Posts Tagged “lawsuit”

Graphic from Heaven's Gate cult Web site (http://www.heavensgate.com/)I just heard about this story, and since it’s not far from me, thought I should pay a little attention. That said, I admit this sounds a bit strange. Especially given that, so far, the only news anyone has about the case comes from attorneys representing plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit, a lot of this must be taken with a grain of salt. Courthouse News Service reports an accusation that teachers at Avon High School recruited three girls from one family into a religious cult (WebCite cached article):

Three high school Spanish teachers and a guidance counselor indoctrinated three girls into a religious cult “that promotes martyrdom and celebrates death,” the girls’ parents claim in court.

The Doe family sued Avon (Conn.) Public Schools, Wellesley College, and the teachers, in Federal Court.

“All three girls experienced sudden and severe personality changes,” the complaint states. “They became flat and distant, reclusive, secretive, and non-communicative. They lost their humor and their empathy. They began speaking in a bizarre new language. They became unable to think critically or independently. They became dependent on the school teachers and guidance counselor who had indoctrinated them, especially defendant [redacted].”

The youngest daughter, who is 16, was able to break free, but the 22- and 19-year-old remain under the teachers’ influence and even reported that their parents were abusive in order to get access to housing at Wellesley College over the summer, according to the 64-page lawsuit.

“On information and belief, the two older Doe sisters were indoctrinated into a religious cult that promotes martyrdom, and celebrates death. This has caused the elder Doe sisters to experience fantasies of suicidal ideation and martyrdom,” the complaint states.

WTIC-AM has a story about this, too (cached), and they also have a copy of the lawsuit in PDF format (cached).

I’m quite skeptical about this story. The claim that these girls “became flat and distant, reclusive, secretive, and non-communicative” doesn’t necessarily point to cult recruitment. Lots of things could have made them that way … from the simple onset of adolescence, to drug use, the influence of friends, social isolation, etc. As I said, the information here comes from trial attorneys trying to establish a case — not exactly the most credible source. In this case I find the allegations especially questionable since there is a long litany of complaints about the three teachers and the lawsuit is larded down with many claims, a lot of which are about their (supposedly) poor teaching ability and have nothing to do with any possible cult indoctrination. The lawyers are clearly shotgunning the court with anything and everything they could hurl at the defendants. It’s a classic legal and propaganda tactic, but it hardly can be taken at face value.

As for the nature of the “religious cult,” that’s not entirely clear. The lawsuit describes it as “a religious cult that promotes martyrdom and celebrates death,” which sort of suggests it might have something to do with Christianity. But lots of semi-Christian or even non-Christian elements are mentioned:

Defendant [redacted] was not just teaching her students Spanish. She taught her students religion and pseudoscience. Specifically, she taught her students to believe in superstition, magic, and a non-scientific, anti-intellectual worldview. She would discuss spirituality, numerology, astrology, dreams, mysticism, looking for “signs,” angels, symbols, “synchronicity,” “negativity,” “seeking the truth,” and death. All of those topics are religious in nature, and none of those topics are included in the Avon School District curriculum.

Likewise, Defendant [redacted] was also teaching religious material which is not included in the Avon School District curriculum. She once assigned her students a project on “magical realism.”

Defendant [redacted]‘s Spanish class often focused on the topic of death. One time, Defendant [redacted] even had the students write about what they thought happened to them when they died. Because the writings were done in Spanish, people outside the class, especially parents, did not realize what the students were writing.

Perhaps this “cult” — if it exists, and if these girls had been recruited into it — is some sort of “New Agey” kind of thing. Not that this would make it any better than if it were a Christian “cult,” since New Age practices can be detrimental, not to mention dangerous or even lethal.

Because I’m so suspicious of the veracity of these allegations, I’m not naming any accused individuals in my blog post, and have redacted their names out of the quotations above. I’d considered not even blogging about this at all. But I did so, because this is so close to me and because it’s very much “on topic” for this blog. So if you really need to know the names of the accused, you’ll have to go elsewhere to find them. That said, if it should turn out the lawsuit is well-founded, I may edit this post and put their names back in. I will blog on this in the future as more news about this case rolls in.

Update: It’s July 24, 2 months after this story broke, yet no further word about it. I’d assumed local media would have had enough time by now to look into it, but it seems they either haven’t, or they have, but haven’t discovered anything. Unless more is released in the next couple months, I’ll probably pull this blog post entirely.

