30 Jun 2007

Egypt forbids female circumcision

BBC, UK June 28, 2007

Magdi Abdelhadi news.bbc.co.uk

Egypt has announced that it is imposing a complete ban on female circumcision, also known as genital mutilation.

The announcement follows a public outcry after a young girl died during the operation.

A ban was introduced nearly 10 years ago but the practice continued to be allowed in exceptional circumstances.

A health ministry spokesman said no member of the medical profession would be allowed to perform the operation in public or private establishments.

Those who broke the law would be punished, the spokesman said.
Psychological violence

The new ban cancels out a provision that allowed the operation to be performed by qualified doctors in exceptional cases only.

But the death of a 12-year-old girl in Upper Egypt a few days ago triggered an angry barrage of appeals from human rights groups to both the government and the medical profession to act swiftly and stamp out the practice.

The doctor who carried out the operation has been arrested.

Egypt’s first lady, Susanne Mubarak, has spoken out strongly against female circumcision, saying that it is a flagrant example of continued physical and psychological violence against children which must stop.

The country’s top religious authorities also expressed unequivocal support for the ban.

The Grand Mufti and the head of the Coptic Church said female circumcision had no basis either in the Koran or in the Bible.

Recent studies have shown that some 90% of Egyptian women have been circumcised.

The practice is common among Muslim as well as Christian families in Egypt and other African countries, but is rare in the Arab world.

It is believed to be part of an ancient Egyptian rite of passage and is more common in rural areas.

Conservative families believe that circumcision is a way of protecting the girls’ chastity.

False impression

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Re: "Jehovah's Witnesses hope to debunk myths about their faith" (C-P, June 9).

My family trusts the Courier-Post's normally excellent reporting, so the article troubled us. This completely one-sided story gives the false impression that this "religion" is somehow benevolent but misunderstood.

Unfortunately, the reporter didn't talk to a single former member who escaped from the Watchtower or interview any families who lost members to this cult. And there was no mention of the Witness's many controversial practices or their own child sexual abuse scandal.

Like the wolf in sheep's clothing, the Witnesses disguise themselves as a Christian group in order to seem legitimate. In reality, they're an authoritarian cult. The Watchtower employs unethical and coercive tactics to recruit new members and maintain control of those who think independently or try to leave.

It's heartbreaking to slowly lose a loved one as the Watchtower manipulates him or her into shunning you. So it's no surprise the International Cultic Studies Association identifies the Witnesses as a cult.

A Google search reveals many more organizations devoted to exposing the Watchtower or providing support for former members and families of current ones. There are hardly any pro-Witness sites besides the two "authorized" ones operated by the Watchtower itself.

The Courier-Post covers most stories thoroughly, but dropped the ball this time. The public needed to know the whole truth about Jehovah's Witnesses and see how they really affect families. Hopefully, readers will not be deceived by the Watchtower's well-polished propaganda.




Diamondback Online - University of Maryland student newspaper

Kelly Wilson - June 28/07

The Washington University Bible Fellowship, a small, university-focused evangelical church on Metzerott Road, has become the home to a number of students, and is described by many of them as a "close-knit community."

Although many student members have sung the praises of UBF, others have expressed concerns about the methods by which the church recruits its members and exerts control over their lives.

Established in Korea in 1961, UBF is now an international organization with chapters across this country and around the world. Members of the organization attribute its growth to successful missionionary action, but recently accusations of member abuse and cult-like behavior have been raised by students at the university - an institution the chapter sees as a central part of its mission.

"If we look at the New Testament, disciples grew following Jesus, and the point was that when Jesus ascended into Heaven he said 'Go and make disciples of all nations,'" said Abraham Lee, a lawyer and coordinator for UBF's local chapter. "So a very clear directive, or even a command, for those who have followed Jesus to go and make disciples."

Complaints about the organization, Lee said, may be the result of cultural differences between Americans and foreign students involved with UBF.

"I think part of a problem we've had in the past is a lot of the folks we have here are from Korea," Lee said. "Some of the issues stem from a cultural difference because definitely, in Korea, it's more conservative than it is here in the United States."

Aside from living on the church property, many students attend prayer services and other events geared toward community and the understanding of the Bible.

Lee said a gradual increase in members' involvement with the UBF is normal as individuals become more involved in the church's activities, such as Friday group sessions and singing during Sunday services.

"I think the vast majority of students who stick around, especially for a long period of time, do so because they've built a level of trust with their Bible teacher," Lee said.

Senior history major David Casler said he sees UBF as a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else. Creative writing graduate student James Osita said he enjoys UBF because it takes "an in-depth approach to the Bible."

According to the local church's website, the organization tries to "help each student to study the Bible, that through Bible study he or she may come to know God personally, and also come to know himself or herself..."

But according to some former members of UBF, the church and its methods are less well-meaning.

One student, who asked not to be named, said he was once a member of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County chapter and has also had experience with the local UBF, and said the systems of operation were consistent at the two chapters. He said that when he was involved in recruitment efforts as a student, he sought out the particularly young-looking people sitting alone on campus. That tactic, he said, was the cause of his joining the UBF as a newly-single freshman with few friends left in Maryland after high school.

"Mentally healthy people will reject UBF recruiters' hard-sell tactics, but those who are depressed, lonely, or going through a difficult period in life may be susceptible," he said.

When he first joined the group, he said, the leaders were very supportive of him. As time went on and his trust in his leader grew, however, he said he became increasingly familiar with some of the less appealing details of the UBF, including "absolute obedience to the leaders, mandatory public sharing of personal problems, prohibitions on all sorts of activities including dating, cutting off relationships with non-UBF family and friends, and recruiting quotas."

Over time, he said, the UBF leaders made members dependent on them for major and minor life decisions.

Lee said the idea of asking a leader for advice is not a function of control, but rather of trust.

"I think a lot of people ask the opinion of their Bible teacher, along with asking their parents and their professors, and also examining what they want to do," he said.

But the student who spoke with The Diamondback said leaders discourage interaction between members and non-members, including members' friends and families. According to his explanation, members are expected to convince non-members to join UBF, and those who refuse are thought to be rejecting not only the UBF but also God.

"It is said that other UBF members are your real family," he said. "Family members who try to discourage people from staying in UBF are seen as agents of Satan."

Another student, who also asked not to be named because he is a current member of the local UBF, said the amount of control in the church makes it impossible for a trusting relationship to form. He said when he first got to UBF, the leaders were quite selective of who they wanted to teach, and the process made him uncomfortable.

These students are not the only ones to voice concerns about the UBF organization.

Until 2004, UBF was a member of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). However, its membership was revoked that year following an investigation opened by the NAE in response to a petition from "former members of the UBF and concerned relatives, friends, and others" who accused the church of fitting the description of "abusive churches or cults."

"Some concerns were raised about UBF and though NAE asked leaders about them they were not willing to interact," said Chris Paulene, who is in charge of membership for the NAE. However, Paulene said he could not comment further on the revocation because the investigation was before his time with the NAE.

Rumors about the organization being banned from other university campuses are rampant online, although they could not be confirmed.

Denny Gulick, a mathematics professor at this university who runs a training session on cults for resident assistants, said the accusation is a complicated one.

The word "cult" has to do only with a pattern of behavior, Gulick said, and nothing to do with religious beliefs. He said such a group replaces the rules of typical society with its own, operating through the domination, manipulation, coercion and control of its members, which can have serious and detrimental effects on the people involved.

If nothing else, the Washington UBF is a local organization that has students polarized. While some student members have grave concerns about the church, many members love it. Others, including members of local churches and some university officials, didn't know it existed.


Community Embraces Twelve Tribes

"If they're a cult they're pretty nice."

By Jonathan Mummolo Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 28, 2007

They pool their finances, home-school their children -- whom they sometimes discipline with small reeds -- and have been accused in other parts of the country of being a cult and breaking child labor laws.

But in western Loudoun County, their neighbors wouldn't trade them for the world. After all, they're keeping the land free from development.

In 2003, the Twelve Tribes, a religious group founded in Tennessee, came to Hillsboro, a historic town of about 100 people 50 miles west of the District.

Many of the residents don't take kindly to the McMansions that have sprouted up in formerly rural parts of Northern Virginia. In such postage stamp communities in eastern Loudoun, for example, "you look out your kitchen window into your neighbor's kitchen window," said Belle Ware, a Hillsboro resident for more than 50 years.

But the Tribe, as some in town affectionately call its members, has, in the meantime, staved off such growth by choosing to use its 35 acres as a communal farm. Fending off the developers has thus endeared members to locals who admit to having been suspicious upon the group's arrival.

"There's obvious curiosity whenever a group like that comes around," Hillsboro Mayor Roger L. Vance said. Even so, "it was, frankly, a real relief when they were able to acquire that property and put in the farm they've got. It's a great plus for the town."

Since 2003, the group's now-25-member chapter has amassed its land, which straddles the incorporated town's boundary with Loudoun County. On a farm the group hopes will soon be certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bearded, ponytailed men and women in long homemade dresses plant crops, tend to goats and cows and follow the teachings of Yahshua (Jesus) through prayer, song and work.

A far cry from the hippie communes of the 1960s, the group owns for-profit landscaping and construction companies in Purcellville and plans to open a coffee shop in Hillsboro in spring.

