30 Jan 2008

Religious sect takes over school

Stockport Express - UK

January 30, 2008

by Jennifer Williams

A NEW school run by a secretive religious ‘cult’ has opened in Heaton Mersey.

Mereside Education Trust is run by a Christian sect referred to in previous reports as a ‘cult’, which considers TV and radio evil. They have taken over the former site of St John Vianney Primary on Didsbury Road.

The private secondary school, which used to be based in Sale, is run by a group called the Exclusive Brethren.

Mereside only educates children from within the Brethren, who shun outsiders under rules dictated a century ago by radical preacher James Taylor.

Under Brethren rules, members are not allowed to watch TV, read newspapers or take out life insurance, and until recently the internet was also banned. Women must keep their hair uncut and wear blue headscarves.

And in one of their most controversial doctrines, members who leave are split from their families forever - and parents shun their own children.

But as far as its neighbours are concerned, the disturbance comes not from the way the school is run - but the school run itself.

One resident, who lives directly in front of the school gates, said: "I just wish they’d stop using the road as a car park. These people cause no offence and we don’t object to them in any way."

Richard Hill, 36, said: "I think too much is made of cults and minor religions.

"Each to their own. The parents smile when they look over, there’s no noise from the kids and I’d far rather have a school there than a housing development when the diocese sells up.

The father of two added: "That said, I wish they’d show a little more courtesy as far as the parking goes.

"They’ve opened up an in-and-out route but everyone just straddles the pavement... and there are lots of them."

Reg Haughton, a resident of four decades, said: "We don’t have much to do with them and no one is particularly bothered who they are and what they do.

"It’s live and let live as long as there’s no disturbance. But the traffic has been pretty rough on quite a few occasions."

Mereside trustee Frances Richardson told the Express that the school has had little publicity surrounding its arrival because it has no interest in recruiting new pupils.

He said: "We already have an established clientele, as it were, with the pupils that have come across from Sale.

"We’re just a small school - hardly any bigger than the one that was here before - and we’re here on a temporary basis."

Former trustee Stephen Boyt confirmed that Mereside’s ethos conforms to the teachings of James Taylor, but insisted the school provides a balanced education.

He said: "Mereside is just a normal independent school. I would say it is pretty much fully compliant with all aspects of the National Curriculum.

"The big difference is the ethos of the school - it is a very strong Christian ethos. We wouldn’t call ourselves Taylorites but we would fully support the ministry of Jim Taylor."

And he denied the claims of former members that the Brethren are a secretive ‘cult’, adding: "I would say those criticisms are completely unfounded."

Mereside was forced to move on from their former site on Parkside Road in Sale - where they had been since 1995 - after having to repeatedly gain temporary retrospective planning permission for an unauthorised extension.

It is now leasing the Didsbury Road site from the Salford Diocese, which ran St John Vianney.

Martin Lochery, Director of Education at Salford Diocese, said it could be the first time the diocese has leased land to such a group. He said: "My guess is that it may have never happened before."

Children at the school of 58 pupils take GCSEs and gain broadly above average results. It is one of 37 Exclusive Brethren schools overseen by the Coventry-based Focus Learning Trust, which reached an agreement with the Government to be the first institution in the country to inspect its own schools.


Four NY men accuse local priest of abuse

The Post Star - Glens Falls, New York

January 29, 2008

By Don Lehman

Four more men came forward Monday to make child sexual abuse allegations against a Catholic priest formerly assigned to churches in Queensbury and Glens Falls.

Two of the men told reporters during a news conference in Latham on Monday that the Rev. Gary Mercure molested them each for nearly seven years when he was the priest at Our Lady of the Annunciation church in Queensbury in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Speaking on the condition that their names not be used, both men said Mercure began molesting them when they were 8 years old, and the abuse continued until they were about 15.

One said he told a church leader at Our Lady of the Annunciation of the abuse, as well as a parishioner who is a police officer, but they took no action on his complaint, and the abuse continued.

Both said they knew of at least four other victims of Mercure from the same time period -- men who have not publicly come forward.

"There are people who knew about this and did nothing about it," one of the men said angrily.

Two other men told reporters that Mercure committed sexual misconduct with them when Mercure was assigned to St. Teresa of Avila Church in Albany in the 1970s.

One of those men, Michael Flynn of Clifton Park and Lake George, gave his name, while the other would not.

All four spoke during a news conference organized by the Capital District chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Mercure has not publicly commented on the allegations made earlier this month, and could not be reached for comment Monday.

The gathering came eight days after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany announced that Mercure had taken a paid leave of absence amid an investigation of allegations he abused a boy while assigned to the Queensbury church.

That alleged victim was not among those who spoke at Monday's event. That matter is under investigation by the Warren County district attorney's office, as well as by the church.

The four who did come forward, though, spoke about improper relationships with Mercure, who spent at least 12 years at Our Lady of the Annunciation and St. Mary's in Glens Falls before he left St. Mary's in 1995 for what he called "health reasons."

Mercure had left the Queensbury church in the early 1990s for unspecified reasons before he landed in Glens Falls a short time later.

However, John Watkins, a Queensbury man who said he had a sexual relationship as an adult with Mercure between 1992 and 1994, said Monday that Mercure left the Glens Falls church because Watkins told the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany about his relationship with Mercure and improprieties he said Mercure committed.

Watkins, who did not attend Monday's news conference but who had e-mailed The Post-Star after the diocese announced its investigation, said he had gone to Mercure for counseling in 1992 because he had been sexually abused by a relative as a child. He said Mercure initiated a sexual relationship that continued for more than two years.

Watkins said he was 24 when the relationship began, after he met Mercure at Glens Falls Hospital.

He said Mercure gave him $60,000 during that two-year period, and often had a desk drawer full of cash from which he gave Watkins money.

"He used my childhood trauma to his own benefit," Watkins said.

Watkins said Mercure was transferred after he made his complaint to the diocese, and the diocese paid him $8,000 and has paid his insurance co-pays for counseling and medications since.

Ken Goldfarb, a spokesman for the diocese, said the diocese did learn of an adult sexual relationship Mercure had in 1995. The diocese "took appropriate action" against the priest for breaking his vow of celibacy, but Goldfarb would not detail what that action was.

He said the diocese has paid for the counseling of the man involved, but he would not elaborate on the matter.

"It was not a case of sexual abuse and it did not involve a minor," Goldfarb said.