Photo credit: Graphic from Heaven’s Gate Web site.

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First Cathedral (Baptist), Bloomfield, CTIt took over two years, but the town of Enfield here in Connecticut finally resolved a lawsuit it brought on itself by holding its high school graduation in churches. The Hartford Courant reports on the settlement (WebCite cached article):

In a 6-3 vote, the school board decided Wednesday night to accept a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU over the school system’s practice of holding high school graduation ceremonies in a church.

The American Civil Liberties Union and another group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed the suit two years ago after the school board decided to hold graduation ceremonies for both Enfield High School and Enrico Fermi High School at First Cathedral in Bloomfield.

I’d blogged about this conflict, back when it erupted in spring of 2010. At the time litigation over this began, various Christianist legal outfits had promised the town and its Board of Education that they’d pay the legal fees, thus encouraging them to defend the lawsuit despite having no chance of prevailing. But I note, in the end, these promises proved bogus, because none of those groups are paying a dime:

The school board’s insurance provider, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, will cover the cost of the settlement up to $470,000, Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann said. The exact dollar amount of the settlement was not revealed.

I wonder if their Jesus taught these guys not to keep their word?

The Courant article includes the expected childish whining and bellyaching on the part of Christianists, both on the Board and in the town, who don’t like the vote and call the ACLU and AU “bullies.” Well … boo fucking hoo, you crybabies! What you were doing was unconstitutional, and you know it. If you had any integrity in the first place, you’d realize that, and would now show the courage to admit having been wrong. But you won’t, because you have no courage; you’re just juvenile religionists who can’t help but stamp and fume when someone dares thwart you.

Photo credit: Hartford Courant.

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Cry babyIn a move that ought to surprise no one with half a brain, America’s Catholic bishops have decided to ramp up their sanctimonious fury, and are taking the Obama administration to court because it dared to thwart their desire to control the lives of others. The New York Times reports on their continued expression of Christofascist outrage (WebCite cached article):

In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration’s rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies.

The bishops’ hissy fit was orchestrated by the usual suspects, including New York’s Cardinal Dolan:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, whose archdiocese in New York is among the plaintiffs, said in a statement: “We have tried negotiations with the administration and legislation with the Congress — and we’ll keep at it — but there’s still no fix. Time is running out and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”

The problem is, the Cardinal is lying! Neither he nor any of the rest of the bishops are truly “negotiating” anything with anyone. In order to “negotiate,” one must first be willing to “compromise.” However, at no time have the bishops ever expressed even the slightest desire to “compromise” with anyone. Quite the opposite … they’ve gone on the record as stating they absolutely will not compromise on matters such as this. In their minds, anyone who’s insolent enough to stand in the way of them controlling others and imposing their doctrines on them (whether or not they’re actually Catholic) is an effort to deny them “religious freedom.” As I’ve blogged before, their reasoning is as follows:

  1. We Catholic bishops have religious freedom, and are entitled to hold any beliefs we want
  2. One of our beliefs is that everyone — Catholic or not — is required to live according to Catholic doctrines
  3. Anyone who gets in the way of our forcing everyone to obey Catholic doctrine, therefore …
  4. … is robbing us of our “religious freedom,” which is impermissible.

The bishops object to having to pay for contraception as part of their employees’ health insurance, however, the cold fact is that, at some point, everyone has to pay for something s/he objects to … for whatever reason. For example, I object to having had my tax money used to bail out AIG and many banks a few years ago (cached).* Why should the bishops’ objection to contraception spending be more important than my objection to government bailouts … merely because their objection is religious, while mine is purely fiscal?

Sorry, but there’s no rational way this can be said to be about money. It’s about something else; it’s the Catholic Church’s pushback campaign in the wake of the “priestly pedophilia” scandal, and is an effort to scare up political power and regain the societal influence it once had. The bishops are hoping American courts — capped by the US Supreme Court, which currently has a theocrat-sympathetic majority — will hand them the power they want.

* For the record, I accept that, in a representative republic such as the U.S., the government will sometimes spend money in a way I personally object to. I can live with the bailouts, even if I don’t like them and don’t agree they were wise. Why can’t the bishops say the same about contraception? (Answer: Because they’re too fucking childish to do so!)

Photo credit: tacit requiem.

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666 DiceA fundamentalist Christian in Georgia is suing the company that fired him because he refused to wear a sticker with the number “666″ on it. The AP reports via the Washington Post On Faith blog on this metaphysical lunacy (WebCite cached article):

A Georgia factory worker claims in a federal lawsuit that he was fired after he refused to wear a ‘666’ sticker he feared would doom him to eternal damnation.