Group members say they are monogamous, pay taxes, abstain from drugs, alcohol and premarital sex and possess no firearms.

To anti-growth locals, it sure beats an ominous proliferation of flags in the ground -- the telltale sign of land surveyors.

"I've been watching this garden grow with anticipation," said Francesca Edling of Loudoun Heights, as she purchased beets, lettuce and onions from the group's food stand on the side of Route 9. "I am delighted that it's a garden instead of a development."

Next-door neighbor Marion Virts, 85, said she has watched Tribe members from her porch at 4:30 a.m. pick lettuce as the growing number of commuters begin their trek from nearby West Virginia along Route 9, a juxtaposition she finds amusing.

"I was a farmer's wife for 50 years, but it was so funny to see that," said Virts, who is glad the group's land is being preserved. "I thought, 'What in the world?' "

Over the years, the Twelve Tribes, which according to its Web site has a membership of 2,000 to 3,000 worldwide, has not always been so well received.

In 1984, one of its communes in Island Pond, Vt., was raided by state police amid reports of alleged child abuse. Authorities removed 112 children to examine them, but a judge ordered the children returned home after refusing the state's request for emergency detention orders. The case was dropped.

In 2001, the New York State Department of Labor fined the group $2,000 for violations of child labor laws after the agency found teenagers working in the group's candle and furniture shops. The group appealed the fines twice to the state Industrial Board of Appeals but lost, said Leo Rosales, spokesman for the Labor Department.

Luke Wiseman, one of the commune's leaders in Hillsboro who was at Island Pond during the raid, denies all the accusations. Wiseman said that the group's discipline techniques never amount to abuse and that charges of child labor and cult-like behavior stem from ignorance of their lifestyle.

"We have nothing to hide, and our life is open for anybody to come and observe any time they want," said Wiseman, 32, who was born and reared in the Twelve Tribes.

On a recent afternoon, those who took Wiseman up on his offer entered the lush Hillsboro property to find members young and old preparing crops and fertilizer, while giggling children just let out of school dashed to a nearby pond and took turns launching off a rope swing. Nonmembers were greeted with smiles and warm hellos.

Every Friday, the commune hosts a musical open house, welcoming town residents for food and song.

While the group is always looking for new members, and has been known to recruit at Grateful Dead concerts and at music festivals on the Mall in Washington, Wiseman said the decision to join should not be made lightly, because it requires people to contribute all their possessions to the common pool and to dedicate their life to Yahshua.

"Faith is voluntary," he said.

As for the locals who were nervous when the Tribe first came to town, they say it's been more than just land preservation that has since won them over.

"We had an ice storm here this winter," recalled Claire Cutshall, a Hillsboro jewelry store owner. "I hired a fellow to come plow for $60, and he only did one car length. Then Luke [Wiseman] drove up with his plow and said, 'Want me to move your ice?' I said, 'How much?' He said, 'Oh, nothin,' [plowed it] and just kept on going."

"If they're a cult," she said, "they're pretty nice."


28 Jun 2007

Fundamental mormons seek recognition for polygamy

Reuters | Thursday, 14 June 2007

When Ephraim Hammon returns home from a day of working construction near Arizona's border with Utah, he's greeted by his wife SherylLynne. And then by his wife Leah.

Polygamy, once hidden in the shadows of Utah and Arizona, is breaking into the open as fundamentalist Mormons push to decriminalize it on religious grounds, while at the same time stamping out abuses such as forced marriages of underage brides.

The growing confidence of polygamists and their willingness to go public come at an awkward moment for mainstream Mormons, who are now in the spotlight as Republican Mitt Romney, a prominent Mormon, seeks the US presidency.

The Salt Lake City, Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church, introduced polygamy before the Civil War but banned it in 1890 when the federal government threatened to deny Utah statehood. Today, about 40,000 "fundamentalist Mormons" in Utah and nearby states live polygamy illegally.

Romney, whose great-grandfather had five wives and whose great-great-grandfather had a dozen, has dismissed the practice as "bizarre" -- a comment that infuriates Hammon, whose father and grand-father practiced plural marriage.

"If it was me, I wouldn't apologize for my past. My ancestors did what they did. I can't help that," said Hammon, 36, who legally married SherylLynne, 32, in 1994 and was joined with Leah, 21, a decade later as his "celestial bride" in a religious ceremony that has no legal binding.

Leah bristles at the idea of women being forced into polygamy. "The women in this society are educated," she said.

Her husband likened the struggle for acceptance with the civil rights movement. "It's like the work Martin Luther King did in relation with African Americans," he said, holding year-old Ava, one of his eight children, in the living room of his three-story home in Centennial Park, a dry, dusty Arizona town run by polygamists near the Utah border.

Excommunicated by the church, they see themselves as true believers in Mormonism as practiced by founder Joseph Smith.

Historians say Smith took at least two dozen wives, some of them before 1843, the year he announced a revelation from God saying polygamy was a crucial key to entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

"I don't think the revelation that Joseph Smith received came from Christ," said John Llewellyn, a retired Salt Lake County policeman who once practiced polygamy but now campaigns against it. "I think it came from his Y (male) chromosome."


Llewellyn, an author of several books on polygamy, said the mainstream church could do more to stop it. Its "Woodruff Manifesto", which banned polygamy, never revoked Smith's revelation on plural marriage, which remains in section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a Mormon book of scriptures.

"We believe in this continuing flow of revelation, and it's (God's) right to authorize and de-authorize -- to turn it on or turn it off," said Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, a leadership body of the mainstream Mormon church.

To revive polygamy, he added, the church's 96-year-old president, regarded as a living prophet, must receive a revelation from God sanctioning it.

"That's where we think that those who have left the church to pursue a polygamous lifestyle have gone terribly wrong. They assume their right to choose that and to authorize it when there is only a divine sanction possible to authorize that."

Polygamist advocate Anne Wilde said the church has the right to its beliefs, just as polygamists should be allowed their interpretation of Mormonism without persecution.

"As consenting adults, which is the key, we ought to have that choice to live that lifestyle. We live it because of strong religious convictions," said Wilde, 71.


The attorneys general of Utah and Arizona said in separate interviews they had no intention of prosecuting polygamists unless they commit other crimes such as taking underage brides -- a practice authorities said was rampant in a Utah-Arizona border community run by Warren Jeffs before his arrest in August.

"We are not going to go out there and persecute people for their beliefs," said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

Adds Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff: "We determined six or seven years ago that there was no way we could prosecute 10,000 polygamists and put the kids into foster care. There's no way that we have the money or the resources to do that."

The last big prosecution, in 1953, backfired. Arizona's National Guard raided a polygamist colony on the Utah/Arizona border, but images of kids split from mothers, with fathers jailed, provoked national sympathy for the polygamists.

"No matter how much persecution the people have endured because of their belief, history has borne out that it will survive," said Ephraim Hammon's mother, Marlyne, who was a four-month-old baby in the colony when it was raided.

A turning point for polygamists came in August 2003 when dozens made a public stand by showing up en masse at a "polygamy summit" in St. George, Utah, organized by the Utah and Arizona attorneys general. "Before then, we discussed all these things in private," said Hammon.

Many are finding they have an unlikely ally in Hollywood, since the start of "Big Love," HBO's series about a fictional polygamous family.

But many polygamists still live discreetly in middle-class neighborhoods next to conventional families, fearing the stigma of the practice could threaten careers and cause their children to be taunted at school.

Although encouraged by the state's reluctance to prosecute them, several expressed fears of the future and want some legal protection in case the public mood turns against them.


27 Jun 2007

Anglican Priest faces child sex charges

Courier Mail - Australia June 27, 2007

A SENIOR member of the Anglican church has appeared briefly in the Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with nine sex offences against children.

Barry John Greaves, 70, an Anglican canon, has been charged with indecent dealing and indecent treatment of children between 1981 and 1985 in Boonah, west of Brisbane.

Court documents reveal there are two complainants.

Two of the charges relate to a child under 14 years of age, while the remaining seven charges relate to a child under 17.

A spokesman for the archbishop's office said the Diocese of Brisbane's policy "is to stand down anyone facing charges until those matters are dealt with".

Greaves is due to face court again on August 6.



26 Jun 2007

The recycle of abuse continues at Baptist churches

By Greg Warner - Associated Baptist Press

Monday, June 25, 2007

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Secrecy about clergy sexual abuse may protect an abuser's current church from embarrassment but often comes at the expense of his next church - and its children.

Like many small, rural congregations that find themselves without a pastor, East Bonne Terre Baptist Church had a small budget and few options. So when church members heard there was a new preacher in the area who was seeking a pulpit, it looked like God's timing.

"When somebody comes along who has experience, can talk the language of love, and is a good preacher, its easy for them to believe God has called him to be their pastor," said Randy Black, a member of the Missouri church.

The preacher was "a smooth talker" who impressed the congregation as "a godly man," Black said. When his references checked out, the man was hired. One day before he was to preach his first sermon, however, the church received a tip. Their new pastor was a convicted child-molester.

"He ran a deaf ministry and took advantage of those boys who were deaf and mute who couldn't tell anybody," Black said. When the layman called one of the references back, he was told, "'He's an excellent pastor and he preaches great messages. He just has that one problem that he says he's dealt with and put behind him.'"

