Posts Tagged “arizona”

'FBI raids FLDS businesses' / KSTU-TVNote: I have a little good news to report on this; please see below.

I’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.

Update: Lyle Jeffs has finally been captured (cached). His idiotic attempt at passing himself off as someone else — namely, as “Jeffs Lyle Steed” instead of “Lyle Steed Jeffs” — failed miserably. What a fucking perverted moron! Someone that catastrophically stupid could only have been on the run as long as he was, with the help of others. Hopefully they, too, will be prosecuted … but I’m not betting it will happen. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: KSTU-TV.

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Trent FranksYou’d think after morons like Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and Joe Walsh lost elections after mouthing off like the ignorant, misogynist buffoons they are, some in the Republican ranks would have figured out how to keep their big yaps shut when it comes to rape and pregnancy. But apparently Trent Franks, R-AZ, didn’t get that memo. As Politico reports, he spewed some Akinistic lunacy during a Congressional hearing (WebCite cached article):

A House Republican pushing for a 20-week nationwide ban on abortions said Wednesday that the incidence of pregnancies resulting from rape is “very low” — then scrambled to clarify his comment after it went viral with comparisons to former GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin.

“The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) as the House Judiciary Committee debated his bill to ban abortions nationwide after 20 weeks including in cases of rape and incest.

Remarkably, despite being challenged about his factually-incorrect claim, Franks wasn’t about to back down. Among other things, he had the chutzpah to claim it was the Democrats’ fault that he brought it up:

He said that Democrats are the ones who “constantly want to inject” rape into the abortion debate and have done so ever since the original Roe v Wade case.

He also claimed he said something other than he’d actually said, and maintained he was correct:

[Zoe] Lofgren [D-CA] again challenged him, repeating, “The suggestion that rape rarely leads to pregnancy has no basis in science or fact.”

Franks replied, “And I would just like to point out the fact that I never made such a suggestion.”

Actually, Congressman, that’s precisely what you said, at least as reported: “The incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low.” I suppose that media outlets — such as Politico (which I’ve based this blog post on) as well as many others which reported the same words — are all lying, and that you didn’t say that. Yes, it’s possible they all got together and decided, collectively, to lie about you in precisely the same way.

I admit, Congressman, it’s possible there’s a vicious conspiracy afoot to libel you across the mass media. But somehow … well … I just doubt it happened that way. Rather, I think you actually said what you were reported to have said, and are now trying to back away from it without having to disavow it (which would anger your supporters among the militant Religious Right).

In other words … Franks doesn’t even have the cojones to snivel out some laughable, insincere non-apology apology. What a fucking weasel! Not to mention being yet another lying liar for Jesus.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Schlacht von ArsufThe Great Neocrusade proceeds relentlessly across the United States. Sanctimonious Religious Rightists are proposing laws in several states which outlaw what they call “shari’a law.” As one would expect, these bills are invariably based on erroneous assumptions about Islam and the nature of shari’a law, and based upon a prevailing fear that shari’a law is being imposed on the country by force.

First we have Tennessee state senators Bill Ketron and Judd Matheny, who want to abolish shari’a law there, as reported in the Washington Post On Faith blog (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) introduced a bill last week outlawing the practice of Sharia, a complex set of religious laws that guide behavior for Muslims.

The bill, embedded below, attempts to define Sharia law and to make following it a felony punishable by 15 years in jail.

The bill in question is SB1028, available here. Of note is that Murfreesboro is where some raging Neocrusaders set fire to a mosque under construction back in October. Ketron and Matheny’s problem is that they misdefine shari’a; they further claim that Islam itself is a combined legal-military-political ideology, and imply that it’s not a religion. This mirrors what TN lieutenant governor Ron Ramsey said last summer, that Islam is a political-legal system, not a religion, and therefore not entitled to First Amendment protection. Ketron and Matheny also don’t bother to explain where, in the US, any government at any level has ever been able to force anyone to knuckle under to shari’a — even though his bill is predicated on the idea that it’s happening.

