Posts Tagged “conviction”

Followers of Indian religious leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh throw stones at security forces during clashes after the controversial guru was convicted of rape in Panchkula, Aug. 25, 2017. Getty photo, via CBS NewsA lot of people in the US, where I live, have a lot of preconceptions about India. Many of them view that country through the lens of some of its most famous figures … in particular, Mahatma Gandhi. There’s no doubt that Gandhi left his mark on the world; he instigated India’s independence from British rule, and in the process showed that civil disobedience and non-violent resistance could change history. A lot of Americans, therefore, tend to view India as a land of pacifists.

It’d be nice if the world’s second-largest country by population were actually a collection of pacifists, but that’s not so. I don’t say that to denigrate India. I only say that, because that’s just how humanity is: Pacifism, in the long run, is the exception rather than the rule — by far! An example of how things really are in India made itself evident, as CBS News reports, just a few days ago, with catastrophic consequences (Archive.Is cached article):

At least 30 people were killed and more than 200 injured in violence in the two Indian states of Haryana and Punjab after a court convicted a spiritual guru of rape, incensing his loyal followers to riot.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted Friday of raping two women 15 years ago, but an estimated 100,000 of his followers had already gathered in the town of Panchkula, in Haryana, ahead of the verdict.

The violence left at least 30 people dead and more than 200 others wounded, Haryana state government officials told CBS News.…

When the guilty verdict was announced, the gathered members of Singh’s sect clashed with police and paramilitary forces, set several buildings and part of a gas station on fire and attacked television news crews. Several government offices were also reportedly vandalized by followers of the so-called “godman.”

This “guru” is extremely popular, and influential, in spite of the charges against him or (now) his conviction:

In a show of strength, the guru, who heads the powerful Dera Sacha Sauda sect, arrived to court in Panchkula on Friday in a 200-car cavalcade. He has featured in a number of self-produced movies where he has played the lead character, of a messiah.

India is home to many gurus like Singh, some of whom amass followings in the millions, and who become incredibly wealthy in the process.

I suppose these “gurus” might be a rough equivalent of American megapastors or televangelists … perhaps. Maybe. At any rate, it’s sickening to see this kind of religious loyalty turn into mayhem and death. Americans’ visions of India as a paradise of deep, abiding spirituality clearly is unjustified. As I’ve said many, many, many, many times … all metaphysics is liable to lead to extremes. All of them! No matter what kind. It’s as inevitable as death and taxes. Many people erroneously think religious extremism comes only from the Abrahamic religions of Islam and Christianity. It’s true those two do lead to a lot of militancy and violence … but that doesn’t mean other religious milieus, such as the dharmic faiths that saturate India, don’t lead to extremes, either.

Photo credit: Getty photo, via CBS News.

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Matthew 7:23 (And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.By now this isn’t surprising. There’s a long tradition of dour, Puritanical Christians loudly decrying homosexuality and sexual freedom in others, while they themselves engage in the very sorts of behaviors they rail against. It’s happened with Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, “Bishop” Eddie Long, George Alan Rekers, and plenty of others. The latest militant Christian to be bitten by her own raging hypocrisy is the Rightist legal activist, affiliated with the Alliance Defending Freedom (aka the Alliance Defense Fund), Lisa Biron. WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH reports she was convicted in a child-porn case (WebCite cached article):

A Manchester lawyer has been found guilty of exploiting a 14-year-old girl to produce child pornography.

Lisa Biron, 43, was accused of videotaping the girl having sex with two men. Biron faced eight federal indictments on charges of child sexual exploitation, transporting a child across state lines to produce child pornography and possession of child pornography, and was convicted on all of them after the jury deliberated for less than an hour.

What’s amazing about examples of hypocrisy like this one, is not that they happen. It almost goes without saying that there are people who will fail to live up to their ideals. It happens all the time — in religious venues, and in others. What’s surprising, though, are the lengths people go to in order to defend their hypocrisy, especially when they’re Christians who are not permitted ever to be hypocritical. What’s equally amazing are the other Christian sheep willing to pretend these people have done nothing wrong and that their hypocrisy is OK. Clearly they have no clue about the teachings of their own religion’s founder, in spite of the fact that they loudly trumpet their own Christianity — and this only compounds their error, since expressing one’s piety publicly also violates Jesus’ teachings.

Let’s just hope the 14-year-old victim in this case recovers and is able to transcend it.

Photo credit: PsiCop original (quoting Mt 7:23).

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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James Arthur Ray, left, and his attorney, Thomas Kelly, right, stand in the courtroom of Judge Warren R. Darrow, in the Yavapai County Courthouse in Camp Verde, Arizona on June 22, 2011. (Tom Tingle / Associated Press)I blogged a number of times on thesweat-lodge deaths” that occurred near Sedona, AZ back in October 2009. It took authorities a while to get around to it, but authorities finally arrested New Age guru James Arthur Ray — at whose “Spiritual Warriors” event the deaths took place — and the results of the lengthy trial are now in, as the Los Angeles Times reports (WebCite cached article):

A jury in Arizona convicted a bestselling author and self-help guru Wednesday in the deaths of three clients during a sweat lodge ceremony in 2009 that was intended to help participants overcome adversity to reach their full potential.