This far-too-common episode demonstrates why clergy sexual abuse - which some say has reached epidemic proportions - seems so insidious and hard to stop.

The situation in East Bonne Terre included many factors that make Baptist churches a breeding ground for clergy sex abuse: a trusted ministerial position, a winsome authority figure, an inadequate background check, church members who want to believe the best, a church's fear of embarrassment and liability, a tradition of autonomy, no denominational certification or safeguard, and no clearinghouse to identify repeat abusers.

Baptists might be tempted to think the recent high-profile scandal and cover-up of abusive Catholic priests resulted from a moribund church hierarchy bent on self-protection. But experts warn the lack of such a hierarchy in Baptist life gives abusers free rein - and makes Baptist churches unwitting accomplices to predator pastors who are recycled from one unsuspecting congregation to another.

While the Missouri episode is now two decades old, it's as fresh as today's newspaper. Accounts of sex abuse of minors and adults by Southern Baptist clergy have made national headlines in recent months, sparking widespread calls for reform - so far unanswered.

- In the most notorious case, Shawn Davies, a 33-year-old former music and youth minister, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in January after molesting at least 13 children while working in four churches in Missouri, Kentucky and Michigan, police said. Davies' last employer, First Baptist Church of Greenwood, Mo., hired him in 2003, while he was under investigation by police in Kentucky, and allowed Davies to work around children for four months after the church was notified of the investigation.

- At the 25,000-member Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., a longtime assistant pastor was dismissed recently after admitting to sexually molesting his young son years earlier. The pastor had to fend off accusations he tried to cover up the offense.

- Last year Larry Reynolds, pastor of Southmont Baptist Church in Denton, Texas, for 28 years, was accused by former member Katherine Roush, now 37, of sexually abusing her for several years, also beginning when she was 14. Reynolds apologized to the church, which allowed him to retire, even giving him a retirement party and a gift of $50,000.

While these dramatic cases have grabbed headlines, most clergy abuse remains cloaked in secrecy, which is the ally of predators and first instinct of many offended congregations.

The Journal of Pastoral Care reported in a 1993 survey that 14 percent of Southern Baptist senior pastors have engaged in "sexual behavior inappropriate for a minister." Those statistics include sexual misconduct between adults. But 70 percent of reported sexual assaults involve minors, according to the victim-advocate group Darkness to Light, and an estimated 30 percent of child victims never report their abuse. Most abusers will have multiple victims, and serial abusers can have 40 to 400 in a lifetime.

The toll of abuse on children is devastating - one-fourth of girls and one-sixth of boys are sexually abused, according to long-term studies.

But why churches? Experts say all sexual abuse involves broken trust.

"Churches have always been a place where everybody trusts everybody," said Robert Leslie, a detective with the Greenwood Police Department who investigated the Shawn Davies case. "Everybody feels safe there. If you think about it, what better place for a predator to go?"

Too often, a church that discovers a predator in its midst tries to minimize the damage by keeping the incident secret. Whether intended to protect the church, the victim or the rare wrongly accused, that approach only compounds the abuse, experts and victims say.

"The tendency has been to bend over backwards to protect the good name of the church or the reputation of the minister charged with clergy sex abuse...," said ethicist Joe Trull of Denton, Texas. "Often the victim is re-victimized by the church."

"Because most Baptists have no system of ministerial ethical review or power to rescind ordination, we are vulnerable to terrible life-shattering situations," said retired pastor Michael Olmsted of Springfield, Mo., who twice in his long career had to intervene when abusers were discovered in his church.

When he later refused to provide positive references for two pastors who had ethical failures, he "was treated as though I didn't believe God forgives sin," Olmsted said. "A good-old-boy system that rewards people for denominational service and recommends them to other churches, while ignoring immoral and abusive behavior in our churches, neither honors God nor represents the God of grace."

Now there is a new urgency in Baptist life, but for all the talk, little has been done. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has said it is powerless to impose a sex-abuse policy on its 42,000 churches, citing local-church autonomy. But at its annual meeting in San Antonio, the SBC was asked to consider developing a public database of ministers convicted of sexual abuse or harassment. The motion was referred to the SBC Executive Committee.

The U.S. Catholic Church has responded to its national abuse scandal with a systemic solution. Each diocese must have a molestation policy that requires an investigation by a lay-dominated review panel, care for the victims, defrocking of abusive priests, and protection of the rights of the accused and accusers.

The reform measures under consideration by Baptists don't go nearly as far. Congregational autonomy is usually the reason offered for Baptist inaction, but it can also be a tool of reform. Unlike Catholic parishioners, Baptist laypeople hold the power to punish abusers, intervene to prevent abuse, and short-circuit the system that recycles abusers from church to church.

Dee Ann Miller, one of the first to bring Southern Baptist sex abuse to light decades ago, said autonomy need not stand in the way.

"There are ways to take advantage of the polity," said Miller, a mental-health nurse and writer who herself was abused by a Southern Baptist missionary and says the denomination covered it up. "The problem is that minds and hearts have to be in gear to do it."

While the Catholics' system of governance is quite different, their abuse scandal shares a scary similarity with the Baptist experience, said Thomas Doyle of Vienna, Va., a Catholic and former Vatican canon lawyer.

The SBC's argument that it has "no authority" over autonomous churches is "actually quite analogous to what Catholic bishops were espousing prior to 2002," Doyle said in a March 30 letter to SBC leaders. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has no direct authority over any bishop, Doyle said. Each of the 194 U.S. dioceses "is civilly and canonically independent."

Doyle's early warning in the mid-'80s about a "looming clergy sex-abuse nightmare" went unheeded until Catholic laity and activists became insistent. In the end, it was "the desperate need for a system of accountability that drove the creation of an oversight mechanism, and that mechanism was created outside the usual structure," he said.

Miller has been petitioning the SBC's "usual structure" for decades now. She's not holding her breath for systemic change any time soon. But she's hoping for improvement even closer to home - perhaps in the heart.

"The best that can happen now - without a lot of discussion and change in attitudes as well as some creation of new structures - is for individuals to put ethics above their fears for self-protection and institutional protection."

It starts with talking and with openness, she said. "Freely talking, and being willing to go to anyone who may be concerned, works if enough people who know the truth will really talk, and keep talking."

"That's how we learn - when victims are allowed to speak," Miller concluded. "A victim's story is a big part of her or his life. It is a valuable witness for us all. ..."

(EDITOR'S NOTE - This story is part of a six-part series on clergy sex-abuse. Bill Webb of Word and Way and Jim White of the Religious Herald contributed to the article.)


25 Jun 2007

Losing the pastor's religion in 'Join Us'

Los Angeles Times

'Dig!' director Ondi Timoner trails members leaving an alleged cult in her documentary.

By Rachel Abramowitz, Times Staff Writer

June 25, 2007

For filmmaker Ondi Timoner, the path to mind control was paved by rock 'n' roll. The 34-year-old documentarian first became intrigued by brainwashing and group think while making her 2004 Sundance Award-winning documentary "Dig!" about the conflicting fortunes and ideologies of two emerging rock groups, the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

Among the footage Timoner collected during her seven years of filming was BJM lead singer Anton Newcombe exerting seemingly maniacal control over his band members and their followers, a group that included up to 100 people.

"When I told Billy Corrigan of the Smashing Pumpkins I was making a movie about mind control," Timoner recalled over lunch at Ammo, a Hollywood restaurant near her office, "he said, 'That's so funny. I often thought that cult leaders were lead singers who can't sing.' "

Timoner's interests led to her latest film, "Join Us," which made its world premiere Saturday at the Los Angeles Film Festival and will screen again today and Tuesday. Billed as an exposé of one of the roughly 5,000 cults in the nation today, the documentary tracks a group of family members and others as they flee their homes in a South Carolina compound ruled by a self-appointed prophet.

Unlike most documentaries that take place after the fact, Timoner's film hurtles the viewer into the experience of leaving the group, accompanying members as they receive therapy at Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center (described as the only accredited residential "cult-victim treatment facility" in the U.S.) and following as they try to rebuild their lives.

What's surprising about "Join Us" is that the subjects aren't wearing orange robes or sporting uniforms. They look like a batch of blond-haired suburbanites as they roll up to the Ohio treatment center in two SUVs and a BMW.

"They looked just like me," recalls Timoner, a lanky woman in jeans and a pink T-shirt emblazoned with two six-shooters. "Their compound was a suburban subdivision. Like [one of the characters] says in the beginning of the film, he assumes the church is the safest place. Or temple. Any place of worship. [But] if your leader is suddenly putting themselves in the position that 'You can't get to God unless through me,' there's a problem."

Timoner cites research showing the United States to be the cult epicenter of the world: The nation was founded on the principles of religious tolerance, after all, a practice that has allowed some rather unorthodox groups to prosper. Some, like Heaven's Gate and David Koresh's Branch Davidians, became notorious, while others have become more corporatized. But nearly all, says Timoner, operate under the radar. "It's almost like if you [declare yourself a religion] you can run with it," she says. "You can do whatever you want."

Counselors at Wellspring define mind control according to the eight precepts laid out in the 1960s by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, which include a demand for purity, confession of sins, the total control of information and communication, and a sharp delineation between insiders and the outside world. Any group that exhibits at least six of the qualities is considered destructive.