Mark Lyman, Capital Region director of SNAP, said the group believes Mercure was sent to a church-run Pennsylvania hospital for treatment related to sexual misconduct allegations made against him.

"We know Father Mercure was there, because many parishioners contacted him there and visited him there," Lyman said.

One of the four men who spoke at Monday's news conference said he contacted the diocese late last week to make a formal complaint.

That man was Flynn, who said Mercure committed "sexual misconduct" against him when he was 15 or 16.

He would not elaborate, and the three other men who spoke at the press conference also would not release details about the extent of the abuse.

One of the Queensbury men told news media representatives on Monday that Mercure "groomed" him and his family as he sexually abused him, taking him places and accompanying his family on an out-of-state vacation at one point.

He said Mercure molested him on that vacation, and also contacted him when he went away to college.

"He told me if I told anyone, it would destroy my family, and my parents would get divorced," he said. "Those are horrible things for a kid to hear."

The other Queensbury man got angry as he spoke about why he came forward and how his complaints were ignored by the church and a family member.

Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said the diocese contacted her office recently with details related to the complaint that led to Mercure's leave of absence last week, but it appears there can't be a criminal prosecution.

The statute of limitations in the matter would be five years past the complainant's 18th birthday, a time period that has lapsed, she said.

Lyman said SNAP is lobbying state legislators to pass a law that would suspend the statute of limitations in cases of clergy sexual abuse.

Lyman and lawyer John Aretakis were harshly critical of the diocese for allowing Mercure to remain in the ministry, because SNAP believes the diocese knew of complaints against Mercure as far back as the early 1990s.

Goldfarb, though, said there were no child sexual abuse complaints made against Mercure until recently.

In a statement issued by the diocese later Monday afternoon, Goldfarb said that after the announcement of the allegation against Mercure last week, the diocese received telephone calls regarding further possible allegations of abuse.

"Though no additional formal complaints have been received thus far, the diocese is following up on these contacts," the statement said. "Every such complaint filed with the diocese is taken seriously and is investigated.

"The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany encourages anyone who as a minor was sexually abused by Albany Diocese clergy to report the incident to law enforcement authorities or the Albany Diocese so that the allegation can be investigated and so that the Diocese can provide assistance to the victim," the statement continues. "... It is the policy of the Albany Diocese to investigate thoroughly any report of clergy sexual misconduct."

Goldfarb said those with such information may contact Theresa Rodrigues, the diocesan assistance coordinator, at 453-6646 or by e-mail at assistance.coordinator@rcda.org.


Victims of sexual abuse may be able to sue their attackers after many years, following a ruling by the Law Lords.

BBC News - UK

January 30, 2008

The decision, which overturns 400 years of legal precedent, will have "huge ramifications for all victims of abuse and assault"

Victims of sexual abuse may be able to sue their attackers after many years, following a ruling by the Law Lords.

They ruled a convicted rapist who later won £7m on the National Lottery could be sued by his victim - even though her claim was outside a six-year deadline.

Iorworth Hoare, 53, was jailed for life in May 1989 for the attempted rape of the 59-year-old woman, Mrs A, in Leeds.

The Lords backed four more appeals; it is thought their decision could allow a number of other cases to be brought.

Until now sexual abuse victims have been prevented from bringing a claim more than six years after an attack or, in child abuse cases, more than six years after the victim reaches 18.

The Law Lords' unanimous ruling now means all five appeal cases - some involving children - will be sent back to the High Court, where judges will decide whether or not to hear the abuse compensation cases.

One of the judges, Baroness Hale, said it was important the legal system responded to the challenges posed by historical sexual abuse claims.

"A fair trial can be possible long after the event and sometimes the law has no choice," she said.

'Delighted and relieved'

Before being jailed for life for his attack on Mrs A, Hoare, known as the Lotto rapist, was imprisoned several times for a string of sex attacks, including rape, two attempted rapes and three indecent assaults, during the 1970s and 1980s.

He now lives in a £700,000 mansion in Ponteland, Northumberland, after winning a share a £21m Lotto Extra jackpot on 7 August 2004.

In 2005, a High Court judge ruled a compensation claim by Mrs A was outside the legal six-year limit and the Appeal Court later upheld that decision.

The Law Lords have now reversed that ruling, overturning 400 years of legal precedent, allowing her case and four others to be reheard at the High Court.

In a statement released through her solicitor, Mrs A said: "I'm both delighted and relieved that my appeal to the House of Lords has been successful and that I've succeeded in changing a law which will provide others in the future with a means of achieving justice.

"It was this rather than financial gain which motivated me to begin this process two years ago."


The four other appeal cases included a claimant who was sexually abused between 1982 and 1988 at a school managed by Middlesbrough Council when he was aged between 10 and 16.

The judge hearing the case at the time said the victim, known as C, would have been entitled to almost £100,000 in damages, but could not claim because it was outside the legal time period - as covered by the Limitation Act.

But Lord Hoffmann, another of the Law Lords' judges, said Section 33 of the act did give judges the right to extend the time limit when they believed it was right to do so.

Lawyer Helen Hughes, one of the solicitors representing Kevin Young, who is another of the claimants whose cases will be heard at the High Court, told BBC Radio Five Live the ruling was "very positive for other individuals who may wish to make similar claims".

Leading child abuse lawyer Tracey Storey, of solicitors Irwin Mitchell, said the decision ended the "bizarre situation" which meant child abuse victims over the age of 24 could not sue their abusers.

The decision would have "huge ramifications for all victims of abuse and assault", she said.

David Greenwood of Jordans Solicitors, which also represents victims of child abuse, agreed that the ruling would "empower" people to come forward.

"Victims of sexual and physical abuse in care establishments can now be confident that even after many years they will be treated seriously and sympathetically by lawyers and the courts," he said.

But Victim Support said that while it welcomed the ruling, it believed it would help only a small number of people.

"It's very good news for her but the wider significance is questionable because the vast majority of offenders don't have assets to chase," said spokesman Paul Fawcett.


State Supreme Court to hear appeal from alleged cult leader

Knoxville News Sentinel - January 29, 2008

His teenage follower died from cancer after heeding prayer advice

By Jamie Satterfield

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of an alleged cult leader whose teenage follower died from cancer after her mother heeded his advice to rely on prayer rather than medicine.