After hearing four months of testimony, the eight-man, four-woman jury deliberated for fewer than 12 hours before finding James Arthur Ray guilty of three counts of negligent homicide.

The panel acquitted Ray of the more serious charges of manslaughter.

As the Times explains, Ray exhibited both an awareness that some folks in the sweat lodge were in distress, and that the potential for disaster was present:

Prosecutors argued that Ray was criminally negligent in subjecting Kirby Brown, Liz Neuman and James Shore to life-threatening conditions, and that he deserved prison for their deaths. They played a recording of him urging participants to ignore their bodies’ signs of distress during what he called a “hellacious” event.

It turns out that at least someone has learned a lesson from this catastrophe:

The family of Kirby Brown announced Wednesday that they would start a nonprofit group to try to police the self-help industry. “As the horrific details of the three deaths emerged in this trial, we realized that the potential danger posed by ‘self-help’ gurus extends well beyond James Ray,” the family said in a statement.

It’s long past time to look at these gurus and hold them accountable for what they say and do. When they host “hellacious” events, and “hell” ensues, they need to be punished for having done so.

Hat tip: Apathetic Agnostic Church.

Photo credit: Tom Tingle / Associated Press via LA Times.

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I blogged a couple times about Bernie Lazar Hoffman, aka “Tony Alamo,” and his conviction in federal court. He was recently given a sentence which will keep him in jail for the rest of his life, as CNN reports:

Evangelist Tony Alamo is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison after an Arkansas judge sentenced him to 175 years Friday on charges that included taking minors across state lines for sex, according to prosecutors. …

In addition to his sentence, Alamo was fined $250,000, court documents showed.

Hoffman aka “Alamo” still claims innocence, and his lawyer will appeal the sentence. (As though that’s surprising or something.)

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As a follow-up to my blog entry from last week … evangelist Tony Alamo — whose real name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman — has been convicted. Here’s the report from CNN:

A jury in Arkansas convicted evangelist Tony Alamo on Friday of 10 federal counts of taking minors across state lines for sex, according to the court in the Western District in Arkansas.

Of course, Alamo Hoffman has claimed not to have done anything wrong … and following the usual playbook of the paranoid conspiracy theorist, claims he was set up by the government:

In a phone interview last year with CNN, [Alamo Hoffman] called the accusations a hoax. …

Asked why authorities were searching the property, Alamo compared himself to Christ.

“Why were they after Jesus,” he asked. “It’s the same reason. Jesus is living within me.”

Perhaps you don’t realize it, Mr Alamo Hoffman, but making yourself into a living messiah is heretical … still, I’m sure your Christian sheep won’t be dissuaded from believing in you as ardently as ever. True believers never let insignificant little things like federal criminal convictions get in the way of their irrational metaphysics.

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I blogged twice before (here and here) about the case of Madeline Kara Neumann, an 11-year-old girl who died of complications from diabetes, whose life easily could have been saved, but who hand’t been treated because her parents — knowing something was wrong — chose to pray about it instead. It was a young life snuffed out because of idiotic religiosity.

After a great deal of hand-wringing over “religious freedom” concerns, and seriously entertaining not doing anything about it, officials finally charged the parents, Dale and Leilani Neumann; Ms Neumann’s trial has just finished, and she was convicted.

Nevertheless, she remains in denial as to what she did wrong, as the Wausau Daily Herald reports:

Neumann: ‘I did what I thought was lawful’

Leilani Neumann, the town of Weston mother convicted of allowing her daughter to die while praying for healing, says in a written statement that her emotions do not hinge on whether the rest of the world approves of her actions. …

“I did what I thought was lawful,” Neumann wrote in a statement released over the weekend. “I didn’t realize it would be a crime to pray for my daughter.”

I’m not sure why Ms Neumann thought she faced a mutually-exclusive “either/or” choice, to only pray for Kara, or only get treatment for her. Lots of religious folks manage to do both. (That’s what hospital chapels and chaplains are for!) The Neumanns’ pathological denial goes further than that, however:

Neumann also was critical of the judicial system in her letter, writing that “this trial did not afford the opportunity to tell our side of the story.” Neumann’s attorney, Gene Linehan, chose not to call any witnesses during the trial. Marathon County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Howard did not allow a faith healer from Texas to testify at the trial, however.

“I believe the law should be more clearly written before any charges can be made against parents who pray,” Neumann wrote. “Where is the law written that we apparently broke? And someone make sure to tell everyone that this is no more the America we thought it was. Also, please tell them not to try to hide it behind ‘reckless homicide charges or neglect charges,’ because the real issue is our local and national government is turning more and more anti-God.”

For a second time the Neumanns reiterate the “either/or” choice to pray or get medical treatment, which as I said, does not exist. Moreover, they perceive the conviction as an “anti-God” thing, rather than as anti-manslaughter, which it is.

It’s a good thing this happened in Wisconsin instead of Texas, which offers explicit legal permission to harm, and even kill, people as a form of religious expression. (Seriously … I intend never to set foot in Texas unless it’s absolutely necessary … because in that state, anyone could do anything to me, and so long as they can pass it off as a religious rite, it’s permissible and I can do nothing about it.)

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