In the film, 21 former members — the Sullivans, the Rogerses, the Chrismans and the Wakefields (most of whom are interrelated) — tell how they all lived together, home-schooled their children together and fell under the sway of a pastor who they say controlled both their spiritual existence and their corporal one.

They say Pastor Raimund Melz controlled numerous aspects of their lives, including when and where they prayed and the source of their income: He employed the men in his building business. The group built homes within a compound, the Heritage, which were then leased back to followers. The former members allege Melz beat their children for infractions big and small and ordered the parents to beat them as well, even the infants. Anyone who questioned him was thrown out of the church.

In the film, Timoner interviews Melz, who denies any wrongdoing. He comes off in the documentary as a rather sanctimonious, ramrod figure with a passion for driving his Mercedes. His loyal wife, Deborah, demonstrates to Timoner "the right way" to hit children.

The filmmaker also shows the former members trying to get Melz to confess while they secretly tape him. He denies all their claims, saying angrily, "You're a bunch of liars." At the end of the film, he does acknowledge one particular instance of beating and kicking a child. "That was wrong" he says, and he apologizes to the child "for spanking you."

Timoner and her partners, Vasco Lucas Nunes and Tim Rush, financed "Join Us" themselves. Timoner, a Yale graduate, has also made films about women in jail as well as commercials for such clients as McDonald's and Ford and music videos and documentaries for such groups as the Vines and Lucinda Williams. She's shooting documentaries on the history of Jamaican music and Lollapalooza as well as finishing a film about Internet entrepreneur Josh Harris, who started an artistic experiment called We Live in Public, in which he and his girlfriend lived in public via the Web, with the help of 32 cameras and 50 microphones installed in their apartment.

Timoner's shooting style is intimate, and the former group members in "Join Us" don't stint in describing their own sins.

"I don't really judge people when I'm filming them," says Timoner. This said, she's come to believe that all people can fall under the sway of brainwashing.

"This could happen to me. Me," she says. "I'm such an individual. I've always been independent. Never liked groups. Yet given the right set of circumstances, and this has been proven again and again by different case studies, any one of us is susceptible to mind control."


Brethren mother flouts court order

The Age - Australia

by Michael Bachelard June 25, 2007

AN EXCLUSIVE Brethren mother and two male relatives have risked jail by failing to present two children for planned access visits with their father.

In February, Family Court judge Robert Benjamin convicted the mother, who cannot be named, her son and her son-in-law and imposed a four-month suspended jail sentence on all three after they did not present the children for their first access visit.

The Age has learned that twice since that judgement the two children, aged 13 and eight, have not turned up for scheduled time with their father.

The father has filed an application with the court, arguing that the mother has contravened Justice Benjamin's orders.

But since February the case has become complicated by the fact that the mother is seriously ill and by her appeal against Justice Benjamin's February rulings and the sentence, which she argued was "manifestly excessive". The decision in that appeal has not yet been delivered.

The illness makes a prison term unlikely. The father has now also launched a bid for custody of the two children.

Justice Benjamin's judgement in February was an emphatic statement by the Family Court that it would not tolerate the Exclusive Brethren flouting court orders in pursuit of the sect's policy of strict separation of its members from those who have left the church.

The court heard then that the Brethren had funded the mother's legal case, setting up a bank account and depositing $50,000 into it. She told the court that she considered the money as a loan to be repaid.

The Age has been told that since February the father has had some access to the children, but the two most recent planned visits — on the weekend from May 19 and a week-long visit from June 2 for the school holidays — had not gone ahead.

Last month the mother's barrister, Melbourne Queen's counsel Noel Ackman, argued before the Family Court's full bench that Justice Benjamin should have disqualified himself from the case in February on the grounds that he was biased. He also argued that the judge's ruling that she had contravened his earlier orders was wrong, and that the sentence was too harsh.

The president of the Family Law Practitioners Association of Tasmania, Tony Fitzgerald, said this case was being keenly watched by family lawyers because of the clash in value systems being argued out.

"It's an extreme example of what happens in many, many cases at various levels, so from that point of view it's interesting," he said.

Senior family lawyer Michael Taussig said that sometimes extreme forms of religions — including Christian cults, and some forms of Judaism and Islam — argued against the general legal principle that spending time with both separated parents was best for the child.

"Sometimes these religious issues do blur or muddy the waters in regard to what is best for the kids, and that is what the secular court has to decide," he said. "It's of interest because there are so few of us in the family law business who have had contact with that sort of case."


24 Jun 2007

Catholic Lay Group Tests a Strategy Change

New York Times

BOSTON, June 23 — Voice of the Faithful, the lay group formed in response to the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, is calling for the Vatican to review the requirement that priests be celibate, saying the policy may have played a role in the scandal.

The position represents a shift in the approach of the organization, which has avoided raising such controversial issues. It comes as Voice of the Faithful faces a budget deficit from a drop-off in large donations and finds itself at a crossroads in direction.

“It’s tough to keep momentum going over a long period of time,” said Bill Casey, the group’s chairman, “and I think what we need to do is to refocus our organization’s leadership and energy. What we have to do is convince the average Catholic that there is a strong continuing need for an independent lay voice in the governance of the Catholic Church.”

Formed five years ago when two dozen suburban Boston parishioners gathered in anguish over the emerging abuse crisis, its message — “Keep the Faith, Change the Church” — and nonconfrontational approach to church leaders attracted 35,000 worldwide members, according to the group.

Voice of the Faithful helped press some dioceses into being more transparent in dealing with abuse cases and finances, joined fights to extend statutes of limitation for sexual abuse, and persuaded some parish leaders to allow greater lay involvement.

Now, it faces a $100,000 deficit in a budget of about $700,000, and Mr. Casey said at an April meeting that the group was in a “stuck position,” with arguments over leadership and decision-making.

Some members have long urged embrace of confrontational subjects they consider critical to church problems and priest shortages, like clerical celibacy or ordination of women.

“We’ve repeatedly rejected that argument, saying that those are not our issues,” said James E. Post, the group’s first president, who remains on its board. “Even I, from time to time, wonder whether we shouldn’t just declare victory and say a lot’s been done in five years, the church is doing better than it was, and then let the other organizations — Call to Action, Future Church and others that really want to deal with these issues — have the field.”

Instead, this summer, Voice of the Faithful will “be calling for the Vatican to do an ecclesiastical review of the celibacy issue,” said the group’s president, Mary Pat Fox. Ms. Fox said a review was not the same as seeking to end mandatory celibacy and was consistent with the group’s principles because research showed “it plays a role in the abuse crisis.”

“It’s not that celibacy drives someone to be an abuser,” she said. “It plays a role in creating this culture of secrecy that then caused the bishops to handle the crisis the way they did” because “you’re calling for a group to be celibate, and any deviations from that is something that you have to keep quiet.”

The group’s leaders are bracing for reaction.

“The minute the word celibacy is in anything, it’s going to be: ‘There they go — they’ve lost their center,’ and other people will be saying ‘finally,’ ” Mr. Casey said.

The struggle confronting Voice of the Faithful comes as publicity about the scandal has waned and the church’s image has improved. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University found that in October 2005, 74 percent of Catholics surveyed were “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with American bishops’ leadership, up from 53 percent in mid-2002.

“None of us can stay mad forever,” said Thomas Groome, director of Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry at Boston College. “Certainly the sentiment or emotions that initially drove Voice of the Faithful wouldn’t sustain them.”

Some members wonder “how much time do we want to spend working collaboratively with bishops who aren’t interested in being worked with collaboratively,” Mr. Casey said. “I don’t think there’s any example across the country where what we would desire to have is in place, but in some places there has been an openness to conversation.”

Then again, quiet relations with some bishops have lowered the group’s profile. In Boston, where the scandal erupted and forced the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, Archbishop Sean P. O’Malley and aides have met with the group but still ban many chapters from meeting in churches.

“O’Malley has mastered what Muhammad Ali calls the rope-a-dope,” Dr. Post said, referring to when a boxer leans back on the ropes and lets his opponent punch him until the opponent tires out.

“What people really want to do,” Dr. Post added, “is see two people slugging it out. In those places where we’ve had a public conflict we’ve been able to rally people.”

Asked to comment, the Boston Archdiocese said only that it “welcomes all people to assist us in building up the Catholic Church,” adding that it had its own vehicles for lay participation.

Experts say Voice of the Faithful, like many young nonprofits, must retool for long-term survival.

To reinvigorate itself, the group recently hired a part-time development director to raise money and issued a strengthened “statement of identity” that “the patterns that led to abuse and cover up, and to increasing instances of clerical financial misconduct, still prevail.”

Raising the issue of celibacy is not likely to ingratiate the group with more bishops, said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“There are lots of other groups that are talking about celibacy,” Sister Walsh said. “Don’t waste the bishops’ time on it — they can’t do anything about it. You might as well have a great discussion on what goes on on Mars.”

But R. Scott Appleby, a Notre Dame history professor, said the group’s longevity depended on changing its approach.

“They outlived what some skeptics would have said their shelf life was,” Professor Appleby said. “But if they choose to be a status quo organization, trying not to make waves and not to be confrontational, it’s exceedingly likely that they won’t attract attention and won’t recruit new members. And that they won’t change anything.”