Next, we have Arizona — which appears to have become the epicenter of militant Rightism in the US — where a proposed bill (HB 2582) would outlaw all forms of religious law, including shari’a (cached):

“Religious sectarian law” means any statute, tenet or body of law evolving within and binding a specific religious sect or tribe. Religious sectarian law includes sharia law, canon law, halacha and karma but does not include any law of the united states or the individual states based on Anglo?American legal tradition and principles on which the united states was founded.

The authors of this bill have essentially gone berserk on the entire notion of “religious law,” and don’t understand what they’re talking about. First, “religious law” systems like Halakha (within Judaism) and canon law (within several Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and the several Orthodox churches) are — at least partly — the manner in which those religions conduct their own internal affairs, serving as a kind of administrative code. To abolish them completely would obviously run afoul of their religious freedoms. Second, karma is not a system of administration, but rather, a metaphysical principle within Hinduism and other Dharmic religions. It can’t be used in court, as far as I can see, despite the fact that it’s often referred to as a “law.” It’s no more a code of administration or justice than the so-called “Law” of Attraction.

Let me be clear: I do not favor the imposition of shari’a on anyone in the US. It’s a dangerous, metaphysically-charged, often-barbaric code which should be phased out worldwide — the sooner, the better. And I’m not in favor of the Roman Catholic Church holding its own canon law above the secular laws of the lands in which the Church operates; where criminal law and canon law collide, criminal law should prevail. However, passing laws to abolish shari’a law, or any other religious law-code, within the US is irrational, asinine, and childish. There is no way that any religious law-code can ever be imposed on Americans, due to the First Amendment, among other Constitutional protections. Bills such as these accomplish nothing useful, except to demonstrate the immaturity and ignorance of those who draft, sponsor, and support them. And the idea that karma is even a law-code that could ever be used in any kind of court to issue rulings … well, let’s just say this so obviously laughable that the authors and sponsors of AZ HB 2582 should hang their heads in shame. They’ve just shown themselves to be idiotic dolts who thoroughly deserve every bit of derision that’s going to be heaped on them over their ignorant bill.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum, and Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jesus Facepalm: He gave up too so please stop this foolishness… if their lives are threatened by pregnancy complications. That’s right: Roman Catholic doctrine holds that pregnant women’s lives are forfeit. Proof of this insane doctrine comes in the form of an Arizona hospital losing its affiliation with the Church because it chose to save the life of a mother. The Houston Chronicle reports on this travesty (WebCitation cached article):

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix stripped a major hospital of its affiliation with the church Tuesday because of a surgery that ended a woman’s pregnancy to save her life. …

“In the decision to abort, the equal dignity of mother and her baby were not both upheld,” [Phoenix bishop Thomas] Olmsted said at a news conference announcing the decision. “The mother had a disease that needed to be treated. But instead of treating the disease, St. Joseph’s medical staff and ethics committee decided that the healthy, 11-week-old baby should be directly killed.”

Unfortunately, the hospital staff didn’t really have this choice. They had no time. The mother was fading fast. For what it’s worth, the hospital is not apologetic about this, and even in spite of this institutional excommunication, they’re standing by what they did:

Linda Hunt, president of St. Joseph’s, said doctors performed a necessary procedure on a patient who was getting worse by the minute and was in imminent danger of death.

“If we are presented with a situation in which a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, our first priority is to save both patients. If that is not possible, we will always save the life we can save, and that is what we did in this case,” Hunt said. “Morally, ethically, and legally, we simply cannot stand by and let someone die whose life we might be able to save.”

Hospital management considered the bishop’s demands extreme and would not give in:

Dr. Charles Alfano, chief medical officer at the hospital and an obstetrician there, said Olmsted was asking the impossible from the hospital.

