - all connected to the Nov. 27 arrest.
"Do I need to remind anyone that Amendment I of the Constitution reads: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment or religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances?'" said list member Jean Staffen in an e-mail message.
"The time is rapidly coming when all of us are going to have to individually decide whether the freedoms we have in place in America are only lip service or if we are actually willing to put them into practice," added Staffen. "I hope I am as courageous as this young woman when my time comes."
The mailing list is open to anyone who chooses to subscribe, and Sgt. Martha Decker, the Tool Police officer who arrested Dempsey, was listed by name in one of the messages. About 20 to 30 additional e-mail addresses were listed as recipients of the messages.
According to Assistant Texas Attorney General Peter Haskel, Ms. Dempsey and her supporters are confusing freedom of religion with the need to obey state laws. "Separation of church and state does not mean that because one adheres to a religious view, one is exempt from state regulation," he explained in an earlier interview. "Separation of church and state has nothing whatsoever to do with the need for a driver's license or insurance."
Ms. Dempsey's arrest has also attracted the attention of Jeff Davis, the host of a controversial Austin-based radio talk show called "On the Edge." Davis mentioned the arrest on his show and sent a message to the list.
"Hello folks, this is Jeff Davis from Austin, Texas," stated his message, which was posted Nov. 29. "We need help for a young 24-year-old lady from Tool, Texas. Miss Racheal Dempsey is being held at the Henderson County Jail in Texas for driving with a false license plate. We are asking people from around the nation to contact her mother, Mrs. Gray and offer any assistance. Also we are asking people to call the Henderson County Jail to inquire about Racheal's release."
Chief Deputy Ronnie Brownlow of the Henderson County Sheriff's Department confirmed Sheriff H.B. "Slick" Alfred received several phone calls either urging or demanding her release.
Also listed by name on the e-mail list was David E. Rydel, who called himself "a voice of the militia in North America." A local law enforcement official said Rydel has a short wave radio program he operates out of Michigan.
Dempsey's mother Alicia Gray said her daughter was not allowed to get a driver's license without a Social Security card or a thumb-print - forms of identification the family abhors. Mrs. Gray said jail officials forcibly took a thumb-print from her daughter when she refused. The Grays, like their daughter, are members of the Embassy of Heaven Church which teaches total disassociation with government.
"To us that's a form of the mark of the Beast," said Mrs. Gray of Social Security numbers. "There's nothing illegal about what we're doing, and that will be eventually born out.
"They're taking more and more of our rights away every day," she added. Dempsey faces misdemeanor charges in Judge Ralph Yarborough's Tool Municipal Court today at 2 p.m. According to sources in Tool City Hall, representatives from the State Attorney General's Office and the Department of Public Safety will also be in attendance at the hearing.
Although he wasn't mentioned in the e-mail messages, Dempsey's father, John Joe Gray, 49, was arrested on Tuesday, Dec. 8 by the Seven Points Police Department on arrest warrants out of Malakoff for failure to appear in court, no valid driver's license and no proof of insurance. He was arraigned on the charges and bond was set at $650 cash or $1,000 through a bail bondsman.
Unlike his daughter, however, Gray is now out on bond. Mrs. Gray bailed him out of the Caney City Jail on Thursday.
Athens Daily Review
Thursday, December 03, 1998
By Toni Garrard Clay
A 24-year-old arrested last Friday for displaying a license plate and carrying ID issued by the "kingdom of heaven" was released from county jail Wednesday afternoon. But her troubles aren't over. She now faces the looming specter of a grand jury.
Racheal Gray Dempsey, a resident of Trinidad and member of the Embassy of Heaven Church based in Oregon, began her ordeal last week when a Tool police officer pulled over the Buick Regal she was driving after noticing the car's license plate read "kingdom of heaven" in place of a state name. Gray also presented a "heaven-issued" driver's license and vehicle registration and refused at the time to identify herself - a series of events leading to her arrest.
Ms. Dempsey was arraigned Saturday on two misdemeanor charges: tampering with a government record and displaying fictitious registration.
Although bond was set at a low $3,000, Ms. Dempsey and her family refused to post bail, and Ms. Dempsey refused to comply with routine booking procedures. "That would be putting her back in the system, and we're not in the (United States) system," Ms. Dempsey's mother, Alicia Gray, told the Review Tuesday. The Embassy of Heaven Church teaches complete disassociation from any earthly government.
On Wednesday, the county attorney's office dropped the standing charges. "We decided these misdemeanors as presented to us were not appropriate charges," said Assistant County Attorney Barry Bilger. According to Bilger, state law indicates tampering with a government record and displaying fictitious registration applies only if the documents in question are designed to appear legitimate.
"The license plate clearly states it is issued by the kingdom of heaven," said Bilger. "Her driver's license and registration indicate the same thing."
But all is not over. The county attorney's office has met with the district attorney's office and determined Ms. Dempsey has, in fact, committed a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
"We do think (the kingdom of heaven plates and documents) fit better under another charge - tampering with physical evidence," Bilger explained. Tampering with physical evidence is a third-degree felony offense.
According to Bilger, the case now belongs to the district attorney's office and will likely be presented to a future grand jury for consideration.