Under 15s must be given transfusions despite beliefs

The Yomiuri Shimbun - Japan

Jun. 24, 2007

A committee comprised of the country's five medical societies has compiled a draft guideline that stipulates doctors should perform a blood transfusion during surgery on patients under 15 years of age even if their parents are Jehovah's Witnesses and refuse it because of a Biblical injunction, it was learned Saturday.

The joint committee started discussing the refusal of blood transfusions by Jehovah's Witnesses in response to requests from doctors who have said they are troubled about prioritizing either religious freedom or respect for life.

The committee judged that refusing a blood donation for children under 15 who are considered to be immature in terms of their self-determination capabilities constitutes an abuse of parental rights.

The joint committee is comprised of the country's major medical societies--the Japan Society of Transfusion Medicine and Cell Therapy, Japan Surgical Society, Japan Pediatric Society, Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists and Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The committee said it would finalize the common guideline agreed by the five societies this year after hearing opinions from followers of the religious group and bioethicists at a symposium to be held at Tokyo Medical and Dental University on Saturday.

Medical institutions belonging to the five societies are expected to compile their own manuals in line with the guideline.

To deal with the refusal of blood transfusions by Jehovah's Witnesses, a similar guideline compiled in 1998 by the Japan Society of Transfusion Medicine and Cell Therapy--then known as the Japan Society of Blood Transfusion--stipulates that doctors should respect a patient's wishes if he or she is 18 or older. If a patient is aged under 12, however, it said doctors should prioritize saving lives, including performing a blood transfusion during surgery, even if the child's parents are against the transfusion.

The guideline, however, presents no specific rule in those cases in which a patient is aged between 12 and 17, because the committee had considered that people in this age bracket are still in their formative years and thus their decision-making ability varies.

The latest draft guideline sets 15 years of age--the age at which children finish mandatory education--as the age the committee considers children can independently make a decision about medical treatment.

In the case of patients aged from 15 to 17, the draft guideline said that a blood transfusion should not be performed if both the patient and their parents reject it. The transfusion would be conducted if the patient in this age bracket requests it, but his or her parent refuses. The transfusion also will be given if the patient rejects it but his or her parents accept it.


Two More Civil Suits Filed Against Trinity Baptist Church

By Jeannie Blaylock

First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- More legal action is being taken against Trinity Baptist. Two more civil suits have been filed.

They stem from the alleged sexual abuse by former pastor Bob Gray.

Dr. Gray is scheduled for his criminal trial in November. He's accused of capital sexual battery on several girls and one boy. Those children are now adults.

The two new civil suits bring the total to five filed now against Trinity. The civil suits allege Trinity knew Dr. Gray was a child abuser and did not tell authorities and did not protect the children or warn their families.

Miami attorney, Adam Horowitz, said Wednesday he expects each suit to be worth "millions." He says it's certain the civil action won't be ready before the criminal trial in November. He's asking for separate civil trials with separate juries, but one judge.

Trinity's attorney, Ed Trent, had no comment today because the litigation is pending. Trinity has said all along its own internal investigation found no cover-up.

The latest civil suits involve Jane Doe #4 and Jane Doe #5, as they're called.

Jane Doe #4 currently lives in Mississippi and was born in 1973 in Jacksonville.

She alleges, for example, that around 1980 she missed the school bus coming home from Trinity.

She says Dr. Gray put her in his car and abused her under her panties.

She also alleges Dr. Gray put her hands on his private parts and requested sexual action.

The suit says, "Jane Doe #4 has experienced severe and permanent psychological, emotional and physical injuries."

The suit for Jane Doe #5 alleges similar damage.

Jane Doe #5, according to the suit, currently lives in Santa Rosa County, Florida. She was born in 1972.

She is alleging Dr. Gray french-kissed her and fondled her over her clothing.

Related articles:

Third Suit Filed Against Trinity Baptist 3/13/2007

Another Lawsuit Against Trinity Baptist Church 3/2/2007

Attorney Says Trinity Lawsuit Worth "Millions" 2/24/2007

Jury Selection Set for Pastor Accused of Molestation 2/7/2007

Trinity Responds To Cover-Up Investigation 11/3/2006

Was There A Cover-Up at Trinity Baptist Church? 11/2/2006

Pastor Bob Gray Appears in Court Again 9/15/2006

Former Pastor Dr. Robert Gray In Court Again 8/16/2006

Dr. Gray's Newest Alleged Sex Abuse Victim Consolidated With Others for Trial 8/15/2006

Exclusive: The Man Accusing Dr. Gray of Molestation 7/9/2006

Pastor Bob Gray Arrested Again: Accused of Molesting a Boy Years Ago 7/7/2006

Alleged Victims Molested by Pastor Speak 5/23/2006

Pastor Arrested on Molestation Charges 5/22/2006


Fears for mum who joined 'angel worship' sect

Sunday Mail - Australia

June 24, 2007

By Lucy Carne

A MOTHER of two who became entangled in a cult that worships angels is missing and may be dead, her family says.

Geraldine Kilfoyle, 38, has not been heard from since she contacted her mother in March to say she had terminal cancer.

Her family now fears for the safety of one of the Kilfoyle daughters Alex, 13, who is in the care of members of the Soul Freedom cult.

Cult members say they can communicate with angels. They reject modern medicine in favour of "angel healing".

The teen's older sister, Sarah, 14, who left Soul Freedom last year, says children in the cult are underfed and made to sleep in rat-infested, derelict caravans at the cult's Mount Morgan property, 30km southwest of Rockhampton.

Attempts by Ms Kilfoyle's mother Sandra Orvad to gain access to the 13-year-old have been rebuffed by the cult's hierarchy, which Mrs Orvad said had cited a written authority from the girl's mother to exclusively care for her.

Mrs Orvad also accuses the cult of withholding information about the whereabouts of Ms Kilfoyle.

Ms Kilfoyle, 38, a former police officer, became a Soul Freedom follower three years ago after attending several "spiritual workshops" in Townsville, Mrs Orvad, 60, told The Sunday Mail.

Ms Kilfoyle cut herself off from her family and gave $100,000 in savings and property to Soul Freedom, Mrs Orvad said.

She gave herself a new name, Bree Jones, and travelled the country as a Soul Freedom recruiter, Mrs Orvad said.

Her phone call in March was brief. "Her exact words to me were, 'I've got weeks, maybe months, to live - I have terminal cancer,' and then the phone hung up," Mrs Orvad said.

"We don't know if she is alive or dead, but someone has to know where she is."

Andrina Aleksander, who described herself as a "former spokesperson" of Soul Freedom because she said the organisation no longer existed, said Ms Kilfoyle had sent her an email last December to say she was in New Zealand and had been receiving treatment at a hospital "for a complication with a pap smear".

"I do not believe Bree is dying," Ms Aleksander said.

She said Alex was in her care "at all times" while Ms Kilfoyle was away.

She denied that Soul Freedom was a cult and insisted it was a volunteer organisation that went to fairs and shows to give people "a profile to connect with angels".

"And some did," she said.

Sarah got out of Soul Freedom in August last year and said she is under the care of a psychologist while staying with her grandparents at Glen Innes in northwest New South Wales.

She said she and Alex were made to work and pray from dawn until midnight when they both lived with Soul Freedom members.

"A normal day would be waking at 4am to do what they called regrouping," Sarah said.

"It was just a load of ritual mumbo-jumbo, holding hands and praying. Then Alex and I would work until late at night digging trenches, picking fruit, sanding barns."

Sarah said she feared for her sister. "I don't know if she is safe or not. I just want my sister back," she said.

Police visited the Soul Freedom property for 40 minutes on Wednesday but declined to allow Mrs Orvad or Sarah to meet Alex.

Rockhampton Detective Acting Senior Sergeant Christine Knapp confirmed a welfare check had been done on Alex, and said the girl would be finding the attention "a little bit distressing".

"But I'm sure the grandparents have her best interest at heart."

A Queensland police statement said: "At this stage there is no evidence to constitute any criminal offence has occurred."

A Child Safety Department spokeswoman said Alex's guardianship would be dealt with by the Family Court if necessary.


Christian sect aims to sponsor flagship school

Telegraph, UK

By Graeme Paton 23/06/2007

An evangelical Christian sect that considers television and computers evil is in talks with the Government about sponsoring a city academy, it became clear last night.

Members of the Exclusive Brethren met Jim Knight, the schools minister, to discuss the possibility of backing one of Tony Blair's flagship schools.

The sect believes that the world is the domain of the devil and that children should be taught in "safe places".

Its educational division, the Focus Learning Trust, already runs 37 private schools - which have been highly-praised by Ofsted - even though pupils are denied access to modern technology and sex education is banned.

Responding to a parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrats, Lord Adonis, the education minister, said that the organisation had made "a number of representations to the Government concerning the establishment of an academy or a trust school" and that Mr Knight had discussed the proposals with Focus Learning Trust officials. Lord Adonis said that there were no "current" plans to open state schools linked to the group, but did not rule out the possibility in the future.

The group's 15,500 followers in Britain must abide by strict behaviour codes, and socialising outside the sect is strictly forbidden.

At home, families shun televisions, radios and computers.

In 2005, Ofsted praised the Focus Learning Trust, saying that it provided "good support to its schools" and that the quality of teaching was "generally good".


