Posts Tagged “Religion”

'FBI raids FLDS businesses' / KSTU-TVI’ve blogged occasionally about the antics of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, aka FLDS. They’re a sect of Mormonism that broke away from the main LDS church when it banned polygamy. Since this split took place, the FLDS church has become even stranger than the predominant LDS church (which is already pretty strange, if you know anything about Mormonism). They’re also reclusive, living in communities they come to dominate, which is necessary since their polygamy is illegal and they need some way to fend off Johnny Law if they want to practice their religion. The current chief FLDS prophet, Warren Jeffs, is currently in prison, convicted of statute rape of underage girls who were part of his harem back in 2011.

Since then, the FLDS has effectively been run by Warren’s brother Lyle, but it seems he also has trouble operating within the bounds of the law. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Lyle and a number of other FLDS leaders have been indicted for a food-stamp con (WebCite cached article):

In a case that some say could destroy Utah’s largest polygamous sect, federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced indictments against leaders and members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on charges related to food stamp fraud.

Lyle Jeffs, who has been running the FLDS for his imprisoned brother, is one of nearly a dozen people named in an indictment that was unsealed Tuesday while FBI agents and sheriffs deputies searched businesses in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., that are owned by members of the FLDS.

Also indicted was Seth Jeffs, full brother to both Lyle and FLDS President Warren Jeffs, the religion’s prophet, who is serving a sentence of up to life in prison plus 20 years in Texas for crimes related to marrying and sexually abusing underage girls.…

Hildale and Colorado City, collectively known as Short Creek, are home to the FLDS church. Isaac Wyler, a former member of the church, said Tuesday’s action appears to be the largest law enforcement raid in the towns since 1953, when Arizona authorities arrived to arrest polygamists.

“There are officers all over town,” Wyler said.

Lyle Jeffs and 10 other FLDS church leaders and members were indicted Tuesday in Utah and South Dakota, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

The article explains various ways this scheme worked; among them:

The prosecutors’ indictment says the alleged fraud is rooted in the FLDS church’s “United Order,” instituted in 2011, which instructs all adherents to donate their lives and all their material substance to their church.

Members were told to divert their food stamp benefits to the church by purchasing food from church-owned businesses like the Meadowayne Dairy Store and Vermillion Cliffs Produce and then bring those items to the FLDS Storehouse for “donation,” according to the indictment.

“These leaders also provided instruction on how to avoid suspicion and detection by the government,” the indictment alleges.

FLDS leaders also told members to transfer their SNAP benefits to the church-owned stores without receiving any food products, according to the indictment.

On one occasion, [indicted John Clifton] Wayman [the former bishop of Short Creek] is accused of taking an Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card — which operates similar to a debit card and is linked to a SNAP account — from a qualifying person and giving it to an unauthorized person to buy food and goods.

There’s more there, but this is enough to give one a taste of the machinations the FLDS engaged in for years. Overall, this racket accumulated multiple millions of dollars in fraudulent SNAP benefits. According to another article by KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City, which provides details from court filings (cached), this amount was over $12 million. It also includes details of Lyle’s and Seth’s operations, which naturally included crimes on the side such as “Failed to report incidents of underage sex abuse.” Sigh. I guess Warren’s conviction never taught them anything.

A lot of articles I’ve read on this case assert that, with these indictments and arrests, the FLDS church is finished. That, however, would be wishful thinking. Various states had gone after Warren Jeffs and others in the FLDS for a decade before he was finally jailed for his pedophilia*, unsuccessfully until the state of Texas finally got a case they could prosecute. The FLDS has been up to no good for a very long time, and has managed to continue being up to no good for an even longer time. I truly doubt this will finish them.

* As I’ve blogged so many times before: Yes, it’s really not just a Catholic problem.

Photo credit: KSTU-TV.

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Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (color) / St Louis, MOEvery once in a while, it seems, one or another of the Catholic hierarchs decides to go after some charitable target. They do this for two reasons: First, for the attention; and second, as a way of bewailing Catholicism’s lack of influence over society.

A year and a half ago, the archdiocese of Cincinnati condemned the “Ice Bucket Challenge” which raised boatloads of cash for ALS research. Their complaint was that the ALS Association used embryonic stem cells in its research, and the Catholic Church has taught that this is an unholy abomination which can’t be permitted. Yes, they would actually prefer that people live with the horror of ALS, rather than use embryonic stem cells to treat and/or cure it (maybe, someday, hopefully). This is, of course, fully consistent with their doctrine that pregnant women’s lives are by definition forfeit.