The legally novel issue that has drawn the interest of the state's highest court is whether Ariel Sherman, described as Jessica Crank's spiritual father, owed the girl a duty of care since he had no legal ties to her.

Two different judges in two different Loudon County courts ruled he did not. Last year, a state appellate court disagreed, ruling he could, under certain circumstances, be held responsible for the girl and, therefore, her death.

Sherman's attorney, Donald A. Bosch, asked the state Supreme Court to take a look at the issue. In an order handed down today, the high court agreed, putting the case on its May docket.

"We are very happy the state Supreme Court is going to once and for all address this matter," Bosch said today. "We have always believed Sherman has no criminal responsibility in this matter."

Jessica's mother, Jacqueline Crank, and Sherman were charged in 2002 with refusing to get the girl treatment for a rare form of bone cancer from which she later died. Jacqueline Crank's attorney, Gregory P. Isaacs, successfully argued that his client was exercising her religious freedom in relying on prayer to cure the girl, and Bosch won his argument that Sherman was not married to the girl's mother and, therefore, had no legal responsibility for her care or lack thereof.

It was not immediately clear if Crank's case also will be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Isaacs had said he intended to proceed with his faith-healing argument in Loudon County Criminal Court following the mid-level appellate court ruling.


29 Jan 2008

Niece of Scientology leader describes how her own family was broken apart by the movement’s policies.

ReligionNewsBlog.com - January 28, 2008

The author of a controversial new biography on celebrity Scientologist Tom Cruise has found an unexpected new ally: the niece of Scientology’s current leader, David Miscavige.

In an open letter to a senior Scientology official that has been widely posted on the Internet, Jenna Miscavige Hill described how her own family was broken apart by the movement’s policies.

Hill’s father is Ron Miscavige, the older brother of David Miscavige, the current leader of the Church of Scientology.

“Hell, if Scientology can’t keep his family together — then why on earth should anyone believe the church helps brings families together!” she wrote.

Hill, 23, wrote the letter after Scientology attacked writer Andrew Morton’s recently published book “Tom Cruise: an Unauthorised Biography“. The actor is a vocal advocate for the movement and the book gives it extensive coverage.

In a 15-page statement issued on January 14, Karin Pouw, the movement’s public affairs director, denounced the book as a “bigoted defamatory assault replete with lies”.

But in her reply to Pouw, Hill retorted: “I am absolutely shocked at how vehemently you insist upon not only denying the truths that have been stated about the church in that biography, but then take it a step further and tell outright lies.”

In particular she challenges Scientology’s denial that it puts pressure on members to break all contact with relatives who do not support the movement — a practice known as disconnection.

Hill said it was this policy that broke up her own family.

“As you well know, my parents officially left the church when I was 16 in 2000,” she wrote. Having been separated from them since the age of 12, she decided not to go with them.

But she added: “Not only was I not allowed to speak to them, I was not allowed to answer a phone for well over a year, in case it was them calling me.”

Hill goes on to detail how Scientology officials intercepted letters from her parents and her friends.

She was only allowed to visit her parents once a year for a maximum of four days, she wrote — and then only after her parents threatened legal action to get access.

When she returned from these visits, she was questioned to see if her parents had said anything bad about the movement.

Asked about the Hill’s statement, Pouw told AFP: “The church stands by its statement of 14 January. The church does not respond to newsgroup postings.”

Contacted by AFP, Hill said she had circulated the letter to draw attention to the practice of disconnection.

“My intention is to put it on a public forum so they are pressured into changing their ways — even if it is just to cover for themselves.”

Founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology was officially recognised as a religion there nearly 20 years later.

But it is often accused in Germany and other European countries, including Belgium, France and Greece, of exploiting its members financially.

Morton’s book is currently at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for hardback non-fiction after its first week on sale.



Niece of Scientology Leader Rebuts Claims of Family Values

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Niece of Scientology leader describes how her own family was broken apart by the movement’s policies.

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Scientology - Child Abuse and Labour Pt.2 [video]

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28 Jan 2008

Measure targets parents and sect leaders who shun kids

The Salt Lake Tribune - January 28, 2008

by Brooke Adams

For years, leaders in a polygamous sect based in southern Utah have counseled followers to cut ties with wayward children.

Now, a state lawmaker wants to hold parents who do so - and sect leaders who encourage them - responsible for abandoning their children.

For the second year, Rep. Lorie Fowlke, R-Orem, is sponsoring a bill that would make it a third-degree felony for a person or enterprise to commit or encourage child abandonment. If the abandonment led to serious physical injury, the charge could be bumped up to a second-degree offense.

It also includes provisions of the racketeering or RICO statute, which would allow the government to seize assets of any person or enterprise involved in child abandonment.

While the bill would apply to any parents, it is aimed at members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, based in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

Fowlke said prosecutors in southern Utah and the Utah Attorney General’s Office asked her to draft HB23.

The ‘’Lost Boys,'’ as the mostly male youths are known, have said they leave because they didn’t want to stay in the religion or were kicked out for violating the sect’s stringent rules about dress, music, movies, substance abuse and socializing with girls. Most report attending school only through eighth grade.

However, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said none of the teens has been willing to participate in a neglect case against his or her parents.

Franklin Johnson, 22, who was asked to leave home four years ago, said Friday the legislation is a “bad idea.”

‘’I don’t want to see my mom go through any more hell than she’s already gone through,'’ he said.

The real target of the bill, however, appears to be sect leaders and the sect itself.

‘’Most of the people working with the so-called Lost Boys want to help the kids but truly want the parents to take care of their children in the first place,'’ said Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office. “This will provide that incentive and keep families intact so we won’t hear any more stories about children being left out in the desert or told to leave and not come back.”


Colorado's Catholic Church leaders are planning to again fight a bill that would give victims more time to sue sexual predators

Rocky Mountain News - January 14, 2008

by Katie Kerwin McCrimmon

Colorado's Catholic Church leaders are planning to again fight a bill that would give victims more time to sue predators who sexually abused them as children.

A measure by state Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, would lift the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits for children who suffer sexual abuse from now on. Any past victims for whom the statute of limitations has expired would have a two-year window - starting in July - to file a civil lawsuit against their alleged abusers or any institution that knowingly allowed the abuse.

Ted Thompson, executive director for the National Association to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children, called on Colorado lawmakers to unanimously pass the bill.

"This issue is black and white," Thompson said. "When it comes to the sexual abuse of a child, a statute of limitation only limits the victims. You limit the person who suffered the abuse and give a get-out-of-jail- free card to the guy who did the abuse."