Group Wants Giuliani Priest Pal Fired

Jun 22, 2007

By FRANK ELTMAN Associated Press Writer

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (AP) -- Advocates for victims of abuse by Catholic clergy on Friday urged presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to fire a priest who was suspended from the church and then hired by the ex-mayor's securityconsulting business. A spokeswoman for Giuliani said the firm had no plans to fire Monsignor Alan Placa.

Placa, a childhood friend of Giuliani's, has defended himself for years over allegations in a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report that detailed decades-old abuses by priests in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y.

None of the priests were ever prosecuted or even identified because statutes of limitations had expired long before the district attorney's investigation. Days after the report, Placa acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that he was implicated in the grand jury report but he denied that he had ever abused children.

"There's ample evidence showing that Placa consistently protected predators, shrewdly deceived victims, and covered up horrific clergy sex crimes," said a statement from David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. SNAP also contends that he abused children.

Placa was suspended from his duties as a priest in June 2002 after the abuse allegations surfaced. A lawyer, he currently works as a consultant for Giuliani Partners.

Placa was unavailable for comment Friday, said company spokeswoman Sunny Mindel. She said Giuliani was standing by his childhood friend.

"The former mayor believes that Alan Placa has been unjustly accused," she said.

SNAP called for Giuliani to fire Placa following the publication of a Salon profile of the cleric. In the story, the online magazine quotes Richard Tollner, who testified before the Suffolk County grand jury and claimed he had been abused by Placa. Tollner told the magazine Placa molested him and at least two others, but school authorities did nothing when they were told about it.

Placa and Giuliani have been friends since their days together at Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. After he was suspended, Placa received special permission to officiate at the funeral of the former mayor's mother, Helen, in 2002. He also baptized both of Giuliani's children.


Looming trials could bring settlement in L.A. clergy abuse cases


June 17, 2007

LOS ANGELES – After years of legal wrangling, the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese may finally move to settle hundreds of clergy sex abuse claims against it following several legal setbacks and the prospect of jury trials in the months ahead.

Fifteen trials involving 172 of the more than 500 alleged victims will be heard by juries in a six-month courthouse marathon that begins July 9. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge overseeing the cases recently ruled that Cardinal Roger Mahony can be called to testify in one of those cases, and attorneys for plaintiffs want to call him as a witness in many more.

The same judge also cleared the way for four alleged victims to seek punitive damages from the archdiocese – something that could open the church to tens of millions of dollars in payouts if the ruling is expanded to other cases.

Legal experts said the archdiocese's financial exposure and the stress of preparing for so many trials at once could mean a settlement before jury selection.

Mahony recently told parishioners in an open letter that the archdiocese will sell its 12-story administrative building and is considering the sale of about 50 other nonessential church properties to raise funds.

“I'm sure they're going to settle these cases, you just can't go to trial on that many cases,” said Pamela Hayes, an attorney who served on the National Lay Review Board, a panel formed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to study the priest abuse scandal.

“Everyone says, 'Get in front of it, don't let the situation control you.' Now, it's out of their control.”

Archdiocese attorney Michael Hennigan said the archdiocese was eager to settle the cases soon but the complexity of the situation could make that difficult.

“We work on settlements every day and I've been hoping for a settlement for five years,” he said. “It would be nice if we could get it done before these trials, but I'm not sure we can.”

The archdiocese last December reached a $60 million settlement with 45 victims whose claims dated from before the mid-1950s and after 1987 – periods when the archdiocese had little or no sexual abuse insurance. Several religious orders in California have also reached multimillion dollar settlements with victims in recent months, including the Carmelites, the Franciscans and the Jesuits.

That leaves more than 500 lawsuits pending in Los Angeles and plaintiffs' attorneys plan to go to court on each one unless a settlement is reached, said Ray Boucher, the lead plaintiffs' attorney. Boucher said he hoped that a few large jury verdicts in the first batch of trials would motivate the church's insurers – who have been a longtime stumbling block – to cooperate more.

“We've got trials set virtually every three weeks between now and January,” he said. “We're going to be going at a breakneck speed. It's really going to be a hard, fast, furious six months.”

Many of the cases will be presented as “serial cases,” in which the alleged victims of one priest group their claims before the same jury. Some trials will involve as many as 40 alleged victims at once, Boucher said.

The first case set for trial involves the late Rev. Clinton Hagenbach, who was accused of abusing more than a dozen people at two parishes in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 2002, Mahony paid $1.5 million to one of Hagenbach's victims.

Steven Sanchez, one of the 16 plaintiffs involved in that trial, said he hoped to have a chance to tell his story on the witness stand.

“It's been a long five or six years, but I'm looking forward to having my case heard by a jury of my peers,” said Sanchez, a former altar boy who alleges he was abused by Hagenbach between 1969 and 1978. “I'm ready to take him on.”

Another case set for early August involves former lay teacher Paul Alphonse Kreutzer, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence for molesting 10 girls between 1968 and 1996. Mahony is expected to be called to testify in that trial.

Tod Tamberg, the archdiocese spokesman, said the abuse alleged in that case happened more than a decade before Mahony arrived in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s.

“I don't know exactly what (his testimony) will be, but it won't be because he has personal knowledge of this case,” Tamberg said of the cardinal. “This was not something that happened on his watch.”

Mahony has previously testified at the 1998 civil trial of an abusive priest he supervised in Stockton in the early 1980s. A jury awarded two siblings $30 million in that case; the award was later reduced to $7.5 million.

Catholics say they are relieved that the clergy abuse scandal in Los Angeles appears to be easing, but added that the impact on the archdiocese, which has about 4.3 million Catholics, could be devastating.

Raymond Flynn, former Boston mayor and the former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, said a financially strong diocese was particularly important in Los Angeles, with its large, Spanish-speaking immigrant population. The church is fighting to keep Hispanics in the Catholic church as an increasing number gravitate toward evangelical faiths.

“The future of the Catholic church in America is the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It will have an extraordinarily negative impact,” Flynn said. “There will be a lot of pain, a lot of cutbacks in services.”


22 Jun 2007

Fired jailer sues sheriff: Probe of cult influence at issue

Athens Banner-Herald, USA June 22, 2007

by Joe Johnson

[posted on ReligionNewsBlog http://www.religionnewsblog.com/18535/nuwaubians-8]

A former Clarke County jailer will ask a jury to decide his claim that Sheriff Ira Edwards fired him because he is white, Christian and launched an investigation into a racist cult whose criminal leader met with the sheriff and donated money to his political campaign.

Brett Hart alleges that Edwards “subscribes” to the black supremacist beliefs of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, and hired Nuwaubian deputies in return for a large campaign contribution the group made when Edwards first ran for sheriff in 2000, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

“This contribution was made … as part of the Nuwaubian effort to ensure the placement of Nuwaubian members or supporters in the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office and the propagation of Nuwaubian beliefs and tenets among the staff and inmates under (Edward’s) control,” the lawsuit claims.

As chief jailer, he consistently received favorable job performance reviews, Hart claims in the lawsuit, but that quickly changed after he began investigating Nuwaubian activities at the jail.

Edwards told Hart in April 2006 he was fired as part of a “change in management of jail operations” following a review of “the totality of jail operations,” the lawsuit states. But, the lawsuit alleges, a 2004 Georgia Sheriff’s Association report praised the local lock-up as “one of the best managed jails in the state.”

Edwards wouldn’t immediately dispute any of Hart’s allegations, releasing a statement that said, “The Clarke County Sheriff’s Office does not wish to comment on pending litigation.”

Hart is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, claiming that when Edwards fired him, the sheriff violated Hart’s constitutional rights as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The sheriff’s office and county government are named as co-defendants in the civil action.

In addition to lost pay, the lawsuit seeks “punitive damages to be determined by the enlightened conscience of the jury to deter (the) defendants and others from similar misconduct in the future.”

The lawsuit hints at evidence of Edwards’ support of the Nuwaubians, branded as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The complaint alleges that Edwards made trips to the group’s Egyptian-themed 146-acre compound in Eatonton, called “Tama-Re,” where he met with the sect’s leader, Dwight “Malachi” York, before and after his election in 2000. Edwards “knew or suspected” at the time that York was a felon, having been convicted in New York of statutory rape, resisting arrest and weapons possession, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit even mentions a set of pyramid-shaped paper weights on Edward’s desk in his office at the Clarke County Courthouse, saying that “pyramids are commonly known Nuwaubian paraphernalia.”

In return for the $2,000 campaign contribution made by “Z. York,” one of the Nuwaubian leader’s many aliases, the lawsuit alleges, Edwards hired at least six known Nuwaubians, knowing that five of them had resigned from the Macon Police Department out of allegiance to York, now serving a 135-year federal prison sentence.

The deputies quit their jobs in Macon in 2004 after the city’s mayor refused to publicly support York while the Nuwaubian leader was prosecuted in federal court on charges of racketeering, money laundering and child molestation.

Prosecutors said York sexually assaulted his followers’ children, some as young as 8 years old, both at the Nuwaubian’s Putnam County compound and at a mansion York owned off Timothy Road in Athens, prosecutors said.

York still commands fierce loyalty while behind bars, the lawsuit says, and non-Nuwaubian deputies feared that sect members wouldn’t come to their aid if trouble broke out at the jail.

