Feds fine US missionary to Sudan $28k for shipping motor oil?

posted at 5:05 pm on October 30, 2007 by Bryan

Your head-spinning federal stupidity of the day comes from the FAA:

For more than a decade, [Rev. Sam Childers] has transported needed supplies to operate its power-generator in a clearly marked Rubbermaid container. That is until April, when three quarts of motor oil, two bottles of diesel treatment and a can of WD-40 spray lubricant in the crate were confiscated by airline screeners.

Mr. Childers, president of World Missions Shekinah Fellowship, apologized in a later letter to U.S. government officials, saying he was not aware the supplies were classified as “hazardous materials” and illegal to ship by commercial plane.

The minister thought the matter was resolved. But now, six months later, Mr. Childers has been notified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) he will be fined $28,000 for the transgression.

It sounds like he shipped about 15 bucks worth of stuff. How does that, even if it’s entirely illegal and wrong and beyond question immoral, earn one a $28,000 fine?

I mean, the law is the law, but this strikes me as ridiculous.

(photo by Kevin Evans)

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How does that, even if it’s entirely illegal and wrong and beyond question immoral, earn one a $28,000 fine?

When you’re dealing with a blundering retard mutant like the FAA, any and all wonderous insanity is possible.

I’m surprised they didn’t chuck him in Gitmo on terrorism charges…

Ochlan on October 30, 2007 at 5:15 PM

Here’s hoping they make him do community service instead. Oh wait…

spmat on October 30, 2007 at 5:15 PM

I’m not sure I understand exactly what happened and what he’s being fined for. It sounds as if he was stopped before boarding the plane, which means he didn’t actually violate the law. How exactly are they fining him for that?

The only thing I can think of is that he is being punished for admitting (in the letter) to his previous transgressions. But even the FAA can’t be petty, can it?

Shivv on October 30, 2007 at 5:23 PM

…beyond question immoral…

Uh, what? I’m assuming that was sarcasm.

Anyway…this is right up there with strip-searching 80-year-old grannies and wheel-chair bound nuns. My guess is that the fine won’t stick, thanks at least in part to blogs like this one.

Exit question: Are stupid people drawn to government service, or does government service make people stupid?

flipflop on October 30, 2007 at 5:26 PM

This is ridiculous, the aircraft itself is carrying tons of jet fuel. Their regulations didn’t seem to help anything on 9/11. When a jet crashes that surely isn’t going to add much fuel to the inevitable fire. The government is completely out of hand, they make so much law that the law is unknowable. Yet ignorance of the law, according to the courts is no excuse.

Maybe instead of health care we need free lawyers to guide us through every detail of our daily lives so we don’t run afoul of the law.

I could understand the government giving him a warming or even a fine for a couple of hundred dollars, as a stiff reminder to not let it happen again. But this is just so far over the top!

I sure hope a pro-bono lawyer steps forward to help Mr. Childers, whatever happened to common sense, whatever happened to justice. The government is out of it’s collective mind.

Maxx on October 30, 2007 at 5:26 PM

I suggest they pay the fine in increments worth no more than a single cup of coffee a day.

Neo on October 30, 2007 at 5:28 PM

Meanwhile, Ramos and Campeon are still in prison.

The law is the law.

Doesn’t mean it can’t be wrong.

Hawkins1701 on October 30, 2007 at 5:31 PM

So much for the Bush administration pandering to evangelicals.

Ali-Bubba on October 30, 2007 at 5:52 PM

Exit question: Are stupid people drawn to government service, or does government service make people stupid?

flipflop on October 30, 2007 at 5:26 PM

I ask that all the time, but in regard to politics. I’ve never gotten an answer, and I don’t know either, but there sure are a lot of idiots running the country.

BadgerHawk on October 30, 2007 at 6:04 PM

This is utter insanity. I hope The Washington Times stays on the story. I want an answer from the government. More importantly, they need to back off and apologize for harassment.

Connie on October 30, 2007 at 6:17 PM

Did they levy that fine against the shoe bomber?

TheSitRep on October 30, 2007 at 6:23 PM

The poor man probably only makes half that per year.

tikvah on October 30, 2007 at 6:28 PM

He is just an easy target. Our government/law enforcement in general likes to go after soft targets. That is people that mostly lead a law abiding life. It is easier to go after regular people violating traffic rules (only if you are legal) and smoke laws. Even the Ramos and Campeon case fits the description.

SIJ6141 on October 30, 2007 at 6:38 PM

Let’s be a bit careful here. The Feds have the rules for a reason: safety. If something had gone wrong with that fuel, many lives (not to mention a very expensive airplane) would have been threatened.

I have a lot of sympathy for the missionary and his work, but rules are rules, and penalties need to reflect the seriousness of the violation.

I’m going to look into donating a bit of $ to help Rev. Childers pay the fine.

Oh — almost forgot: this . . .

This is ridiculous, the aircraft itself is carrying tons of jet fuel. Their regulations didn’t seem to help anything on 9/11. When a jet crashes that surely isn’t going to add much fuel to the inevitable fire.
Maxx on October 30, 2007 at 5:26 PM

. . . is just about the most brainless thing I’ve read today. Only Murtha tops it.

Splashman on October 30, 2007 at 6:54 PM

I don’t think the fine was high enough. You cannot ship combustible materials like that on an aircraft. It has nothing to do with “adding” anything to what might happen in a crash, but it has *everything* to do with that moron being the cause of the crash. Utterly irresponsible of him.

KSgop on October 30, 2007 at 7:12 PM

I don’t think the fine was high enough. You cannot ship combustible materials like that on an aircraft. It has nothing to do with “adding” anything to what might happen in a crash, but it has *everything* to do with that moron being the cause of the crash. Utterly irresponsible of him.