Under Colorado's current statute of limitations, Coloradans who suffer abuse have six years after they turn 18 to sue their abusers. Children's advocates say that is not enough time because many victims blame themselves and often hide their abuse for years before reporting it or considering criminal or civil action against their abuser.

In 2006, Green sponsored a bill that would have allowed victims unlimited time to file future lawsuits against private institutions if those institutions tried to cover up sexual abuse. The Catholic Church felt it was being unfairly singled out.

The bill eventually was amended to include public schools and governments. Those groups then joined in opposing the measure. The sponsors let their bill die rather than see it weakened.

This year's measure, House Bill 1011, never mentions the Catholic Church, but lobbyists for the church plan to fight it and have mounted campaigns against similar bills across the country.

In the Archdiocese of Denver, 44 cases of alleged sexual abuse have surfaced since 2005. The cases involved four priests, two of whom are now dead.

Archdiocesan spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo said that lawyers for the church have settled 20 of those cases through mediation. Five other past victims approached the church directly and have participated in "healing and assistance'' with the archdiocese. An additional 19 civil suits still are pending against the church.

DeMelo said church officials have put in place extensive training programs and background checks to safeguard children in churches and schools.

"The archdiocese has been very committed to the safety of children,'' she said.

In the past, priests accused of abuse were sometimes transferred from church to church. Now, DeMelo said, church officials have stringent policies about removing suspected abusers.

"No one who has a credible allegation of sexual abuse against them works in the ministry in the archdiocese,'' she said.

Today, DeMelo said, church officials work hard to reach out to potential victims. "We have been proactive in seeking to offer healing assistance and mediation to past victims of sexual abuse.''

The Archdiocese of Denver has faced at least 35 lawsuits based on alleged sexual abuse decades ago by two priests, both of whom have died. Some of the suits were settled through mediation. DeMelo declined to comment on the proposed bill or the status of the other lawsuits.

Green, who is Catholic, said her motivation in supporting the bill was never to target the Catholic Church. Instead, as a mother, grandmother and social worker, she said she cares deeply about children and wanted to protect them from sexual predators and the long-term, costly impacts of abuse.

She was alarmed, she said, when she found that nearly all children who suffer sexual abuse are victims of a person in their family or an acquaintance in a position of trust.

Green's bill would allow lawsuits against private and public institutions only if the leaders of those institutions knew that the sexual predator had committed previous sexual abuse and failed to prevent additional abuse.

"I think it's really ironic that the leaders of a church that profess to follow Jesus would be working against the protection of children." Green said.

"I'm just trying to make abusers financially accountable."

Green said she is confident her bill will do well this year. She already has had GOP lawmakers step forward as co-sponsors.

Thompson said that 85 percent of the sexual abuse of children stems from people who are not clergy members.


Wisconsin: Bill would erase sex abuse suit deadlines

Associated Press - January 17, 2008

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- People who believe they were sexually abused as children would no longer face a deadline for filing a civil lawsuit under a bill a legislative committee considered Wednesday.

Critics told the Senate Judiciary, Corrections and Housing Committee the bipartisan measure would expose the Catholic church in Wisconsin to expensive lawsuits and is probably unconstitutional.

Supporters countered the state's current deadline -- file by age 35 -- is arbitrary and doing away with it would expose more sexual predators.

"This bill is about protecting victims and giving them the ability to tell their story," said Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, one of the bill's co-sponsors. "We truly believe it will make Wisconsin a sex predator's worst nightmare."

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle signed a law in 2004 that increased the statute of limitations for adults who think they were sexually abused as children from five years after the incident to age 35. The change was triggered largely by the Roman Catholic church clergy sex abuse scandal.

The bill would erase that deadline going forward and create a 3-year window during which someone who had a lawsuit dismissed because they were too old could renew their actions.

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan told the committee his diocese has paid more than $17 million in sex abuse mediation, therapy and outreach since 2002. The 3-year window would allow so many lawsuits his diocese could go bankrupt, he said.

"There is no Catholic 'Superfund' that can provide the monies this legislation will require of the church," he told the panel.

"We are at the limit of our ability to pay massive tort settlements "| plain and simple, a window is unjust."

James Friedman, a constitutional law expert at the Godfrey & Khan law firm in Madison, said the window likely violates the Wisconsin and U.S. constitutions. The statute of limitations clearly gives defendants the right not to be sued after it expires, Friedman said.

Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, stressed the bill isn't designed to single out any specific entity, such as the Catholic church.

She believes the bill is constitutional because it clearly reflects legislative intent and would protect people. She pointed out the state places no statute of limitations on murder and the age 35 deadline was picked at random.

"There is no statute of limitations on pain and suffering," Lassa said. "If they're 33, they can do it. At 36 they can't ... it's just an arbitrary line in the sand."

Vicki Polin, a 48-year-old counselor based in Baltimore, told the committee her mother and father sexually abused her when she was a child, including instances camping near Mukwonago. She confronted them in her 20s, and they cut off all contact. She learned last year her family was avoiding her until the statute of limitations had expired.

She said civil lawsuits would help victims pay for therapy. They also would compel the legal discovery process. That could uncover more information about possible victims, leading to identification of more abusers and, perhaps, criminal charges.

"It's validation," she said.

The bill got a cool reception from the committee. Sen. Jim Sullivan, a Wauwatosa Democrat and attorney, called the bill a "sweeping change of precedence." He questioned why the bill is needed since the state just increased the deadline to age 35 four years ago.

Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, asked Suder and Lassa why they didn't address the criminal statute of limitations. He also asked how many predators would escape litigation because they have no money for lawyers to win.

Lassa said the civil process could lead to criminal charges. Suder said he didn't know how many would escape a lawsuit because they're poor.

The committee wasn't scheduled to vote on the bill.


Courts to sort Jehovah's Witness blood battle when kids involved

Brandon Sun - January 27, 2008

Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - They were not much bigger than an outstretched hand when they were taken from their parents and given blood transfusions against their parents' will and religious beliefs.

The surviving four B.C. sextuplets have returned home but the fight is not over for their parents and it's not over for Canadian courts.

Two key battles, one in the Supreme Court of Canada and the other in B.C. Supreme Court, could soon give clearer directions on what are often decisions of life and death.

It's an issue that has deeply divided families, the courts and society in general.