“Although York is imprisoned and Tama-Re destroyed, the Nuwaubian Nation remains an intact organization,” the lawsuit says. “Its members adhere to York’s teachings, including the superiority of the Nuwaubian faith and the inferiority of non-African American races.”

Hart alleges that his employer turned on him after he began investigating deputies for distributing Nuwaubian literature, recruiting prisoners and writing to York in prison, which the lawsuit claims violated jail policy, as well as state and federal law.

Soon after the investigation began, Edwards refused Hart’s request to sign a verification of employment Hart needed to maintain standing with the American Jail Association as a certified jail manager. Edwards had signed an earlier employment verification “without hesitation,” the lawsuit says.

“Edwards terminated Hart because he is white and (participated) in the internal investigation of the Nuwaubian deputies’ letters to York that threatened the Nuwaubians’ efforts to infiltrate the Athens-Clarke County Sheriff’s Office,” the lawsuit states.

The internal investigation Hart initiated found no policy violations, Edwards said at the time. But two months later, the sheriff’s office launched a second internal probe in the wake of “intense scrutiny” by the media and a Clarke County grand jury into the circumstances surrounding Hart’s firing, the lawsuit says.

But Edwards and other county officials later revised that report, removing as many as 40 pages, and ordering the deputy who led the investigation to destroy all copies of his original report.

After the second internal investigation, which concluded that deputies’ Nuwaubian activities had compromised security at the jail, Edwards fired four Nuwaubian deputies and allowed a fifth to resign.

Before he filed suit, Hart lodged a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging he was a victim of reverse-discrimination.

The lawsuit says Hart was initially replaced as jail commander by a sheriff’s captain who is black and also subscribes to Nuwaubian beliefs, but Edwards later filled the post with a white employee with no jail experience “to shield himself” from Hart’s EEOC complaint.

Brethren sex case awaits legal advice

By KIRAN CHUG - The Nelson Mail 21 June 2007

Police are seeking legal advice before deciding whether to charge a Nelson Exclusive Brethren member who has declined to be interviewed over sexual abuse complaints laid against him.

The elderly man was recently approached by police investigating complaints made in April by five women, all former Exclusive Brethren members.

They allege that they were sexually abused by the man in Nelson between the early 1950s and the 1980s.

Tasman police crime service manager Detective Inspector John Winter said the matter was now being reviewed by the police's legal section in Christchurch. He said police were seeking a legal opinion because of the complexity of the case, which involved a number of complainants and stretched back over many years.

Australian-based Exclusive Brethren spokesman Tony McCorkell said the man was not attending any church functions or socialising with church people while the matter was outstanding. The man had not been given advice by the church, but had hired independent legal counsel.

Mr McCorkell said he did not wish to comment on the matter any further as the police investigation was at a "delicate stage".

He said the church wanted the law to take its course without any interference.


21 Jun 2007

JOIN US, the new film from Ondi Timoner


JOIN US, the new film from Ondi Timoner.

USA, 2007, 100 min
World Premiere

Directed By: Ondi Timoner
Writer: Ondi Timoner
Producers: Ondi Timoner, Vasco Lucas Nunes, Jared Tobman
Executive Producers: Ondi Timoner, Vasco Lucas Nunes
Cinematographers: Vasco Lucas Nunes, Ondi Timoner
Editors: Tim Rush, Ondi Timoner
Music: Richie Kulchar
Featuring: Joaquin Sullivan, Tonya Rogers, Raymund Melz, Deborah Melz, Liz Shaw, Paul Martin

In Ondi Timoner’s chilling exposé, four families flee their pseudo-Christian pastor and check into a prominent cult-victim treatment facility where counseling uncovers the twisted pathway that led to the sacrifice of family, job, finances, ethics and, finally, individuality in order to benefit the church. But they will not feel a true sense of closure until they return to the community they built and attempt to seek justice. Shooting in visceral cinéma vérité style, Timoner launches viewers onto a rollercoaster ride that deftly examines the nature of belief and belonging in a nation that boasts an estimated 5,000 cults.


Inside The Mind Of A Suicide Bomber

Science Daily    June 21, 2007

Suicide bombers are not mentally ill or unhinged, but acting rationally in pursuit of the 'benefits' they perceive from being part of a strict and close-knit religious enterprise, according to a University of Nottingham academic.

Research by Dr David Stevens, of the School of Politics and International Relations, suggests that the widely-held view of suicide bombers as brain-washed religious fanatics, vulnerable through youth and poverty, is not an accurate one.

Dr Stevens argues that while religion plays a central role — there are few instances of non-religiously motivated suicide attacks — the suicide bomber is also driven on another level by a rational thought process. This is the desire to be part of a group that engenders strength and solidarity from strictness, and encourages members to submit totally to the collective aims of the group.

Being part of an exclusive group with very strict beliefs requires intense commitment, and engenders a deep belief in shared experience and self-sacrifice, according to a recent paper by Dr Stevens.

Suicide bombers are thus motivated by a “simple cost-benefit analysis”, in which the 'benefits' of self-destruction outweigh the cost. The benefits are perceived by the terrorist to be so great — in terms of membership of the group, achievement of collective goals, the promise of benefits in the after-life, and so on — that they outweigh the cost.

In this way there is a 'marriage' of violence and religion, via the suicide bomber's participation in the group, Dr Stevens suggests.

“Seen in this light, suicide bombing is explicable in terms of rationally motivated actions, and not in terms of theological and/or irrational motives,” he said. “To gain the collective benefits of participation in a strict group requires self-sacrifice, often of extreme levels.

“Suicide bombing is just an extension of this self-sacrifice — the ultimate extension. The benefits are perceived to be so great as to justify the action. Fortunately this is so only in extreme instances, under certain circumstances.

“But then suicide bombing is in actual fact very rare. Rare, that is, when it is remembered that extreme religious groups make up only a tiny fraction of religious groups as a whole, and 99.99 per cent of those groups are in fact peaceable.

“Statistically, then, finding one or two people willing to make such a sacrifice is incredibly rare. However, given the nature of suicide bombing, it only takes one or two.”

The attractions of intense solidarity don't only apply to fringe Islamic sects, but also to other extreme religious groups, Dr Stevens said. Many members of other such groups — from the Moonies to the Branch Davidians — explain their decisions to join, and as importantly to leave, in terms of the costs and benefits of participation rather than in the context of a 'brainwashing' process.

Dr Stevens also argues that contrary to popular opinion, poverty, isolation and lack of education are not typical features of the bomber profile. Mohammad Sidique Khan, for example, who blew himself up in London on July 7, 2005, murdering six people in the process, was a 30-year-old with a young family of his own and a job working in primary schools with special needs children.

Likewise it is a common misconception that suicide bombers are mentally ill or irrational, Dr Stevens argues — because it would make them a liability to the terrorist groups with which they were involved.

He said: “From purely an organisational point of view, working with deranged individuals is extremely hazardous. Terror organisations go to extreme lengths to keep their activities and set-up secret. The costs of discovery are immense for all involved.

“Under such circumstances, who would want to work with someone completely unpredictable — a maverick, a loose cannon — someone likely to give the game away at any stage through an act of sheer madness? Even terrorists don't want to work with those with a death-wish — you achieve very little that way.”

Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by University of Nottingham.


Local Paper Exposes Boy Scout Pedophiles Protected by Mormon Church

Nieman Reports - Summer 2006 Issue

A Local Newspaper Endures a Stormy Backlash
By Dean Miller

[Dean Miller is managing editor of the Post Register in Idaho Falls, Idaho. For his work on this series, Peter Zuckerman won the Livingston Award in the category of local reporting, a prize recognizing the nation's best journalists under the age of 35.]

Some days we felt like one of those plucky anglers in a small boat who solidly hooks a halibut, only to be beaten to death by the thrashing brute when it's hauled aboard. The Post Register is a wee dory of a newspaper: With 26,000 daily circulation, it's not buoyed by any corporate chain and has an opinion page often reviled in this livid corner of reddest Idaho for its reliable dissent.

Last year, by exposing Boy Scout pedophiles and those who failed to kick them out of the scouting program, we energized three of our community's big forces against us, including those most able to punish our newspaper -- the community's majority religion, the richest guys in town, and the conservative machine that controls Idaho.

First came the tip: A pedophile caught at a local scout camp in 1997 had not had two victims, as we reported at the time; he had dozens. When we went to the courthouse to look for the civil suit filed by these victims, the clerks (and the computers) said there was no such case. We later learned that the national Boy Scouts of America and its local Grand Teton Council had hired two of Idaho's best-connected law firms to seal the files and hide what came to be known as the Brad Stowell case.

The Post Register went to court in late 2004, and by January 2005 we'd dragged the case file into the light of day and read it from beginning to end. Turns out that as early as 1991 scout leaders had been warned about Stowell; they hired him again anyway.

Top-level local and national leaders of the Mormon Church, which sponsors almost all Grand Teton Council scout troops, had also been warned, but to no effect. From these files we learned that while under investigation Stowell confessed his problem to his bishop in 1988 and had been sent to church counselors for sex abuser treatment. Seven years later, this bishop told scout executives he knew of no reason Stowell should not be a scout camp leader. The files also showed lawyers for the Boy Scout organization knew about more victims, but never told those boys' parents. The victims were probably asleep at the time, one lawyer said, and even if not, it was a bad memory best ignored.