While in jail, Ms. Dempsey reportedly fasted in protest of her incarceration, but is doing well now. "She's a strong girl. She's fine," said Mrs. Gray. "Like I said, God had control."
Athens Daily Review
Thursday, December 02, 1998
By Toni Garrard Clay
For the Gray family, it's nothing less than a holy war. For county law enforcement, it's a pain in the neck.
It is the arrest of Racheal Elaine Gray Dempsey, a 24-year-old who lives just outside Trinidad with her parents and other family members. But don't call them Trinidadians, or Texans or even Americans for that matter. They are residents of the kingdom of heaven, represented in this world by the Embassy of Heaven Church based in Oregon.
It's the Embassy of Heaven which issued the license plates on the Buick Regal Ms. Dempsey was driving last Friday evening. The Embassy of Heaven also issued the driver's license Ms. Dempsey presented to the Tool police sergeant who pulled her over.
And it's the Embassy of Heaven documents that landed Ms. Dempsey in jail, where, according to her mother, she is currently fasting in protest of her "illegal incarceration" - an incarceration the inmate and her family refuse to end by posting bail. That would mean recognizing the state.
Ms. Dempsey's fateful run-in with authority took place around 8:30 last Friday night. Sgt. Martha Decker was patrolling Hwy. 274 when she noticed a southbound car with no license plate light. Falling in behind the car to get a better look, she was unable to recognize the plates and instigated a traffic stop. "When we stopped, then I could read the license plate," says Decker. "It said 'kingdom of heaven' where the state would be."
Asked for her license, the driver, Ms. Dempsey, presented a kingdom of heaven identification card, which offers no indication of age.
"I asked her for her date of birth. She refused to give it," Sgt. Decker recounts. "She said she didn't have to." By state law, however, she did, and in addition to refusing to identify herself at the time, Ms. Dempsey also presented motor vehicle registration papers and a vehicle certificate of title issued by the Embassy of Heaven - a series of events which led to her arrest.
Transferred to the Seven Points jail, Ms. Dempsey was arraigned the next morning on two charges: tampering with a government record and displaying fictitious vehicle registration. Her combined bond was set at $3,000. For $300, her family could get Ms. Dempsey out on bail.
"That would be putting her back in the system, and we're not in the system," says Alicia Gray, Ms. Dempsey's mother and fellow kingdom of heaven member. "Anything she signs or anything she does puts her back in the system. We are out of the corporate government system of the United States."
Thus a stand-off is born. Refusing to recognize the authority of the state of Texas, Ms. Dempsey declines to cooperate with the jail's standard procedures - procedures which in all likelihood would get her out of jail. On the other hand, the Henderson County Sheriff's Department - where Ms. Dempsey was transferred on Saturday - can't very well let her go without following procedure.
"One of my duties is running the jail, and my duty is to keep people here until they get legally discharged, either by making bond or by order of the court," explains Sheriff H.B. "Slick" Alfred. The former Texas Ranger, known for his no-nonsense approach to law enforcement, is less than amused by the situation. Ms. Dempsey is being treated "like any other prisoner would be treated," he says.
That is, fairly, like any other prisoner would be treated if he or she refused to answer any questions or submit to standard testing. "She is being held in a separation cell until she complies with all booking procedures," explains Capt. Tony Allison, jail administrator, "which includes medical and suicide screening and classification procedures."
"Racheal has done nothing to deserve this," says Pastor Paul Revere, founder of the Embassy of Heaven Church. Revere was a systems analyst for the Oregon Department of Transportation before he and his wife changed their names and founded the Embassy of Heaven Church in 1987, located about 20 miles east of Salem, Oregon. Church doctrine teaches complete and total disassociation from any earthly government - no public schools, no debts, no social security number, no corporate jobs. "We do not need the state of Texas' recognition to exist as the government of Jesus Christ," says Revere. "We're acting in the authority of the kingdom of heaven to issue these documents. They are real, lawful documents."
Not so according to the Texas Attorney General's office. "Separation of church and state does not mean that because one adheres to a religious view, one is exempt from state regulation," explains Assistant Attorney General Peter Haskel. "Separation of church and state has nothing whatsoever to do with the need for a driver's license or insurance."
But Revere and church members represent a growing national trend of people disassociating themselves from government - or at least trying to. The Embassy of Heaven's mailing list, says Revere, numbers one thousand, and approximately 400 people have "heaven-issued" documents for passports, driver's licenses and vehicle plates. In and around Henderson County, there are "several" church members, says Mrs. Gray, a number she declines to estimate.
"We're not fighting against flesh," she says. "The United States is not of God any longer, and hasn't been for a long time. If someone doesn't stand up to them . . ."
That someone, she says, is her daughter, who has chosen to give up food in protest of "what they're doing." According to Mrs. Gray, her daughter is a missionary of the church and not under any state's jurisdiction.
"Bottom line - it's a bunch of malarkey," says Haskel. "We don't recognize the church as a temporal authority with the power to issue licenses." So how can this matter be resolved?
"She'll get out," insists Mrs. Gray. "I don't know how. Only God knows that."