Religious parents want to be reassured they can make decisions for their children and not have them taken away, while governments are compelled to protect those same children from risk.

In the B.C. case, the four extremely premature babies were seized and transfused with blood when doctors for the B.C. government convinced the court they wouldn't survive otherwise.

The lawyer for the parents argued in court last week that the government didn't have the right to simply seize the children without the parents questioning the medical necessity of the blood transfusions and the court agreed to hear the case.

Final arguments in the hearing will be heard next month.

Jehovah's Witness say under the authority of the Bible they cannot accept blood transfusions.

It was for the same reason that a 14-year-old girl in Manitoba, known only as A.C., refused a blood transfusion to treat gastrointestinal bleeding due to Crohn's disease.

Manitoba's Director of Child and Family Services went to court and won an order authorizing doctors to given her blood transfusions without the consent of her parents.

The Manitoba Appeal Court judgment, where the girl and her parents lost again, shows the difficulty of these decisions.

"This case highlights the conflict between such societal values as personal autonomy, the sanctity of life and the protection of children," it says.

The country's highest court will weigh in on the issue this year.

The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to hear the appeal of the A.C. decision this May.

Even with direction from the high court, Deborah Carlson, a lawyer representing Manitoba's Attorney General in the trial, said each case involving a child's refusal of health care will likely end up in court because the circumstances are never the same.

"What the Supreme Court hearing will do...often times (it) gives guidance to the lower courts," Carlson said in an interview.

John Burns, a lawyer for the sextuplet parents, said people often mistake the refusal of blood for refusal of medical care.

"These are not like some parents, perhaps in certain parts of North America, that resort to prayer and faith healing; they want medical treatment," he said in an interview.

Burns, who is also Jehovah's Witness, believes fewer of these cases are going through the courts because medical science, such as bloodless treatment, is catching up with their beliefs.

However, Prof. Arthur Schafer, director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba, said the state usually doesn't intervene in a parent's autonomy unless it's a life-saving situation.

He believes the Supreme Court of Canada could establish a question for the lowers courts to ask that may help settle the issue.

"Is this the decision that a loving, a reasonable parent could make?" he asked. "And if the answer is 'no loving and reasonable parent would make this decision,' then you intervene."

Carlson doesn't think the solution is that simple.

"I think that the Jehovah's Witnesses would be very offended by that notion that because you have certain religious values you're not a loving parent," she said.

But for parents, these court fights aren't about religion, Burns said.

"They're thinking about treatment. Which is what they should be thinking about," he stated. "Religion from that standpoint, you want to accommodate, we live in a diversified religious society, which we respect."

Burns said the Krever Inquiry into Canada's blood system has shaken up the assumption that blood is always safe and these parents are simply looking for an alternative.

Schafer said no matter what the high court rules these cases will likely continue to funnel through the courts.

"We will because society has an obligation to protect children," he said.

While the courts long ago decided that adults can refuse treatment, he said society won't view children in the same way.

"You could follow your wacky views right over the cliff, if it's you and you're a competent adult," Schafer said. "But you can't push your kids over the cliff."

Schafer argues that in the case of the 14-year-old girl who risks being an outcast from her Jehovah's Witness community, the decision to have a blood transfusion would be very difficult.

"Don't underestimate the coercive power of, not just one's immediate family, but all the friends of one's family, all one's relatives, the people they see in Sunday School.

This is a life and death issue," Schafer said.


26 Jan 2008

FLDS 'Lost Boys' home seeks funding

Deseret Morning News - January 26, 2008

by Ben Winslow

"Smith" said he was abandoned on a street in Hurricane after going to see a movie.

The 18-year-old from the Fundamentalist LDS enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., was left there when his father found out that he was there.

"He doesn't want me watching movies, I guess," said Smith, who asked the Deseret Morning News not to use his name. "I decided to move away because it wasn't worth it. It's been going on for 10 years."

The young man has been out of the polygamist communities for five weeks now. On Friday, he and about a dozen other so-called "Lost Boys" — kids who have been kicked out or run away from the FLDS Church — were meeting lawmakers and pushing for $315,000 to help the pay for a youth drop-in center in St. George. The "House Just Off Bluff," as it's called, is being run by non-profits and volunteers putting in their own blood, sweat and tears.

The home would help kids transition to a life outside of Short Creek. Advocates for these boys and girls claim there are more than 1,000 who are either kicked out, often because they commit a "sin," or run away. They sleep on the streets or crash in apartments with others like them and are often under-educated and in danger of falling prey to drugs, alcohol and exploitation.

"I have on average two kids a week that contact me that I haven't seen before," Michelle Benward, the director of New Frontiers for Families, said of the amount of kids still seeking help. "We need full funding."

The Deseret Morning News first reported on the home last year. Generous readers donated furniture to help fill it, and the kids who would be staying there helped remodel it. The home opened in October, but can't really have anyone living there because St. George city officials haven't given them the appropriate zoning.

St. George city has been in a quandary because it has strict zoning regulations designed to crack down on schools for troubled teens. It also affects the House Just Off Bluff.

"Once you make a zone change for something like that, it affects the surrounding area," said St. George City Councilwoman Gloria Shakespeare, who is hesitant about voting for a zoning change.

Benward remains optimistic.

"I'm not seeing it as a hurdle because I believe they'll do the right thing," she said.

Meanwhile, she's seeking money from state lawmakers to help keep the house going. On Friday, Benward and her kids were shaking hands and pleading their case.

"I'm all for it. There's a very tender spot in my heart," Rep. Bud Bowman, R-Cedar City, said. "I think it'll fare good because the need is there."

While they got a lot of comments of support, they did not get a lawmaker to sponsor any specific legislation. Benward said she has meetings next week to keep pushing. Some fear that because it deals with polygamy, it may face some hurdles on Utah's Capitol Hill.

At least one of the youth was excited about the trip.

"It's pretty cool. It's probably something I never would have done if I still lived in the Creek," said Hyrum, 17, who has been out of "Short Creek" for two years now. He also did not want his last name used.

Advocates say they are still seeing children leaving the FLDS communities. The group's leader, Warren Jeffs, is in prison for rape as an accomplice. He was convicted of performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. While Jeffs has resigned as president of the FLDS Church, it is unclear if he is still their religious leader.

"Warren's still in charge," said Hyrum.

"No he's not 'cause he said he's not," Smith corrected him.

