Posts Tagged “haitian earthquake”

The plot thickens concerning the Idaho Baptists who were caught in Haiti trying to sneak some children out of the country (about whom I’ve blogged several times already). First, we hear (from the New York Times) that their leader, Laura Silsby, is no stranger to law enforcement, not in Idaho anyway (WebCite cached article):

The leader of the group of Americans charged on Thursday with abducting children in Haiti is an Idaho businesswoman with a complicated financial history that involves complaints from employees over unpaid wages, state liens on a company bank account and lawsuits in small claims court.

The leader, Laura Silsby, defaulted last July on the mortgage on a house in an unfinished subdivision here in Meridian, a suburb of Boise, according to the Ada County Tax Assessor’s Office. Yet in November, Ms. Silsby registered a new nonprofit, the New Life Children’s Refuge, at the address of the house, which she bought in 2008 for $358,000. …

Ms. Silsby and her business, Personal Shopper, which provides shopping services for Internet customers, have faced multiple legal claims.

According to state records and officials, Personal Shopper has been named 14 times in complaints from employees over unpaid wages. Among the reasons cited by the employees for having not been paid were “no money for payroll” and “fully investor funded and investors have been hit hard by the economy.”

Employees won nine of the cases, forcing Personal Shopper to pay nearly $31,000 in wages and $4,000 in fines. The Idaho Department of Labor initially put liens on a company bank account to get the money.

Nevertheless, despite her questionable business history, Ms Silsby has some very loyal and very religious supporters:

Clint Henry, pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, where five of the Americans charged in Haiti attend services, said Ms. Silsby had attended his church for about two years.

“You wouldn’t find any finer Christian people than these people,” Mr. Henry said in an interview earlier this week.

Uh, OK, pastor. Whatever you say.

In addition to this, it appears that Ms Silsby’s nine followers are no longer fans of hers, as the New York Times (again!) is reporting (WebCite cached article):

Divisions emerged within the group of 10 Americans jailed in Haiti on child abduction charges, with eight of them signing a note over the weekend saying that they had been misled by Laura Silsby, the leader of the group.

“Laura wants to control,” said the scribbled note handed to a producer for NBC News. “We believe lying. We’re afraid.”

The infighting came amid a shakeup in the legal representation of the Americans, who have been charged with trying to remove 33 Haitian children from the country without government permission. …

The note signed by the group, which is affiliated with a Baptist church in Twin Falls, Idaho, made clear that they were emotionally distraught and divided. “We fear for our lives here in Haiti,” said the letter, which was signed by everyone except Ms. Silsby and Charisa Coulter, Ms. Silsby’s former nanny and co-founder of the group.

“We only came as volunteers,” the note went on. “We had NOTHING to do with any documents and have been lied to.”

It’s too bad it took being jailed in Haiti before they figured out Ms Silsby is not to be trusted.

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Things are looking stranger and stranger in the case of the Baptists who tried to take some children out of Haiti, about whom I’ve blogged a couple times. Not only were these not orphaned or abandoned children, it seems that, in some cases, the parents gave the children to them, in order to give them a free education. The New York Times reports on how the Baptists’ story grows increasingly disingenuous (WebCite cached article):

Guerlaine Antoine pushed aside a tub full of laundry, wiped her soapy hands on her T-shirt and rushed barefoot to bring out photos of the 8-year-old boy she entrusted to 10 American Baptists.

“Do you think I would give this child away?” she said, opening a grade school yearbook to show her son, Carl Ramirez Antoine, in cap and gown, at his kindergarten graduation. “He is my only treasure.” …

Kisnel and Florence Antoine said they sent two of their children with the Baptist missionaries because they had offered educational opportunities for the children in the Dominican Republic. Ketlaine Valmont said she had sent a son.

They showed school photos and academic awards to demonstrate that they had not selfishly sent their children away to lighten their load.

In a country where more than half of all children come from families too poor to keep them in school, the parents said that the Americans’ offer of an education seemed like a gift from heaven.

They also wanted to give opportunities for something better to their children. They said that the missionaries had promised they would be able to visit their children in the Dominican Republic, and that the children would be free to come home for visits.

At least these parents, then, were not giving up their child for adoption, just entrusting them to people who would educate them but still allow family visits. It’s clear, however, that the Baptists had planned to place these children for adoption:

The Americans said that the children had been orphaned in the earthquake, and that they had authorization from the Dominican government to bring the children into the country.

But it became clear on Tuesday that at least some of the children had not lost their parents in the earthquake.

