A federal district judge ruled this week in favor of a Christian man and ordered agents of the Department of Homeland Security to return all of the "Million Dollar Bill" Gospel tracts that they had confiscated from him.
The agents violated the Fourth Amendment by conducting a warrantless search and seizure, Judge Jorge A. Solis ruled.
Darrel Rundus, founder and president of Great News Network, Inc., filed a lawsuit after the agents entered the ministry's office and threatened an employee with arrest unless he handed over the Million Dollar Bills.
The bills, produced as Gospel tracts, ask the "million-dollar question" – "Will you go to heaven?" Though the bill has similarities to U.S. currency, it is not designed to fool anyone into believing that it is real money.
Among other notations, some phrases on the bill say "This bill is not legal tender" and "Thou Shalt Not Steal."
The Million Dollar Bill, which is produced by Ray Comfort and Living Waters as an evangelism tool, is GNN's most popular and effective Gospel tract.
It was brought to the attention of the Secret Service by a bank in North Carolina. It is unclear why the bank brought it to their attention but it was not as a result of an individual trying to pass it as real money, the judge noted.
In June 2006 the Secret Service agents went to GNN's office in Denton, Texas, after finding the Christian organization's web address on the bill. They told a GNN employee that the bill was in violation of federal law and that they needed to seize all of the bills.
Rundus, who was not at the office at that time but spoke with the agents on the phone, told them that he would turn over the bills if they returned with a search warrant or court order.
But the agents said they did not need a warrant and said they had to take the bills with them because they were "contraband."
According to the U.S. Treasury, it is illegal to duplicate and make copies that are comparable to existing currency with the intent to commit fraud. But Rundus has argued that since there is no such thing as a million dollar bill in circulation, it is not illegal to create and distribute one.
Judge Solis stated in his ruling that though there are similarities with U.S. currency, "the Million Dollar Bill, taken as a whole poses no reasonable risk of deceiving an honest, sensible, and unsuspecting person."
The Million Dollar Bill does not violate federal law, the judge ruled.
Rundus' attorney, Steve Crampton of Liberty Counsel, praised the decision.
"The Department of Homeland Security should be tracking dangerous criminals instead of harassing innocent people of faith for handing out religious tracts," Crampton stated. "No clerk or bank teller will mistake the 'Million Dollar' bill for legal tender. The Constitution stands as a bulwark against federal power and abusive law enforcement."
An estimated 8-10 million Million Dollar Bill Gospel tracts sold by Living Waters have been handed out over the last ten years. GNN has distributed over one million of the tracts.