"They don't listen to that. I talked to my mom and she doesn't believe that," Hyrum replied. "She says they're making it up."
"I saw the video. They didn't make it up."

"Has my mom seen the video?"


How I survived being starved, beaten and tortured by my Jehovah's Witness foster mother

Daily Mail UK - January 25, 2008

Panic is bubbling up through my body. My tongue is dry and my stomach is churning horribly, although I'm not hungry.

To distract myself I start fiddling with my pretty bead bracelet. I like the feel of the smooth chunks of coloured glass as they roll between my nervous fingers. I don't know if I can go through with this.

I steal a glance at the face of the female detective who is sitting next to me in the back of the police car. She looks very determined, while I feel extremely wobbly.

"You look nice, Alloma. Very smart." DC Martell is smiling encouragingly, as the car nudges through the heavy morning traffic towards Bristol Crown Court, where I will shortly be giving evidence in a child abuse case against my foster mother of ten years, Eunice Spry.

The detective is a reassuring presence. But in my mind I am still remembering Eunice's scrawny hands around my throat, trying to stop me from speaking out, squeezing the very breath from my body.

Then I remember that the owner of those terrifying hands is now safely in police custody, and I finally find my voice. "Thanks," I say to the detective. "But are you really sure there'll be a screen?"

DC Martell's face softens. "I'm sure, Alloma. She'll be brought into court after you've arrived, so you really won't see her face. I promise."
I nod slowly, trying to take this in. God I hope you're right, I think, because if she can see me, she can get me. The minute I'm skewered by her gaze, by those hard, grey eyes that bore into my very soul, then I'll be lost.

The car pulls up outside the imposing court building and I'm hastily shepherded inside.

An official brings me a cup of tea and tells me I might have to wait several hours to be called. To be honest, after so many years of suffering in silence, I don't suppose another few hours will make a huge difference.

For me, the real issue is whether or not other people - in this case, a jury of 12 complete strangers - will believe the extraordinary story that I, my younger brother Thomas and our foster sister Sarah are going to tell them. We can only wait and hope.

That story begins, for Thomas and me at least, back in the spring of 1991, when we were still living with my real mum and dad in the genteel spa town of Cheltenham.

As a little girl I knew absolutely that my parents loved me. That security is the greatest gift you can give a child and is something most of us are lucky enough to take for granted. I don't.

I am grateful to my mum and dad for showing me warmth and affection, for every hug and kiss and kind word. Without the memory of being loved once, I might not have survived my horrific years with Eunice Spry.

My parents had met very young and although they adored their children, our home life was somewhat chaotic.

My mother's health was fragile and both my parents had experimented as teenagers with drugs, leaving them with problems for which they were still bravely seeking help when I was a little girl.

Every day they would go to a local drug rehabilitation centre, often taking me and, later, Thomas with them. They'd do their best to make it a fun outing for us, taking us for lunch in the canteen and going to the park on the way home.

But by the time I was six and Thomas was around three, they were struggling to cope. My father forgot to pick me up from school one day, then again, and then quite regularly. My teachers started to get worried. Some days my parents didn't manage to get me to school at all.

It was at this point that Eunice Spry came into our lives. My parents already knew her because she had looked after me briefly as a baby while my mother recovered from an operation.

Now, at this difficult period in their lives, they turned to her for help again. How could they ever have foreseen the dreadful consequences of their decision? My parents were Eunice's victims, too.

Eunice Spry had originally come to them recommended by Gloucestershire Social Services as a registered childminder and foster carer. She was in her 40s, a pillar of the community and a devout Jehovah's witness, as well as being the mother of two children. Her credentials seemed perfect.

By the time I met her as a six-year-old, Eunice's children had grown up and she had adopted two young girls: Charlotte, who was a couple of years older than me, and Sarah, who was about the same age. She readily agreed to help take care of us as well.

Looking back now I can see how Thomas and I must have seemed like the sweetest little ripe cherries, ready for the picking. With her gimlet eyes, which missed nothing, Eunice must have entered our house and seen the disorder that pointed unmistakably to a family in trouble.

She was kindness itself on her first visit to our house, chatting to us all in a friendly, lively way. She taught me to knit with needles and wool she'd brought specially, and before she left she invited us to her house for Sunday lunch.

Eunice's semi-detached house in Tewkesbury, around 15 miles from ours, was a revelation. It was warm and cosy and packed with games, toys and videos, not to mention her five cats.

From the very first time we went there, Thomas and I loved it. Before long we began staying overnight, and then for whole weekends.

I now know from the evidence gathered for the court case that Eunice was "grooming" my mum. She bribed her with presents, offers of washing and cooking and the promise of a good life for her children, so that Mum would entrust us to Eunice's care.

For a year we shuttled back and forth between our house and Eunice's until the inevitable day when my father called us into the living room and said he had something important to tell us.

"You know you like going to Eunice's for the weekend?" he said. "Well," my dad paused and looked at the floor, "you'll be living there from now on."

My mum was in floods of tears. I crawled over to her and she put her arms around me. I felt sad and scared because I loved my mum, but I also felt a twinge of excitement, if I am totally honest.

"It's all right, Mum," I said. "I'll be fine. Thomas and I will be OK."

"Yes, love, I'm sure you will," said Mum, through her tears.

What she did not know, and what would later emerge in court, was that Eunice had by now been struck off as a carer by Gloucestershire Social Services, because they thought she already had too many children to look after.

Eunice had made a private arrangement with my mum after she had been de-registered. How the funding was arranged I have no idea, although I came to understand how clever and devious Eunice was when it came to playing officials off against each other.

By the time I was seven-and-a-half, I had moved to Eunice's full-time and the pattern of my life had reversed. Thomas and I would visit my parents for an occasional weekend or evening, and Eunice's house was now to be called "home".

I quickly settled in to my new routine, however, and I liked my new school and classmates. I was a chatty and sociable little girl and not afraid to ask questions. Like most children, I simply accepted the new situation.

Only now do I realise that almost from the moment I got to her house Eunice wanted me to forget about my past life. She made it clear, for example, that we were to think of her as our real parent.

"Call me Mummy," she insisted, and as Charlotte and Sarah did, we did too.

However, she stressed that during our occasional visits to see our parents we had to remember to call her Auntie Eunice.

The second thing we had to do was to change our names. I was upset about this, as I loved my name, Alloma - it had been chosen by Mum after she'd read it in a book about fairies and mystical people.