In February 2005, the Post Register launched a six-day series. The first day's story featured 14-year-old camper, Adam Steed, who forced adult leaders to call the cops on Stowell. Steed was the son of a Mormon seminary teacher and a cinch to become an Eagle Scout. But he'd quit scouting and school; instead of being praised for his efforts to stop Stowell from harming others, scout leaders and fellow scouts had shunned him for bringing down this man whom they described as charming and accomplished.

The Backlash Begins

Rank-and-file church members were among the first to complain: "Are you a Christian?" a woman in her 70's hissed across the newsroom conference table at me Monday morning, as she quoted from scripture. Why had the paper dredged up this story, she wanted to know.

"The rest of the boys want justice," I replied.

"Tell 'em to get over it," she snarled. "Just tell 'em 'tough!'"

If hers represented the voice of our community, stormy weather was ahead. Though our stories were aimed at decisions made by the Grand Teton Council (which at 30,000 members is bigger than our newspaper's readership), some Mormon church members characterized our coverage as an attack on their faith. "The Church," as it's known here, dominates eastern Idaho even more than it does Salt Lake City. Some counties that our newspaper serves are more than 70 percent Mormon, and for generations scouting has been the official youth program for Mormon boys. More than 90 percent of the troops in our local Grand Teton Council are sponsored by Mormon congregations.

For four generations, the Post Register has been controlled by the Brady family, Irish Catholics, and Democrats, so there are readers who imagine liberal papists on every beat. They are encouraged in this belief by some local politicians and businessmen who benefit from making the paper Mormon Republicans' straw man. Even with careful editing to preserve only germane mentions of religious affiliation, we knew that some talk-radio hosts would start banging the "Post Register is anti-Mormon" drums.

The drums banged, and we were flooded with calls and e-mails and letters to the editor from readers who told us that holding the Grand Teton Council accountable was Mormon-bashing. We responded to every call, letter and e-mail we received. The backlash came from advertisers, too. One of our big advertising accounts, a man who runs a furniture store, demanded an explanation and angrily informed me Stowell was a fine young man wrongly accused. Other advertisers just cancelled their ads, vowing never to return.

It's one thing to lose an account when you're an employee. It's quite another when you're also a stockholder; 140 employees hold close to 49 percent of the company's stock. For many families, this is their retirement. Many of them have been scouts or scout leaders, and at least a third are Mormon. Even non-newsroom staff were catching heat about the series at church gatherings and scout meetings. Even so, throughout this time most of what I heard inside our building were words of support.

With each additional day of the series, economic pressure built. Publisher Roger Plothow wrote an open letter to readers in which he criticized scout executives' decisions and said these stories were a victory for open public records. He was unapologetic and reminded readers he grew up Mormon and proudly claims the rank of Eagle Scout. A lot of what is popularly called courage is simple integrity. Plothow, by standing up with a stoic and clear-eyed defense, spoke for us, but also for the values of journalism.

Attacks Get Personal

One month after the series ran, Stowell, who had served a brief jail term for his scout camp predations, violated his parole and was sent to prison for two to 14 years. Around this same time, Grand Teton Council staff had been telling volunteer scoutmasters that the stories were all lies cobbled together by a gay reporter on a vendetta against the Boy Scouts. Our reporter, Peter Zuckerman, was not "out" to anyone but family, a few colleagues at the paper (including me), and his close friends. When the magnitude of the story became evident, I vetted him thoroughly, making sure he had not been active in the debate over gay scouts and had not been kicked out of a troop.

Peter's personal life and the series itself went under the microscope in June when a local multimillionaire, Frank VanderSloot, began buying full-page critical ads in our Sunday paper. He devoted several paragraphs to establishing that Zuckerman is gay. He noted the Mormon Church opposes gay marriage and that the Boy Scouts no longer allow gay men to lead troops, but briefly added: "We think it would be very unfair for anyone to conclude that is what is behind Zuckerman's motives."

Strangers started ringing Peter's doorbell at midnight. His partner of five years was fired from his job. Despite the harassment, Peter kept coming to work and chasing down leads on other pedophiles in the Grand Teton Council, while continuing to cover his courts and cops beat. I spoke at his church one Sunday and meant it when I said that I hope my son grows into as much of a man as Peter had.

The local Boy Scout executive had declared Stowell was the only child molester he'd discovered in the Grand Teton Council. But by midsummer, the paper was hunting for documentation on a dozen leaders whom victims and their families had identified to us as pedophiles. Meanwhile, the Post Register kept on printing VanderSloot's ads, even when they included serious mischaracterizations, errors of fact, and glaring omissions, such as the fact that the Boy Scouts' national staffer in charge of youth protection had just pleaded guilty to trading in child pornography. VanderSloot said his ads, which he labeled "The Community Page," were intended to bolster people who were too scared of the mighty Post Register to speak up.

But no one who was named in our articles asked for a correction, retraction or clarification. They couldn't and still had not a year later. The stories were based on information in deposition transcripts found in the secret lawsuit file. Not satisfied with the impact of his ads, VanderSloot demanded a debate. Insiders had warned us not to pick fights with VanderSloot. He owns an international multilevel marketing/health products company, Melaleuca, Inc., and often threatens to start a rival newspaper. But we felt we couldn't run away from this challenge, so we agreed to two half-hour debates on a local TV station.

A few minutes into the debate it became clear to me that VanderSloot had not, as I had, read the entire case file or even the most significant depositions. Broad assertions that had been prepared for him by a young lawyer fell apart in the face of details from the court record. The day after the first debate aired, the Post Register published documentation that at least two other pedophiles had preyed on Grand Teton Council scouts, including a vicious child rapist who had been reported to the Grand Teton Council in the 1980's, convicted in Utah, and was now back at work for the council. Two weeks later, we documented another pedophile in the council. In this case, his criminal file had been sealed and hidden.

By now the paper had secured evidence of four recent pedophiles in the local scout council, about as many documented cases as the 500,000-member Catholic diocese of Boston when that scandal erupted in The Boston Globe.

Losing the Company President's Support

Full-page VanderSloot ads kept arriving -- a half dozen in all. The last declared victory. His words weren't hurting our circulation -- which was rising -- but we were growing tired of the smear campaign. VanderSloot did score a victory in the fall. In the September 23rd Post Register, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brady published an open letter headlined with Will Rogers' quip: "The only thing wrong with Boy Scouts is there aren't enough of them." Brady recited a litany of the benefits of scouting, pledged his and his wife's support, and said "We regret any negativity that might be associated with the great Boy Scouts organization ... the entire community should support the scouts."

Brady is the president of the Post Company and serves as chairman of its board. Religion, "big" money, and the conservative movement's rabid protection of local scout leaders had gotten to our boss.

Now the newsroom was really on its own as we started to cover the lobbying campaign of Paul Steed, father of the boy who forced the Grand Teton Council to turn Stowell over to the cops. The elder Steed had quit his Mormon Church job to push for changes in Idaho law. He was the kind of divisive force that Brady scolded in his campaign ad. But then Idaho surprised us. When the Republican-dominated legislature convened in January, a sympathetic legislator introduced the Steed family's proposal. A flinching and at times tearful house committee heard the awful stories in testimony from the wounded boys and their parents. The lawmakers unanimously voted to do away with the statute of limitations on child molestation, and the governor signed the bill into law with the Steeds and Jeff Bird, another scout victim, standing by. The house committee chairman wrote to the Grand Teton Council to ask why its leader had not been fired.

What Courage Means

Judges called the Post Register's coverage of this story "courageous" when they awarded it the Scripps Howard First Amendment prize. That's a hard word for those of us at the paper to wear comfortably. After all, we'd witnessed the courage of Adam Steed and his younger brother, Ben, and Jeff Bird when, as grown men, they went public in the paper and revealed humiliating details of what had been done to them at scout camp. Even now, we fear for them and their families, as VanderSloot's full-page attack ads continue.

But was what any of us did courageous? With no corporate bankroll to fall back on and coping with the pressures any newspaper publisher faces today, our publisher, Roger Plothow, took lonely risks to uphold the principle of open government. In doing so, he gave victims the opportunity they needed to speak out against those who had harmed them. By his example, Plothow stiffened the spines of minority stockholders (many of whom are staff members at the paper), who stood firm.

Laboring in obscurity, and without resources their peers at larger papers have, community journalists often end up dreaming small. But my 34 colleagues at the Post Register -- in particular the cadre of editors who have worked together for a decade and lead a largely entry-level staff -- refused to pull back in the face of much opposition. They were dogged in their work until the victims' stories -- and the aftermath of their telling -- were complete. Peter Zuckerman, in particular, persevered despite repeated threats that were inflamed by a carefully orchestrated ad hominem attack on him and his work.

One of the sweeter moments of our year occurred when we received figures from our circulation audit. While the sales numbers of other U.S. newspapers were in free fall, we were among the nation's faster growing daily papers. For us, these numbers testified to the value of fortitude. Publishing uncomfortable truths needn't be an act of hot-blooded courage; it should be a cool-headed exercise in focus: Find the civic heart of a story, steer a steady course to it, and serve the public's legitimate interests in openness and justice. Do that and, even when the story rocks your boat, trust that the waves won't capsize it.

http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/ 06-2NRsummer/p95-0602-miller.html