In theology and practice, the First Christian Fellowship of Eternal Sovereignty falls outside the norms of historical Christianity
. (Note: in news reports this church was referred to as "The First Christian Fellowship for
According to news reports, the group - which is said to have about 650 followers - has a history of challenging state laws.
Most recently, this group made the news after a Pennsylvania man insisted he should be held accountable for the actions of his wife, who was ticketed for breast-feeding their daughter while driving:
Citing Mosaic law and the Founding Father
s, a Pennsylvania man insists he must bear the burden of punishment for his wife, who was ticketed for breast-feeding their daughter while driving in Ohio.
Catherine Nicole Donkers, 29, could have gone on her way after paying a $100 fine, but her case is scheduled for an Aug. 6 trial because of the couple's "deeply held spiritual beliefs," the Akron Beacon Journal reported.
"The situation here,'' said husband Brad L. Barnhill, 46, "is that, according to our faith, I'm the head of the household. I'm responsible for what she does, and no one can punish her except me."
Barnhill follows the teachings of The First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty, a group founded in the 1990s by a man named Christopher Hansen.
According to the group's website, the fellowship's main objective is to convert and educate sovereign Americans "to demand and defend their God given rights and fulfill their duties as freedom loving Christians against the encroachment of the Beast and his agents.''
The Beast, says Hansen, is the federal government.
Barnhill considers himself a minister to about 650 followers who correspond with him by e-mail and letters. The group follows a strict interpretation of America's founding documents. His wife cannot pay the fine he said, because it would mean "bearing false witness," which would deny her "entrance to the Kingdom.''
"You can understand we're a little different,'' Barnhill said, according to the Beacon Jounal.
As WorldNetDaily reported in 1998
, an 18-year-old member of the group was granted a court order allowing him to register to vote without a Social Security number.
Joshua Hansen, who said he also refuses to pay income tax, described the First Christian Fellowship of Eternal Sovereignty as a political religion based on Christianity and the Constitution which people of all denominations may join.
"It's a fellowship of anybody who's Christian who really exercises their Christian beliefs within politics," he told WND. "The Social Security number was much like the 'Mark of the Beast' talked about in the book of Revelation."
She could have had the original police charges, driving without a license, obstructing official business and violating the child safety-seat law, reduced to a single guilty plea to driving under suspension, according to court records. She then could have closed her case by posting a $100 fine. But her husband, Brad L. Barnhill, 46, said religious beliefs put him in charge of his wife's actions.
"I'm responsible for what she does, and no one can punish her except me," he said. "If they refuse to allow me the free exercise of my religion, then we're going to appeal this all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States and they're not going to be able to try her before then."
Barnhill said his faith is rooted in The First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty, an organization founded in the late 1990s. Barnhill said he is a minister in the fellowship with 650 followers.
In court filings, the couple says neither has a Social Security number, they think it's wrong to be required to have driver's licenses and they do not have a marriage license, although they say they are husband and wife.
The trial of a mother charged with breast-feeding her baby while driving
on the Ohio Turnpike took another wild turn in court Thursday.
Catherine Donkers, who's representing
herself, took the stand and questioned herself as a witness.
The courtroom scene was bizarre; taking the oath even became a several-minute ordeal because of her religion.
Donkers and the man she calls her husband, Bran Barnhill, belong to the First Christian Fellowship for Eternal Sovereignty, a group with a history of challenging state laws.
Under the religion, Donkers' husband has complete control over his wife's actions and she must obey him.
» Cult of Christinity