But Eunice didn't like it. In her eyes it was a "magic" name and therefore, according to a curious expression she used, "demonised".

This came to light one day as Thomas and I were sitting at the table with Charlotte and Sarah. Eunice gave a book to Charlotte and said mockingly: "Pass this to the Devil's child next to you." This, apparently, was me. I blushed and felt very embarrassed. I looked up and Eunice showed no emotion at all.

Charlotte smirked and looked at Eunice, who said maliciously: "Yes, they're the Devil's kids all right."

Eunice put a piece of paper in front of me. "There's a better choice of names for you," she said. "Better than your demonised name, anyway."

Tears stung my eyes. My name was a link with the family I loved. But I looked up at Eunice's stern face and I knew I had to choose. No question. From that day I became Harriet, not Alloma.

It was all very confusing. I was seeing a new, bad-tempered side of the kind lady who had taught me to knit, which was really rather scary. I didn't like it at all.

Several curious events from that time stick in my mind. One of them is the day I went swimming with Charlotte and we met by chance two of her biological siblings, from whom she'd been separated when she went to live with Eunice.

When we got home I was full of the news. "We've just met Charlotte's brother and sister!" I blurted out. Eunice's reaction was extraordinary.

She stopped what she was doing and strode towards me with a terrifying look on her face. She seemed to have grown in size and was towering over me, her face white and taut with barely suppressed rage.

"Oh, no you didn't," she snapped. "They were just friends."

Charlotte said nothing and looked down. She obviously knew not to quibble. But I didn't know any better. "But we did - we saw her brother and sister."

Eunice suddenly leant forward and tapped me sharply on the mouth. I was totally taken aback. It hurt a lot, and I hadn't the slightest idea why she had done it. It was the mildest taste of what was to come. I had stepped into dangerous territory.

All these years later I'm still trying to understand whether Eunice's cruelty was born of a religious belief that she needed to teach us a lesson, or whether she sincerely felt that what she made us do, or what she did to us, was improving our characters.

Either way, her outlook was punitive and extreme, with everything divided into black and white, good and evil, and with her as the judge.

When I look back on living with Eunice's regime I think of it as going down a flight of steps to a basement. On the first few steps, I had to get acclimatised to the drop in light and temperature.

As I went on, it began to feel damp and uncomfortable, until finally I descended into a cold, rat-infested, stinking cellar where I was tortured sadistically until I screamed for mercy. But no mercy came.

After the tap on the mouth, Eunice began to mistreat Sarah, Thomas and me - although not so much Charlotte, whom she seemed to adore - on a regular basis, starting with flicks and hits on the mouth and then clouts to the head.

I was beginning to get a clear idea of what life with her was going to be like: an endless succession of rules, punishments and bizarre rituals.

One of the very worst of these was the daily toilet check. After breakfast we were marched to the toilet where we were required to perform, and not allowed to leave the bathroom until we'd done so.

It was terrible, and I was petrified. Of course, the more anxious I got, the less I was able to deliver. We were also forbidden to go to the toilet at any other time of day.

But the torture didn't end there. If we didn't come up with the goods in the morning, Eunice would administer an enema. The big syringe would come out, filled with green washing-up liquid mixed with water.

Eunice would bark at me to pull my pants down. She would then shove in the syringe, push the plunger in and order me to hold on to the soapy liquid for as long as her whim dictated.

When it was over I would go to school feeling utterly horrible, hoping no one would ever find out what had been done to me at home. Unbelievably, this appalling regime continued day in, day out until I finally escaped from Eunice when I was 17-years-old.

With Eunice, we discovered, you were either in her good books or her bad books. Charlotte was generally in her good books, as was Robert, a baby taken on by Eunice shortly after we went to live with her.

The rest of us were almost invariably in some sort of trouble, especially if we didn't go to sleep when we were supposed to.

I found this out the hard way one evening when I became aware of Eunice standing in the doorway watching me as I pranced round my bedroom in my nightie after lights out.

"Right," she said. "You're obviously not tired. So I'm going to make you tired." With that she yanked me out of the room and pulled me to the top of the stairs. Was she going to push me down?

"You're to walk up and down these stairs all night," she told me. "I mean all night. Right the way through."

I looked up at her mean, hard face. She had to be joking. It was dark and cold, and I had bare feet and no dressing gown. But she wasn't joking.

"Go on, what are you waiting for?" I started walking down the stairs to the bottom, Eunice watching my every step. At the bottom I turned, I suppose half hoping she'd relent.

"Come back up, this instant," she said.

I went back up the stairs, my little legs already aching. At the top Eunice simply gestured silently for me to go back down again. I couldn't believe this was happening to me. What would my mum and dad say if they knew? Or my teachers?

Eventually Eunice went to bed and the house fell silent, but I knew I had no choice but to keep going. As the night wore on I started to trip up because I'd lose concentration, even consciousness, from time to time.

Then I'd come to, having fallen momentarily asleep, and find myself standing up in the hall, wondering what on earth I was doing there in my nightie in the dead of night. This punishment happened more times than I can remember.

One of the most terrifying things about Eunice's discipline was that it was never doled out in temper. It was always done in a cold, hard, calculating way, often hours and sometimes even days after the misdemeanour had been committed.

Then, when she was ready to let rip, she would grab me by the arm, drag me into the living room and close the door.

While I stood trembling, she would fetch a piece of wood that she kept under the stairs with her Jehovah's Witness books. It was about two feet long - I think it was the handle off an old copper saucepan or something.

"Take your shoes and socks off," she would command, tapping the stick on her left palm, as if testing its weight.

I remember the first time this happened. I had no idea exactly what she was going to do and just stood there trembling in my bare feet. Suddenly, Eunice bent over and I felt a most enormous "clunk" across the toes of my right foot. The pain seared through my bare feet, and I screamed out loud.

"Be quiet," said Eunice. "Don't fuss. You'll make it worse for yourself."

How could it be worse? I was shaking and crying, but Eunice was bent double again, raising the stick and now she was going at my toes with great, unrelenting clunks. Clunk, clunk, clunk ... on and on, five, ten, 15 times. Then she changed foot.

"Stand still, you'll make it worse," she said again.

By now I was beside myself, yelping and screaming. But there was no let-up until the punishment was finally done.