Billy E. Hyatt claims he was fired from Pliant Corp., a plastics factory in northern Georgia near Dalton, after he refused to wear a sticker proclaiming that his factory had been accident-free for 666 days. That number is considered the “mark of the beast” in the Bible’s Book of Revelation describing the apocalypse.

Hyatt, who said he’s a devout Christian, had worked for the north Georgia plastics company since June 2007 and like other employees wore stickers each day that proclaimed how long the factory had gone without an accident.

Most of us would consider 666 accident-free days in a plant to be a good thing, not a bad one, but Hyatt’s metaphysical beliefs don’t permit that kind of a rational conclusion.

CNN also offers this video report on Hyatt and his lawsuit:

Note about this interview: The reporter refers to the final book of the New Testament as “Revelations,” but that’s not its name. It’s “Revelation.” Singular. Just one “revelation,” not many “revelations.” This is a common mistake, but many people make it nonetheless.

Two more observations about the video: About the 0:55 mark, Hyatt claims “it’s not just a sticker.” Unfortunately for him, the truth of the matter is that it most assuredly is “just a sticker,” and nothing he says about it can ever make it anything other than “just a sticker.”

Also, Hyatt apparently imagines himself a martyr for Jesus. Around the 1:18 mark — right near the the end of the piece — he says:

“One of these days, I know I’m going to lose my life for not wanting to accept the Mark of the Beast.”

That’s right, folks … the guy actually fantasizes about being martyred. Who says the age-old Christian persecution complex isn’t alive and well, and living in Dalton, GA?

Photo credit: connerdowney.

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Ivanov, Alexander - The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene - 1834-1836I’ve never quite understood why it is that so many religions have such a hard time accepting that women — who are half the human population — are human beings, too, just like men. It seems rather obvious to me that both women and men are equally human … but hey, what could a cynical, God-hating agnostic heathen possibly know about such important things as institutional misogyny?

I blogged a while ago about how the Roman Catholic Church teaches that pregnant women’s lives are forfeit, and expect their hospitals to comply with this doctrine. But it’s not just the Catholic hierarchy that believes women are lesser beings whose welfare is secondary to theology. In a lawsuit filed over how the Pentagon mishandled sexual harassment, assault, and rape in the military, one story claims that an Army chaplain said something unconscionable to an Army sergeant who had been raped (WebCite cached article):

In February of 2009 SGT Havrilla reported for four weeks of active duty training. During this training, she saw her rapist in the shopette on Fort Leanard Wood. Upon seeing her rapist, SGT Havrilla went into shock. She immediately sought the assistance of the military chaplain. When SGT Havrilla met with the military chaplain, he told her that “it must have been God’s will for her to be raped” and recommended that she attend church more frequently (#46, page 10).

Definitely, that’s what every victim of rape needs — to bow and scrape and worship the vast cosmic deity whose will it had been for her to be raped. Why, of course! It’s the obvious remedy!

</sarcasm>

Now, I have no idea what the religious affiliation of the chaplain in question is. The military does have non-Christian chaplains. But the odds are, this chaplain was a man, ordained by some Christian denomination. So I’m assuming (at the risk of being wrong, I admit) this denigration of women must be something Jesus taught … right?

Well, I’ve just scoured every Bible I could get my hands on, but have never found “Thou shalt treat women like trash and abuse them as thou wilt” anywhere in it. Maybe one of you Christians out there (I know you read this blog!) can point me in the direction of it.* If you can’t find it, then maybe — just maybe! — it’s time to stop fucking acting as though he did. OK?

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

* In fact … I dare you to point it out! Please post the chapter and verse in the comments. Thank you.

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Bishop Eddie Long from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, GA declared the word of the Lord into our hearts and lives.Over the past few months I’ve blogged many times on the Roman Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal and that Church’s dismal failure to handle it in anything approaching a mature and morally-upright fashion. But no one should be fooled into thinking scandals of this sort are limited only to Catholicism. Evangelical Protestants such as Ted Haggard and George Alan Rekers have been caught up in sex scandals over the last few years (albeit with adults). And before them, of course, there were Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker.