So not only were these kids not orphaned or abandoned — and the Baptists knew this, because they had spoken with at least some of the parents — their claim of not planning to adopt them out, is also demonstrably untrue:

And while the Americans said they did not intend to offer the children for adoption, the Web site for their orphanage [WebCite cached version] makes clear that they intended to do so.

In addition to providing a swimming pool, soccer field and access to the beach for the children, the group, known as the New Life Children’s Refuge, said it also planned to “provide opportunities for adoption,” and “seaside villas for adopting parents to stay while fulfilling the requirement for 60-90 day visit.”

The reason these Haitian families were willing to trust these strangers with their children, is because a local minister vouched for them:

They trusted the Americans, they said, because they arrived with the recommendation of a Baptist minister, Philippe Murphy, who runs an orphanage in the area. A woman who answered the door at Mr. Murphy’s house said he had gone to Miami. But she also said that he did not know anything about the Americans.

It’s interesting, don’t you think, that a person as pivotal in all of this as the Rev Murphy, is somehow not to be found? Hmm.

It’s clear, at any rate, that this Baptist organization has told more than one lie to more than one person. This places them squarely among my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

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Things are looking worse for the Baptist group based in Idaho which tried to abscond with some Haitian refugee children. The BBC now reports that not all the children’s parents are “missing” (WebCite cached article):

Haiti ‘orphans’ found with Americans may have parents

The Americans said the youngsters had all lost their parents in the quake.

But George Willeit, a spokesman in Port-au-Prince for SOS Children’s Villages, which is now looking after the children, says at least one of them, a little girl, said her parents were alive.

The children also apparently hadn’t been cared for very well, while the Baptists were trying to shuffle them out of Haiti:

Mr Willeit said many of the children had been found to be in poor health, hungry and dehydrated.

One of the smallest — just two or three months old — was so dehydrated she had to be taken to hospital, he added.

Haitian officials appear not to be taking this situation lightly:

“This is an abduction, not an adoption,” Haitian Social Affairs Minister Yves Christallin told AFP news agency.

The Baptist group is still in denial over this, claiming to have done nothing wrong:

The leader of the Idaho-based group, Laura Silsby, said the arrests were the result of a mistake.

“Our understanding was that we were told by a number of people, including Dominican authorities, that we would be able to bring the children across,” she said.

“The mistake we made is that we didn’t understand there was additional paperwork required.”

But as the BBC explains, it wasn’t even as simple as having missed a little bit of “additional paperwork”:

But the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, in Port-au-Prince, says the regulations are very clear — each case of child adoption must be approved by the government.

Even before the earthquake, he adds, child-smuggling was a massive problem in Haiti, with thousands of children disappearing each year.

Rules to prevent child-smuggling predated the earthquake, then, so anyone attempting to remove children from Haiti has no excuse for not knowing that government permission was required. As for their claim that the Dominican Republic approved their operation … I wasn’t aware that the D.R.’s government had any authority to decide whether Haitian children could leave their country. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see where that authority exists. Maybe the Baptists are aware of some rule to this effect, that I never heard of.

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We all know that Christians are commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), and as a rule, they generally feel compelled to convert as many people as possible to their own form of their religion. Abandoned and orphaned children in post-earthquake Haiti must have seemed like “easy pickings” to an Idaho Baptist church, so it looks like they went there and scooped some of them up. They’re now, understandably, in a heap of trouble because they tried it. The (UK) Guardian reports on this missionary venture (WebCite cached article):

American church group held after trying to take children out of Haiti

A group of 10 American Baptists were being held in Port-au-Prince today after trying to take 33 children out of Haiti.

The church group, most of them from Idaho, allegedly lacked the proper documents when they were arrested on Friday night in a bus along with children aged from two months to 12 years who had survived the earthquake.

The group said they were setting up an orphanage across the border in the Dominican Republic.

Their motives, they insist, were nothing but pure:

“In this chaos the government is in right now we were just trying to do the right thing,” the group’s spokeswoman, Laura Silsby, said at the judicial police headquarters in Port-au-Prince, where the Americans were being held pending a hearing tomorrow before a judge.

The Baptists’ Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission was described as an effort to save abandoned, traumatised children. They wanted to take 100 children by bus to a 45-room hotel at Cabarete, a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, that they were converting into an orphanage, Silsby told the AP.