“Specifically the fact that [Bishop Olmsted] requested we admit the procedure performed was an abortion and that it was a violation of the ethical and religious directives and that we would not perform such a procedure in the future,” he said. “We could not agree to that. We acted appropriately.”

The reason the bishop was so incensed about what St Joseph’s did? It was the “scandal” produced by it:

“They have not addressed in an adequate manner the scandal caused by the abortion,” [Olmsted] said.

That’s right, folks. The bishop didn’t cut off the hospital over the abortion per se, but over the “scandal” it produced.

Well, Bishop, may I suggest you’ve already got your hands full of one major multinational scandal already … you might consider resolving that in a candid, upright, and moral manner — before demanding any other scandal be dealt with.

And this is a lesson to any expecting mothers out there … beware of being treated in a Catholic hospital, should you have any problems before birth. Not all of them will be like St Joseph’s and fight the Church to save your life.

Photo credit: Demotivators.

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St Augustine Cathedral, Tucson, Arizona, United StatesThe list of abusive priests whom the Vatican — and especially then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become current Pope Benedict XVI — refused to discipline, grows longer and longer. The latest examples of years of Vatican stalling were in Arizona. The AP reports via Google News on these revelations (WebCite cached article):

The future Pope Benedict XVI took over the abuse case of an Arizona priest, then let it languish at the Vatican for years despite repeated pleas from the bishop for the man to be removed from the priesthood, according to church correspondence.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press show that in the 1990s, a church tribunal found that the Rev. Michael Teta of Tucson, Ariz., had molested children as far back as the late 1970s. The panel deemed his behavior — including allegations that he abused boys in a confessional — almost “satanic.” The tribunal referred his case to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would become pope in 2005.

But it took 12 years from the time Ratzinger assumed control of the case in a signed letter until Teta was formally removed from ministry, a step only the Vatican can take.

The problem is not that Arizona church officials wouldn’t do anything about Fr Teta. They did. But there were limits, and dangers remained that they could not do anything about:

Teta was removed from ministry by the bishop, but because the church’s most severe punishment — laicization — can only be handed down from Rome, he remained on the church payroll and was working with young people outside the church.

Another Arizona priest, Msgr Robert Trupia, similarly was allowed access to children for many years in spite of diocesan requests for the Vatican to act.

Astonishingly enough, however, the Tucson diocese claims nothing was done wrong in either case:

Fred Allison, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, defended the Vatican’s handling of the Teta and Trupia cases. Internal church trials took years and the priests’ appeals took years more, Allison said.

Oh well. I guess that makes it OK to let a known abusive priest retain access to children. We can’t let a minor consideration such as the safety of children stand in the way of ensuring a long protracted ecclesiastical process be honored, now, can we?

Isn’t it strange how the organization that claims to be the world’s sole remaining arbiter of morality, can keep rationalizing allowing evil to continue to be done, within its ranks, and keeps justifying inaction, secrecy, and evasiveness?

P.S. Now that the AP is reporting on priests whom the Vatican wouldn’t stop, I wonder if the Vatican will now go on the offensive and claim the AP is “anti-Catholic” or part of a “masonic secularist” conspiracy — as they did when the New York Times reported on a similar priest in Wisconsin?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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ClockTonight, most Americans will change the the time on their clocks, moving them ahead one hour, as of 2 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday March 14, 2010). Daylight saving time is, perhaps, one of the cleverest scams ever foisted on the modern world.

Yes, that’s what I called DST: a scam. A lie. A fraud. In all of the senses of those words.

The myths about DST are legion; I will cover just a few of them here.

First, it’s often said that DST was first imposed in order to “help” farmers. This is not true. Rather, it was first imposed systematically in Europe — and later in the US — during World War I, in order to aid industry by — hopefully — reducing coal consumption, and discourage nighttime air raids. DST was repealed after the war was over. It was reimposed, as a year-round measure, in the US during World War II (and was referred to as “War Time” for that reason), and for reasons similar to why it was imposed in WWI. After World War II, DST was rolled back, then applied haphazardly, and was not standardized until Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966. (Even then, it was not truly “standardized,” since some jurisdictions were allowed not to observe it, most famously a lot of counties in Indiana, as well as the entire states of Arizona and Hawai’i.) At no time during any of this was DST requested by farmers, nor does it help them in any way; it has nothing whatever to do with agriculture. Rather, it was first imposed as a wartime-industrial measure.