More recently, yet another evangelical has found himself facing a sex scandal of his own, and this time the accusations involve somewhat younger victims. The CBS News Crimesider reports on the expanding case of Atlanta megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long (WebCite cached article):

New pictures [cached] have surfaced of Bishop Eddie Long, prominent pastor of a 25,000-member megachurch outside Atlanta, as a third man has come forward accusing the anti-gay advocate of coercing him into sex.

CBS News’ Erica Hill reports the pastor allegedly sent his accusers numerous photos [cached] of himself including at least several of him wearing spandex and workout clothes.

It’s not known precisely how the photos surfaced.

This scandal has been brewing for a week or so, and has reached the point where Long can no longer ignore it, even if — perhaps — he’d first thought he could deflect it:

Long canceled an interview with the Tom Joyner Morning Show Thursday, opting instead to make his first public response to the sex allegations during a service at his Atlanta-area church on Sunday, according to his lawyer, who appeared on the nationally syndicated radio show in Long’s absence.

This article goes into some of the allegations, and also explains Long’s pedigree as a prominent evangelical:

In lawsuits filed this week, three men who were members of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church claimed Long coerced them into sexual relations with gifts including cars, cash and travel when they were 17 or 18 years old. The sprawling church in Lithonia, Ga., about 18 miles outside of Atlanta, counts politicians, celebrities and the county sheriff among its members and hosted four U.S. presidents during the 2006 funeral of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, Coretta Scott King.

One of the claims in the lawsuits is that Long had sexual contact with the young men, who were enrolled in New Birth’s ministry for teen boys, during trips he took them on in the U.S. and abroad. Gillen said the travel was part of a mentoring program that other young men also participated in.

The problem for Long is not merely that he’s a pastor who knows better than to engage in such behavior, but that he’s an outright hypocrite, since he’s been something of an anti-gay crusader:

Long has called for a national ban on same-sex marriage and his church counsels gay members to become straight. In 2004, he led a march with Bernice King to her father’s Atlanta grave to support a national constitutional amendment to protect marriage “between one man and one woman.”

Bishop Long appears to have forgotten that his own Jesus explicitly, clearly, and unambiguously ordered his followers never, ever to be hypocritical.

It remains to be seen what he will say when he addresses his congregation on Sunday. Some news reports suggest he may be resigning pending the outcome of these cases, however, another CBS News Crimesider report shows some defiance on his part (cached):

Bishop Eddie Long spoke out for the first time Friday about allegations that he had sexual relationships with at least three teenage boys in his Atlanta-area church. …

Long said he was in the middle of a battle.

“We will arise through this situation, and go forward, and we are moving forward,” Long said.

That sounds like a guy who’s hired a batallion of attorneys to fight these lawsuits, not someone who’s preparing to give in and go away silently.

It should be no surprise to anyone that, in looking for reactions to this scandal, the mass media ran immediately, microphones extended, to the aforementioned shamed Ted Haggard, who is (likewise no surprise!) supporting his fellow scandal-plagued evangelical pastor, as AOL News reports (cached):

Disgraced pastor Ted Haggard cautions that no one should rush to judge Atlanta megachurch Bishop Eddie Long, who is accused of coercing three young men into sex.

“Nobody’s guilty until the court says he’s guilty,” Haggard, the former head of a 14,000-member congregation in Colorado, told AOL News in a phone interview Wednesday.

I don’t know what’s more pathetic … that the mass media thought that the shamed pastor had anything to say worth hearing, or that Haggard had the audacity to say that no one is permitted to think ill of Long until a court renders a verdict?

Photo credit: TBN Newsletter.

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I’ve always wondered why the government never goes after physics for being frauds. It seems pretty obvious that they can’t do what they say they can do. I guess the government figures people who believe in psychic powers get whatever they deserve, for it. But NPR reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission is going after a psychic who claims to be able to foresee markets and investments (WebCite cached article):

SEC Sues Psychic For Securities Fraud

“I have called ALL the highs and lows of the market, giving EXACT DATES for rises and crashes over the last 14 years,” Sean David Morton allegedly wrote in a newsletter back in 2006. …

So Morton managed to raise $6 million from investors, according to a lawsuit the SEC filed today accusing him of securities fraud.

According to the SEC:

Morton claimed that he would use his psychic expertise to provide investment guidance to his investing team, and falsely touted his historical success in psychically predicting the various rises and falls of the market. … However, Morton lied to investors about his past successes, and about key aspects of the Delphi Investment Group …

It’s about time a psychic was called to account for making fraudulent claims.

Hat tip: Consumerist.

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