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Thursday, June 01, 2006

NY Judge Finds Mom 'Unfunny'

(Keywords: , , , it seems that is the here)

This story comes to us thanks to Pounce! from Christianity General. Like the story of Olivia Shelltrack and Fondray Loving in Black Jack, MO, this is about a backwards mentality being forced on families who don't share it. A few snippets from the Cleveland Free Times article:

Rachel Bevilacqua is a long way from homeless. She's back in Spencerport, New York, where she grew up, and where her parents still live in a modest frame house, nestled among trees on the banks of the Erie Canal. Sitting in the tiny office there, she talks while her father blogs, while her sisters play, and her mom cleans the kitchen after dinner, periodically stopping to show off family pictures.

Bevilacqua — known as Mary Magdelen to thousands of "worshippers" in the Cleveland-based, satirical Church of the SubGenius — has come home to get her son.

She's been in Spencerport since January, attempting to prove herself innocent so that 10-year-old Kohl can live in her house again, back in Georgia, with her husband, Steve Bevilacqua, whom her son has been forbidden in court orders from calling "dad." It's the family Kohl has lived with, except for vacations that roughly coincide with the school year, for most of his life, until he went to visit his biological father, Jeff Jary, for Christmas in 2005.

When Rachel took Kohl to the airport on December 18, she had no idea that a few days later Jary would tell a judge in Orleans County, New York that Rachel was homeless. No idea that without checking on the claim — without even sending a perfunctory notice of a hearing — the court would grant her son's father sole, temporary custody.

And she certainly had no idea that in order to get her son back, she would have to convince a condescending rural judge that calling yourself Mary Magdelen and parading around in a bondage outfit and goat mask is funny.

See, Bevilacqua is a member of the Church of the SubGenius, a satirical church that broadcasts the Hour of Slack radio program in 20 US markets. The whole thing is a joke, but she wound up before a judge - James Punch of Orleans County, New York - who didn't get it. And it turns out that this dick thought he could take someone's kid away because they weren't funny. Kohl was taken when the boy's biological father told the court that Bevilacqua was homeless. This is untrue - she and her husband have proven that they make payments on two mortgages.

But it wasn't homelessness that bothered this idiot, it was photos of her at 'church' functions, "Once the boy was in upstate New York for a holiday visit, Jary and his lawyer filed for sole custody in Orleans County Court. In support of the request, they showed the judge a picture of Rachel as Mary Magdelen, in the nude and getting a tattoo. They showed a picture of Steve — known among the SubGenius as Lord Jesus Christ — wearing a clown suit in a mock passion play with a crucifix festooned with pool-noodle dollar signs, while a crowd of partially clothed people, including a woman holding a dildo, look on. There's a picture of Rachel in a costume parade called the Deity Ball, in which she's wearing a black mesh bondage suit with a papier-maché goat's head mask perched atop her trim shoulders." Cleveland Free Times' Michael Gill gives us a transcript from the hearing:

JUDGE PUNCH: Can I interject a question? Could you hand her the exhibits and just show me one thing in those exhibits that's funny to you? Would you just pick one out for me just so I, because the sense of humor is elusive to me I guess, and maybe you can help with that, OK?


JP: Why don't you just the first thing you come to that's hilarious, pull it out and explain it to me?

RB: As I'm sure you realize, it's very difficult to explain humor.

JP: So why don't you just stop talking and just do what I ask you to do, OK?

RB: Yes sir.

JP: You're passing by a lot of pictures that apparently aren't funny then, is that correct?

RB: I'm passing them by because I'm not sure how to explain to your honor the humor value of them.

JP: They are all funny to you?

RB: The pictures themselves are not, but the events were.

JP: Okay. We will keep going until you can find something that's just going to knock my socks off with the humor of it, and we'll proceed. Since you have such a big organization devoted totally to humor, I would really like to learn more about it, so find the funniest picture and then explain the joke to me. How about the Barbie doll that's being crucified with the swastikas on the nipples, is that a pretty good one?

Clearly, this guy was much more interested in punishing her for her 'unfunny religion' than he was with anything that actually had any bearing on the case. It wasn't like the kid was in the photos or even present at the events. But, for Punch, that wasn't a concern; "Punch was especially adamant that Rachel convince him of the humor of her Deity Ball costume, with its goat-head mask," the article states. "'Why a goat?' he asks several times in a transcript of a hearing. 'Would it be funnier if it was a goat as opposed to a pig's head?'" WTF? What difference could it possibly make?

Finally, Bevilacqua filed a complaint against the Punch with New York's Judicial Review Board and hired Lipsitz, Green, Fahringer, Roll, Salisbury & Cambria LLP - a firm that had represented Marilyn Manson and Larry Flynt in First Amendment cases. Punch recused himself, apparently well aware how he'd fare before the Judicial Review Board. There has been a change of venue to neighboring Genessee County, where Judge Eric R. Adams reportedly told both parties that "he wasn't interested in anything but the welfare of the child." The next hearing is June 12.

Steve Bevilacqua says, "Our understanding is that the Church of the SubGenius will not be discussed. It has no bearing on anything. If that is considered in a court case, it sets precedent for a case against anyone who belongs to any religion that's not in line with the mainstream. And it's worse than that because they finally convinced the judge that it's not a joke but some sort of cult religion. Even though the books have the word 'humor' on the back. But that makes it even more of a problem because this guy was judging based on religion, which is completely unconstitutional. Who cares what religion she is? They have no right to ask you that."

Rachel Bevilacqua told Clevelan Free Times that she's "looking forward to being judged 'on the fruits of my mothering instead of the nekkidity of my buttocks.'"

Speaking of buttocks, it's a good thing she got the change of venue - James Punch seems to have his head firmly between his own cheeks. And he seems like such a tightass that it's unlikely that he'd ever be able to pull it out.

It turns out Punch is aptly named. He's become a punchline among the Church of the SubGenius. People throw out 'Why a goat?' as a oneliner. It turns out that you don't have to have a sense of humor to be funny - James Punch proves once again that, as annoying and unjust as they may be, stupid people are really funny.



arashi said...

This judge isn't fit to preside over a court and should be sacked.

Modemac said...

We've compiled a Web page on this case with numerous links providing additional information, including the actual transcripts of the court proceedings:

Wisco said...

Thanks for the link. I added it to my headline service. You can access past headlines at

Clickable version of modemac's link is