The problem is that this sort of thing is kinda illegal at the moment, in Haiti, and for very good reason:

However, the Americans – the first known to be taken into custody since the 12 January quake – are now in the middle of a political firestorm in Haiti, where government leaders have suspended adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to child trafficking. …

Haiti has imposed new controls on adoptions since the earthquake, which left thousands of children parentless or separated from their families. The government now requires the prime minister Max Bellerive to personally authorise the departure of any child as a way to prevent child trafficking.

The Baptist church group insists they aren’t up to no good, though, and points out that they had “inside help”:

Silsby said the group, including members from Texas and Kansas, only had the best of intentions and paid no money for the children, whom she said they obtained from the Haitian pastor Jean Sanbil, of the Sharing Jesus Ministries.

As the Guardian goes on to say, these Baptists were ignorant of this rule, and in fact, had never bothered even trying to get any kind of clearance from the Haitian government:

Silsby said they had documents from the Dominican government, but did not seek any paperwork from the Haitian authorities before taking the children to the border.

Here, we call that “breaking the law for Jesus.” Not that it would be a new phenomenon, there are always religious folk who think their metaphysical beliefs entitle them to break laws. It’s one thing to believe one is supposed to “make disciples of all nations”; it’s quite another to just round up children whose parents are missing and just haul them away to raise them into the Baptist faith.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics forum and Anti-Bible forum (both on Delphi Forums).

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In the wake of the manner in which Christians — such as Marion “Pat” Robertson — have used the Haiti earthquake to advance their own agendas, scientist and outspoken critic of religion Richard Dawkins is using the comments of Christians — both Robertson’s, and those who try to distance themselves from him — to expose the reality of the religion they worship. In the Washington Post On Faith blog, he wrote (WebCite cached article):

Needless to say, milder-mannered faith-heads are falling over themselves to disown Pat Robertson, just as they disowned those other pastors, evangelists, missionaries and mullahs at the time of the earlier disasters.

What hypocrisy.

Loathsome as Robertson’s views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonized theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable ‘mystery’, or who ‘see God’ in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into Haiti , or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God ‘suffering on the cross’ in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.

Where was God in Noah’s flood? He was systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for ‘sin’. Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock stock and barrel, as punishment for ‘sin’. Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated Christian, your entire religion is founded on an obsession with ‘sin’, with punishment and with atonement. Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have signed up to the obnoxious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesus’ incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the ‘sins’ of all mankind, past, present and future, beginning with the ‘sin’ of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed?

The reality of Christianity is that sin, suffering, and retribution are central to everything about it, and Dawkins delivers this philosophical hammer-blow to Christians who would try to disavow Robertson:

Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for ‘sin’ – or suffering as ‘atonement’ for it? You may weep for Haiti where Pat Robertson does not, but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Christian theology. You are nothing but a whited sepulchre.

Dawkins will, no doubt, be condemned for this confrontational piece, which is one of the harshest things I’ve read about Christianity, in the mass media, in a long time. (People seem to think that atheists like Dawkins are supposed to be meek, humble milquetoasts who cannot say anything even remotely mean about any religion … even though they, themselves, think nothing of deriding atheism, secularism, and other forms of non-belief.) But whatever the merits of Dawkins writing this confrontational piece may be, the fact remains that he is correct: Christian theology is predicated on viciousness and suffering, and revels in it. I have long argued that the God of all the Abrahamic faiths (i.e. Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition) can — logically — only be a malevolent being. It is not possible for him to be benevolent, as JCI worshippers assume him to be, nor is it possible even for him to be ambivalent or neutral. It’s heartening to see a public figure delivering a similar message.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith and the Friendly Atheist blogs.

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In the fine tradition of using catastrophes to one’s own advantage, the Church of Scientology has decided that Haitians injured in the recent earthquake require their dubious pseudo-medicine. AFP reports via Google News (WebCite cached article):

Scientologists ‘heal’ Haiti quake victims using touch

Amid the mass of aid agencies piling in to help Haiti quake victims is a batch of Church of Scientology “volunteer ministers”, claiming to use the power of touch to reconnect nervous systems.

Clad in yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of the controversial US-based group, smiling volunteers fan out among the injured lying under makeshift shelters in the courtyard of Port-au-Prince’s General Hospital.

An anonymous benefactor is sending Scientolgists in, at great expense, to provide this important service to Haiti:

“We’re trained as volunteer ministers, we use a process called ‘assist’ to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points, to bring back communication,” she said.

“When you get a sudden shock to a part of your body the energy gets stuck, so we re-establish communication within the body by touching people through their clothes, and asking people to feel the touch.”

