News Articles

Motion filed for Baptist detainee’s release

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A motion seeking the release of one of the 10 Baptist volunteers facing child trafficking charges in Haiti has been filed in court there through a Texas law organization focusing on religious liberty issues.

Legal Liberty Institute, based in Plano, a Dallas suburb, filed the motion Feb. 10 in behalf of Jim Allen, a small business owner and construction worker from Amarillo, Texas, and member of Paramount Baptist Church there.

The legal organization, in a news release, said it had arranged for the motion to be filed by a former Haitian minister of justice, Louis Gary Lissade.

Allen is one of 10 Baptist volunteers who were arrested Jan. 29 by Haitian authorities for failing to obtain proper documentation to transport 33 Haitian children into the Dominican Republic where the Baptist team’s leader, Laura Silsby of Idaho, was seeking to open an orphanage.

Liberty Legal Institute chief counsel Kelly Shackelford said Allen “is an upstanding American with a good heart trying to help rebuild a devastated country. We believe that when the facts of this case are revealed, our client will be released. We’re working hard to make that happen.”

The organization’s news release reported that Allen “has been before a Haitian judge a number of times, but until yesterday [Feb. 9] had not been allowed to speak with his attorneys in the United States. Attorneys for the Allen family sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week asking for her involvement to get Mr. Allen home.”

The news release did not state what actions, if any, it was taking on behalf of any of the other jailed detainees.

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Legal Institute, said in the news release, “We hope and pray that the State Department is doing everything it can to get all these Americans, in particular Jim Allen, home. We have faith that the Haitian judge will do the right thing after Jim’s facts come to light.”

The news release recounted that Allen had been invited by a cousin to join the volunteer team and had “joined the team 48 hours before the group’s departure.” The cousin is fellow detainee Paul Thompson, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. Silsby and four other members of the team are from Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho; Thompson and two others are from Eastside. In addition to Allen, the other team member is from Topeka, Kan.

Allen “had been talking for years about wanting to help relief efforts,” said his wife Lisa, who, according to the news release “has been particularly concerned with Jim’s well-being while in a Haitian prison since he suffers from a medical condition for which he takes medication.”

A YouTube video by Lisa Allen can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHvZ_HztFcg.

Liberty Legal Institute, according to its website, was founded in 1997 “to protect religious freedoms and First Amendment rights for individuals, groups and churches,” including students’ and parental rights. The nonprofit organization, with offices in seven Texas cities, “offers its assistance pro bono to ensure all individuals and groups can thrive without the fear of governments restricting their freedoms.” The institute reports having “a network of over 120 dedicated litigators … [who] donate their professional expertise and time to fight for these sacred freedoms.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. For Baptist Press’ Feb. 8 and Feb. 9 reports on the status of the 10 Baptist volunteers detained in Haiti, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=32245 and http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=32252.