A federal appeals court has given federal authorities some leeway to prosecute arson cases if they arguably involve interstate commerce. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta upheld convictions of Jay Ballinger, a self-proclaimed “missionary of Lucifer” who set five Georgia churches ablaze, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A 10-3 decision rejected a previous ruling that the cases were state crimes. “It is difficult to imagine a case that more classically depicts arson occurring in commerce,” Judge Stanley Marcus wrote. Marcus sited “at least six separate interstate border crossings.” One dissenter, Stanley Birch, said the court majority allowed a federal statute to regulate “intrastate, noneconomic conduct in an area of law traditionally protected from federal intrusion. Thus, the majority has burned yet another bridge to our federalist foundations.”