Second, it’s frequently claimed that DST saves energy. Most recently this was the widely-trumpeted rationale for shifting the dates of DST (beginning in 2007) when Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The truth of the matter, however, is that DST does not in any way help save energy; in fact, it may cause more energy to be consumed than without it, as UCSB researchers determined (WebCite cached article) by looking at changes in energy consumption in Indiana after that state moved, in 2005, to observe DST statewide. Thus, the savings of fuel, which had primarily inspired enacting DST during the two world wars, probably had never been achieved! In addition to possibly encouraging added energy consumption, DST also causes expenditure of other resources, especially labor (for instance, when people — in both homes and businesses — must run around either changing all their clocks, computers, and other devices … or checking on them to be sure they correctly changed themselves).

Third, people often attribute the imposition of DST to Benjamin Franklin, who famously wrote on the subject. His piece, however, was not intended to be read literally. He was, instead, poking fun at what he considered to be Parisians’ sluggish and slovenly ways, as can be read in this suggestion:

Every morning, as soon as the sun rises, let all the bells in every church be set ringing; and if that is not sufficient?, let cannon be fired in every street, to wake the sluggards effectually, and make them open their eyes to see their true interest.

DST was, instead, first truly proposed by an entomologist from New Zealand named J.V. Hudson, who got the idea from his observations of insects.

Fourth, DST starting this weekend means that school children who, last week, were able to go to school in the morning with at least some sunlight, will now be heading to school in the dark once again, as they had in the depths of winter. There is no way that this can be said to benefit them.

Clearly the time has come for everyone to admit the simple truth about daylight saving time, which is that it is a vast inconvenience which does nothing helpful for anyone, does not do what most people claim it does (i.e. to save energy), and only causes trouble. Let’s end the charade. OK?

Photo credit: bowbrick.

P.S. Mark over at the Skeptics & Heretics Forum points out that DST is also associated with an increased incidence of heart attacks (WebCite cached article). Yet another very good reason to scratch it.

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I had not thought that Arizona authorities would do this … previously, their behavior had indicated their willingness to let James Arthur Ray (of The Secret fame) skate on the sweat-lodged deaths … but they finally arrested him for it, and apparently will prosecute him. ABC News reports on this unexpected development (WebCite cached article):

Controversial spiritual leader James Arthur Ray was arrested today and charged with three counts of manslaughter connected to the deaths at a Sedona, Ariz., sweat lodge in October.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest in a statement on its Web site.

“With the arrest of James Ray, Sheriff [Steve] Waugh hopes the familes of the three victims will now have some measure of closure to this tragedy,” the post said.

The reason I wondered if they would do anything is because, from the very start, Arizona and Yavapai county officials have treated Ray with kid gloves. For instance, they did not question him at the scene, and did nothing to prevent him from leaving their jurisdiction, leaving them unable to question him soon after. The sheriff’s announcement specifically mentions “closure” for the families, so I assume they were instrumental in, perhaps, coercing him into arresting Ray.

It’s understandable they’d be sympathetic with Ray. He’s an integral part of the Sedona Arizona region’s New Age movement, and holds many events there, bringing in thousands of his sheep robotic followers, thus propping up the area’s economy.

Thus, it remains to be seen whether or not Ray will even see a trial; if authorities don’t truly want to prosecute, and are only posturing for benefit of the victims’ families, there may be a plea deal which lets Ray off the hook, or they may even later decline to go through with a trial.

Thus — not surprisingly for me anyway — I remain skeptical that Ray will ever truly be held accountable for what he did.

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