KSgop on October 30, 2007 at 7:12 PM

I’m not a lawyer, but doesn’t the law have to consider intent? The guy obviously thought he was within the law (had the container clearly marked), and he gave up the stuff at check-in when he was told he couldn’t take it with him.

Back when TSA still had the butane lighter ban (just lifted last August), I had them taken from me a the checkpoint with a polite reminder that I couldn’t take it on the plane. I’d just toss it in the trash with an “Oops, my bad.” and nothing else was ever said.

flipflop on October 30, 2007 at 7:17 PM

Splashman on October 30, 2007 at 6:54 PM

KSgop on October 30, 2007 at 7:12 PM

I don’t understand people like you. There is no justice in punishing people for an honest mistake. It does not promote a good sociality or promote respect for the laws. Especially to punish someone so harshly when there was no victim, no one harmed.

I’m sure if this was brought to trial no jury would enforce such a harsh penalty against him. Justice is blind but its not suppose to be stupid.

Maxx on October 30, 2007 at 9:02 PM

The law doesn’t have to consider intent with regard to the fines – negligence is still sufficient for them to hammer someone. Hazmat regulations are posted at the security checkpoints, clearly.

The ValuJet crash a few years back was caused by improperly putting a HAZMAT shipment (oxygen generators) on a passenger aircraft that they’re forbidden on. These items are used in aircraft to generate oxygen for the mask system in an emergency, and are carried on all passenger aircraft in the first place.

Since the cabin is pressurized (and some of the cargo space is as well) a can of WD-40 releasing into the air poses a much greater hazard than it would if the same thing happened in your garage – the oxygen concentration is different, and you can’t simply open a window to vent the toxic fumes out.

The fine was levied properly, and if justice is to be served, he should be able to appeal it and get it reduced because of the hardship it would cause to him and his mission.

It’s unfair, but he can’t really claim ignorance, since things like aerosol bottles are listed specifically as well as flammables on the warning poster at the security checkpoints and baggage counters.

RustMouse on October 30, 2007 at 9:10 PM

This guys honest mistake could have destroyed the entire plane. I handled Hazardous Materials for FedEx for many years. The FAA and the airlines take this sort of thing very seriously. Any flamable materials have to be shipped in a fireproof container connected to a fire extinguisher. These rules regarding are created by the airlines and enforced by the FAA, and most other countried use similar rules to those created by U.S. airlines (for purposes of international travel).

jones on October 30, 2007 at 9:14 PM

My BS meter is pegged. Why would anyone ship oil / fuel in a “clearly marked rubbermaid container”? They have lubricants in every country to run power generators. Even if it were cheaper to ship from the US, why take it out of the original container to ship? If this was an honest mistake, it was one made by someone who should not be making any decisions on his own.

Methinks there is more to this story.

sweeper on October 30, 2007 at 9:39 PM

The ValuJet crash a few years back was caused by improperly putting a HAZMAT shipment (oxygen generators) on a passenger aircraft that they’re forbidden on. These items are used in aircraft to generate oxygen for the mask system in an emergency, and are carried on all passenger aircraft in the first place.

RustMouse on October 30, 2007 at 9:10 PM

That tragedy is no doubt the reason they are hammering this guy so hard. To make an example of him. But there is no comparison between the volatility of oxygen generators and a few quarts of petroleum based liquids.

Beside the fact that these substances never got on the aircraft. In order to be judicious its not enough to consider what may have happened you also have to consider what actually did happen. Which in this case was nothing, and with no indication of any intent to do harm.

The facts here remind me of the brainless zero tolerance policies in schools that would punish a child for drawing a picture of something that appeared to be a gun. Mindless. People that support and tolerate this kind of automatic punishment by burocrats so they can look tough, invite tyranny. A review of the facts and intent are always in order to have a just outcome.

Maxx on October 30, 2007 at 9:43 PM

This guys honest mistake could have destroyed the entire plane.

Would that be the motor oil, or the WD-40?

Pablo on October 30, 2007 at 9:44 PM

This guys honest mistake could have destroyed the entire plane.

But it didn’t. They seized the materials, and could have sent him a letter informing him of a regulation of which he had no previous knowledge. Instead, without warning, wham — pay $28,000.

Whatever happened to the principle of “no harm, no foul”?

Ali-Bubba on October 30, 2007 at 9:55 PM

Under the new rules,are they saying engine oil
is a banned liquid on planes or just improperley shipped!

canopfor on October 30, 2007 at 10:03 PM

If the FAA rules are transporting 10w-30 engine oil
in fire retardent containers,well I guess then the
feds will have to set up inspection stations for float planes hip hopping from fish to hunting lodges.

canopfor on October 30, 2007 at 10:14 PM

Why do I feel there is more to this story…hmmm….gonna reserve judgement.

Highrise on October 31, 2007 at 1:21 AM

Surely the letters to Sam Childers were signed by someone; if they weren’t, that’s newsworthy in itself. Is Audrey Hudson aware that bureaucrats aren’t an indistinguishable mass, but have names, titles, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses, and telephone numbers? I’ve even heard that bureaucracies are hierarchic; if that’s true, then the man or woman who pulled that $28,000 figure out of his a$$ has a boss, who also has a boss, probably ad nauseam.

Shall we explain these things to Audrey Hudson? We could try to be more polite to her than I have been here; our taunts can usefully be reserved for the publicly licensed thieves whose names we seek from her.

http://www3.washingtontimes.com/contact-us/

Kralizec on October 31, 2007 at 6:01 AM

Exit question: Are stupid people drawn to government service, or does government service make people stupid?

We’ll have to form a commission and get back to you on that.

BacaDog on October 31, 2007 at 7:49 AM