The latest example of this “getting attention by targeting something everyone likes which actually has nothing to do with Catholicism or Christianity” trope comes from the archbishop of St Louis. As the St Louis Post-Dispatch explains, he’s come out against — of all things! — Girl Scout Cookies (WebCite cached article):

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson has issued a letter calling on parishes to seek alternatives to Girl Scouts, arguing that the program and related organizations conflict with Roman Catholic teaching.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis isn’t directly kicking Girl Scout troops and activities off church properties, but is suggesting they and their cookies may no longer be welcome in the fold.

“Girl Scouts is exhibiting a troubling pattern of behavior and it is clear to me that as they move in the ways of the world it is becoming increasingly incompatible with our Catholic values,” Carlson wrote in a letter dated Thursday. “We must stop and ask ourselves — is Girl Scouts concerned with the total well-being of our young women? Does it do a good job forming the spiritual, emotional, and personal well-being of Catholic girls?”

The letter said issues such as reproductive rights and abortion separate the church from Girl Scouts and related organizations.

The archdiocese tried to guilt its parishioners into not buying the cookies:

A question-and-answer page [cached] on an Archdiocesan website also asks parents to question whether they should condone a child joining the Girl Scouts as it conflicts with Catholic teaching.

“Can I still buy Girl Scout Cookies?” is also among the questions posted on the Archdiocesan website.

“Each person must act in accord with their conscience,” is the response. “It is also our duty to form our consciences and learn the issues.”

You can read the Archbishop’s letter for yourself (cached). Aw, the poor little thing! How dare groups like the Girl Scouts actually look out for girls’ health, and teach them anything other than that they should grow up to be perpetually barefoot and pregnant! Boo hoo hoo. Note, this is not the first time an American Catholic hierarch has pitched a fit over the Girl Scouts.

Clearly these young ladies annoy the bishops. I urge everyone to tell Archbishop Carlson what he can do with his anti-Girl Scout sanctimonious outrage, and buy lots of Girl Scout Cookies. I plan to get plenty of them!

Hat tip: Wikimedia Commons.

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President Obama greeted families in an overflow room after speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque. / Drew Angerer for the New York TimesFor years now I’ve blogged about what I call “the Great Neocrusade.” In the wake of Islamist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, the Neocrusade has gone from a rhetorical effort to a physical and violent one.

President Obama took note of this, it seems. Taking a page from his predecessor, as the New York Times reports, he knocked the Neocrusade when he visited a Baltimore mosque (WebCite cached article):

President Obama on Wednesday embraced Muslims in the United States as part of “one American family” and implicitly criticized the Republican presidential candidates in a warning to citizens to not be “bystanders to bigotry.”

In a visit to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, his first to a mosque in the United States as president, Mr. Obama recited phrases from the Quran and praised American Muslims as a crucial part of America’s history and vital to the nation’s future.

“And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion — and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country — we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths,” Mr. Obama said.

The Right is, as one would expect, outraged over this. A lot of them still think he’s a “secret Muslim” (cached), and this visit will — for them — only confirm that delusion.

Look, I get it. These folk are angry. They hear about Islamist attacks and want all Muslims to be gone. The problem is, not all Muslims are terrorists. Being violent right back at Muslims who aren’t, themselves, violent Islamists is a form of “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.

Another problem is, Islamists aren’t the only terrorists who prey on Americans. Something else I’ve blogged about is the phenomenon of domestic Right-wing terror, which — despite our aversion to admitting it — exists, is real, and is at least as dangerous for Americans as Islamist terror.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer / New York Times.

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Jesus with a gun, via Counterlight's Peculiars / Jesus Kicks Ass!I’ve blogged occasionally over the last few years about a ridiculous movement — primarily among evangelicals — that angles to get more guns into churches. For some reason, guns are sacred to Jesus. I guess. I mean, it’s not as though I’ve ever understood this notion. After all, wasn’t Jesus — who supposedly founded their religion — the one who told Christians to “turn the other cheek” and “hand over one’s shirt with one’s cloak”, and “whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword” and all of that? I guess the sacred nature of guns must escape me, cynical, cold-hearted, godless agnostic heathen that I am. I’m just not special enough to be gifted with such holy insights. Or something.