Yeah, folks, this is yet another kind of “energy medicine,” which is just as bogus as every other kind of “energy medicine,” such as reiki, therapeutic touch, and more. Nevertheless, these Scientologists claim to have performed miracles:

Next to her lay 22-year-old student Oscar Elweels, whose father rescued him from the basement of his school where he lay with a pillar on his leg for a day after the deadly January 12 quake.

His right leg was amputated below the knee and his left leg was severely bruised and swollen. …

“One hour ago he had no sensation in his left leg, so I explained the method to him, I touched him and after a while he said ‘now I feel everything’,” said [the Scientologist known as] Sylvie.

“Otherwise they might have had to amputate his other leg. Now his sister knows the method and she can do it.”

The news isn’t all bad, though, as AFP goes on to say:

Another group of Scientologists distributed antibiotic pills. “The doctors said give everyone with wounds antibiotics,” said Italian volunteer Marina.

The Scientologists’ questionable care hasn’t gone unnoticed by true medical professionals on site; they appear to have taken advantage of the chaos to insinuate themselves into the clinics:

Some doctors at the hospital are skeptical. One US doctor, who asked not to be named, snorted: “I didn’t know touching could heal gangrene.”

When asked what the Scientologists are doing here, another doctor said: “I don’t know.”

Do you care? “Not really,” she said, wheeling an unconscious patient out of the operating room to join hundreds of others in the hospital’s sunny courtyard.

Sorry, but foisting quackery on Haitians, in the time of their greatest need — and when they are at their most vulnerable — in order to promote an ersatz religion, is — quite simply — wrong.

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I blogged about Patty Robertson’s insane and insulting drivel about the earthquake in Haiti last night, but now I find that another Rightist figure has found yet another insulting and horrible way to comment on that same disaster. Rush Limbaugh has managed to say not one, but two, despicable — and in the case of the latter, possibly racist — things about it.

His first gem: “We’ve already donated to Haiti, it’s called the US income tax.” Here’s a Mediaite recording:

Limbaugh implies that no American need donate anything to Haitian relief, since it’s already been done by the federal government. Gosh, what a wonderfully charitable sentiment!

Then, he said: “[The Obama White House will] use this to burnish their, shall we say, credibility with the black community, in the light-skinned and black-skinned community in this country.” Here, again, is a Mediate recording:

Limbaugh is correct in suggesting that politicians “use” disaster responses to promote themselves politically. This is old news. It’s also something all political parties do and it’s something they’ve long been criticized for (e.g. George W. Bush, who was accused of this back in 2004 (cached article) when he was running for re-election). The remarks about light-skinned and black-skinned and appealing just to “the black community,” though, are ridiculous, and reveal Limbaugh’s own racist thinking rather than saying anything about the Obama administration. If he thinks politicians like Obama only care about how “the black community” sees them, then he’s an idiot … politicians such as him typically want to look good to as many different kinds of people as possible, not just to a subset of the population!

So far this has only been reported by the usual partisan-political outlets, such as Huff and Media Matters, not by the mass media. They’re likely not aware of it yet. (It’s always partisans who first pick these things up, since they’re the ones with banks of monitors listening to and transcribing the comments of people like Robertson and Limbaugh. The mass media don’t have the personnel to devote to that.)

It’s absolutely unbelievable that people like Robertson and Limbaugh manage to get away with this. Once again I must ask a similar question to the one that ended my blog entry on Robertson’s latest spew, which is, “When are conservatives going to figure out that Rush Limbaugh no longer possesses the moral foundation to be their spokesman any more?” At what point have they had enough?

Update: Limbaugh is now saying (WebCite cached article) that his racist or near-racist remarks were merely his way of pointing out that Senate majority leader Harry Reid hasn’t taken any heat for his own quasi-racist comments during the 2008 presidential campaign (as reported in a recent book). There are two problems with this, however. First, Limbaugh is incorrect in insisting that Reid hasn’t been criticized for his comments. Reid has been criticized (cached); he has apologized (cached) for those remarks; and the apology was accepted (cached). Second, this is two wrongs make a right thinking, which is both fallacious and immoral. That someone else did something wrong, is not license for anyone to misbehave. Not to mention that Limbaugh’s claim that Reid hasn’t been criticized is … as noted already … factually incorrect. Thus he compounds the immorality of using another’s wrong to justify his own, with the immorality of deceit.

Nice. For that the man gets paid millions of dollars a year.

At that rate of pay, he can afford to hire a nanny who can make him grow up, for the first time in his life.

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