Anyway, this “bring guns to church for Jesus” trope has wandered into Catholicism, in a very public way. After his state enacted an “open-carry” law, the bishop of Dallas declared that guns aren’t allowed in any Catholic facilities in his diocese, and penned a missive on his blog announcing his opposition to “open carry.” Well, as you can imagine, this being Texas and all, that didn’t go over well. The Dallas Morning News reports on the backlash, which will include Catholics marching into churches armed to the teeth (WebCite cached article):

Plenty of Texas gun rights advocates celebrated 2016 as the year open carry finally arrived. But for some conservative Catholics, it’s another reason to clash with Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell.

The Dallas Diocese forbids parishioners from bringing guns – openly carried or concealed – to their churches. A recent online column by Farrell [cached] – described by some as “strident” – has made the Bishop’s critics even more vocal.…

The column said the ban was a reflection of the church as a place of sanctuary.

The column also praised President Barack Obama’s new executive order attempting to crack down on gun sales that hadn’t previously required background checks.…

“It is absurd that terrorists, criminals, and mentally unbalanced people can freely and openly buy weapons not intended for sport, but designed to kill people,” Farrell wrote.

It goes without saying a lot of Texans are incensed over what Farrell said. Much of that has more to do with the bishop’s expression of support for President Obama’s recent actions, than it does with his forbidding guns in Dallas-diocese churches.

At least one sanctimoniously-enraged Catholic quoted in the story plans to disobey Farrell:

[Catholic gun-toter Charles] Cleaver said he’ll continue carrying a gun to Mass, no matter what Farrell decides.

Remembering a friend’s warning, Cleaver said: “What good would that [gun] do for you if you’re not carrying?”

That last sentence points to the flaw in the gun-lovers’ arguments about how great it would be if everyone ran around with guns. They love guns; they think they’re useful; because they’re useful, that means they’re always needed; so if you don’t have one with you at all times, you may as well not even own one in the first place; but you do, so you have to take it everywhere. Yes, that’s the kind of “logic” we’re dealing with, in this sort of person.

P.S. Yes, in spite of the new law, private entities in Texas still have the right to forbid guns on their property. So Farrell’s ban of guns on diocesan property will stand.

P.P.S. I really love how Farrell’s critics called his ban on guns on diocesan properties and statement of support for Obama “strident,” as though stomping around armed to the teeth somehow isn’t also “strident.” Hmm.

Photo credit: Counterlight’s Peculiars.

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Facepalm (7839341408)By now my readers surely will have heard about the shooting in San Bernardino, CA yesterday that killed 14 and wounded 17 (WebCite cached article). Among all the yammering that’s been said about this horrific event, in the mass media and by officials, pundits and politicians, I’m not pleased to report that it’s been used as ammunition in the annual phantasmal “war on Christmas.” Raw Story explains how this connection was made this morning, on (you guessed it!) Fox News (cached):

Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. warned that Wednesday’s mass killing in San Bernardino could be a “literal war on Christmas.”…

“I don’t want to come to any hasty conclusions at the point,” Johnson continued, “but if you look at the dots, if you start to connect them in a way that’s rational and reasonable — and not political — based on simple things we know about terrorism, simple things we know about criminal justice then it leads inescapably to that one horrible conclusion: terror.”

“Is it based on politics? Is it based on religion? Is it based on hate? Is it a literal war on Christmas?”

Is this guy serious? What the fuck? How much lower can these people stoop, in their effort to bolster the lie that there’s a “war on Christmas” in the US and that it’s about to be outlawed, as a way of wiping out Christianity and its followers? You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me!

P.S. I love how Johnson says he doesn’t “want to come to any hasty conclusions” … yet he proceeds to barge right ahead and do exactly that. Although I concede, based on reports that have come in all day today (cached), that this very likely is an example of Islamist terrorism. It wasn’t an entirely unreasonable assumption, but it’s still idiotic for him to make a point of professing not to make assumptions, but then go ahead and make one nonetheless.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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On the heels of presidential candidate Ben Carson’s idiotic Islamophobic yammering, and my release of a static page on this blog explaining what the Great Neocrusade is and what’s wrong with it, the furious Christofascist Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council repeated that Muslims don’t have freedom of religion in the US. Right Wing Watch reports on his claim, and includes audio (WebCite cached article):

On his “Washington Watch” radio program yesterday, Perkins repeated his claim that Islam is not protected under the U.S. Constitution.

While discussing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson’s recent statement that he would never support a Muslim candidate for president, along with the claims of Kim Davis’ critics that a clerk would never receive such praise from the Religious Right had she been a Muslim, Perkins railed against media commentators for “interjecting” Islam “into all of these discussions.” He said that the media is using Islam as a “wedge” to divide conservatives, suggesting that Kim Davis’ decision to impose her Christian beliefs onto her county office was different because Islam is not protected in the Constitution, while Christianity is.

“Religious freedom and our liberty is ordered liberty under the Constitution,” Perkins said. “And as Dr. Carson pointed out, and I know this is driving the left crazy, that Islam is not just a religion, Islam is an economic system, it is a judicial system, it is a compressive system which is incompatible with the Constitution. That’s what Dr. Carson said and he happens to be correct.”

This isn’t the first time Tony-boy has said something like this. I noted he said pretty much the same thing just about a year ago. He hasn’t changed his tune a bit since then, I see. But just as was the case back then, Tony-boy is a blatant fucking hypocrite, decrying Islam as “an economic system” and “a judicial system” in addition to being a religion. He conveniently ignores that his own Religious Right movement is simultaneously religious, political, economic, and judicial. For Tony-boy to say Muslims can’t be granted religious freedom because their religion has certain features, but not admitting to them within his own religion — which he says does enjoy religious liberty — is hypocritical. Which he’s not allowed to do, since his own Jesus clearly, unambiguously, and explicitly forbid his followers ever to be hypocrites, at any time or for any reason. He simply can’t do it!

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the problem here is that the Religious Right views Islam as its main rival, on a global scale at least. That it’s a small minority religion here in the US, and that it does seem to have a propensity for violent extremes at the moment, makes Muslims here a convenient and ready target. That doesn’t mean all Muslims are dangerous, even though Tony-boy and his fellow Neocrusaders keep insisting that’s so. They forget there is such a thing as Christian terrorism, too. So yeah, that’s another example of Religious Right hypocrisy … condemning Islam as a “terrorist” religion, but ignoring the terrorists within their own faith. Nice, eh? Fucking hypocrites.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Rainbow flag breezeThe Religious Right is still pitching fits all over the place over the fact that gay marriage is now legal throughout the US. It’s natural that they’d go apeshit over Obergefell v. Hodges, because it forces them to treat gays as equals rather than as second-class citizens. And they can’t stand that.

But it seems Rowan county, Kentucky has become a nexus of contention over the matter. County Clerk Kim Davis has decided that, due to her Christianity, no gays in her county should be able to marry. Her Christianity, you see, prevents her from letting it happen. WKYT-TV in Lexington reports on how legal warfare is beginning to pile up over her childishness (WebCite cached article):

A flurry of activity happened Friday afternoon in the case of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, including an apparent effort to have her charged with official misconduct.

Friday afternoon, Davis, who refuses to issue marriage licenses despite a court order, said in court documents that she filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court to have a justice review her appeal. A spokeswoman with the Supreme Court told WKYT they had not received the petition as of Friday afternoon.

Davis apparently submitted that filing to the Supreme Court and then asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to extend his stay– which is scheduled to expire Aug. 31 — on his marriage license order while she appeals to the Supreme Court. Bunning responded hours later, denying that request.

Meanwhile, the Rowan County Attorney’s Office said on Friday that it has referred to the Attorney General’s Office a charge of official misconduct against Davis.

If Ms Davis doesn’t want to do her job according to the law and issue licenses for gay marriages, there’s a simple and easy solution that doesn’t require her to violate her religion, and that is for her to just fucking resign and let someone else take over the job who’s willing to do it.

See how easy that was? What need is there to resort to the Supreme Court … again? Especially when she’s likely to lose?

Oh wait, I can answer that: It’s because she wants to feel persecuted for Jesus because that desire is part and parcel of the psychopathology of her religion. Going to court and losing is, in a perverse way, exactly what she wants!

Update: Yesterday the Supreme Court turned aside her request (cached). She’s going to have to decide whether or not to fulfill her duties as a county clerk.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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