A few times after being beaten like this I'd ask Eunice for a hug and she would briefly put her arms round me. For a moment I would feel comforted. It was twisted and makes me feel sick now, but children need affection so much that they will ask for it even from their abuser.

After these beatings my toes would be black and blue all over. I remember once at the swimming baths - before Eunice eventually put a stop to such outings - one of the dads noticed my bruised toes and asked: "How did you do that, then?"

I just said: "Something fell on my feet." Young as I was, I knew somehow that I was not supposed to tell the truth about Eunice's behaviour.

In 1994 our lives took a strange and new twist. Unknown to us, Eunice had befriended an elderly man named John Drake, who owned a huge farm near the affluent, pretty market town of Pershore, north of Tewkesbury.

John had never married and was now living alone. He was also suffering from lung cancer and needed nursing care. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Eunice had spotted an opportunity to inherit the farm and make herself a lot of money.

In the autumn of that year, without any explanation from Eunice, we went to live with John full-time. For me yet another new life had begun, although not everything had changed.

The bizarre regime of daily rituals and punishments went on as usual - washing-up liquid down the throat for lying or answering back, strangleholds to teach us a lesson, daily clouts around the head. Slaps on the mouth and punches continued as before, albeit well out of John's sight and hearing.

As for school, it soon became clear that commuting back to Tewkesbury every day was impractical. Instead, Eunice applied to be our home tutor.

By doing so, she succeeded in removing us from any sort of normal life and contact with the outside world, as we now no longer saw our parents.

We slowly but surely became trapped on the farm, our only outings being to Jehovah's Witness meetings or the local shops to run her errands.

It was shortly after we moved to the farm that Eunice decided to get a dog. He was a lovely black labrador puppy called Jet, and I was given the job of house-training him.

As I was only about nine at the time, I knew nothing about how to do this, and of course he would make a mess all over the place, which enraged Eunice.

One morning she came into the kitchen and found that Jet had done his business in the night by the back door. She was furious. "Come here," she snapped.

It was me, not the dog, she was commanding. Eunice was glaring at me with her dead, grey eyes, her thin mouth clamped in a mask of disapproval. I crept over to stand next to her, head down, my legs feeling weak. What was she going to do now?

Suddenly she grabbed me by the back of my hair and forced me to my knees, which hurt as they hit the unforgiving tiled floor. Inches from my face was the pile of dog mess.

Slowly, Eunice pushed my head further down. The stench entered my nostrils, turning my stomach and then, with a sudden further push, my face was in it. The wet, stinky mass was going up my nostrils and over my cheeks and eyelids and I had to fight it from going into the corners of my mouth.

Eunice pushed my face into the mess and rubbed it back and forth, round and round. After about a minute she stopped and released me.

"That's how you teach dogs not to poo," she said. "You rub their faces in it. Got it?"

Telling me that I was not to wipe it off until she said so, Eunice marched out of the kitchen, leaving me shaking with revulsion.

Meanwhile, John Drake's health was deteriorating quite rapidly. One morning, as I was playing with Charlotte, Eunice burst into the room and told us he had died.

She showed no emotion whatsoever as she took us to see him, stroking his hands and, bizarrely, encouraging us to do so too.

When the will was read a few days later, we discovered that the farm had been left in trust to Charlotte, Eunice's favourite adopted daughter. There was some money for Eunice as well. She had triumphed. She had set her sights on her goal and had attained it.

While John was alive a pretence of normality had been kept up, but all that now ended. Eunice started to keep the curtains closed permanently, so no one could see in from the outside and, of course, we couldn't see out. It really did feel as though we were her prisoners.

Only on the rare occasions when a school inspector came to see us were things any different. Then Eunice would put on a show worthy of Mary Poppins, buying us all new books and getting us cleaning the place until it sparkled.

When the inspector came we'd be sitting at the table, writing, with clean hair and scrubbed faces. As soon as they had gone, things returned to normal.

One day, I was in the kitchen when Eunice appeared, looking very angry. It was the third day in a row I'd forgotten to buy some throat sweets she'd asked me to get from the village shop. I knew I was in for it.

"Where are those throat sweets I told you to get?" she demanded.

I knew that saying anything at all would inflame the situation, so I stayed still, hoping the storm would pass.

"Cat got your tongue, has it?" she said. "Well, I'll give you a sore throat, then you'll know how it feels."

Next, I was being dragged unceremoniously out of the kitchen by my arm and into the living room, where I prepared myself for the usual beating. I noticed, however, that this time there were two sticks, not one.

"Open your mouth," said Eunice. Coming towards my opened mouth was a long piece of wood, wedge-shaped and about a foot long. To my horror, Eunice thrust the wood into my mouth, past my new front teeth, until it hit the soft tissue at the back of my throat.

I retched hard, tasting the wood. I could hardly breathe. In response, Eunice pushed the wood in further. This time she is going to kill me, I thought.

Then I felt the familiar, sickening thwack on the soles of my feet. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. I was being hideously assaulted on two different parts of my body, and if I protested, the wedge would be driven further down my throat.

Afterwards I lay on my side in a foetal position, shaking from the shock, moaning and weeping while holding my throat with both hands.

"You won't forget those throat sweets now." And with that, Eunice swept out of the room to get on with the rest of her day, satisfied at another sadistic, soul-saving job done.

Ten years later, in court, I would hold one of the sticks she routinely used to thrust down our throats and show the world the two inches of dried blood still staining the end. It was shortly after this appalling incident that something inside me finally snapped.

I was 11 by now and had been enduring Eunice's terrible physical and psychological cruelty for nearly five years.

It was all to do with a piece of cheese that had gone missing from the larder. You'd think someone had stolen the crown jewels from the fuss Eunice made. She was absolutely convinced I had taken it.

To this day I believe Jet was probably responsible, but Eunice refused to believe it, and set out with ruthless determination to pin the crime on somebody else.

But this time I'd had enough. I don't know whether it was my outrage at all the previous punishments, or just growing older and more defiant, but I utterly refused to admit to something I hadn't done.

"It wasn't me," I said. Eunice stared hard at me and came and bent over me. "Answering back, are we?" she said. "Well, you can starve."

I wanted to say "Fine!" but I didn't. I knew better than that. I knew when to stop. I just stared back at Eunice, making my eyes dead and blank. She stared back and we were locked together like that for a few moments.

This was the first moment I had ever really stood up to her and although it was only a small thing, and I knew I was going to be hungry afterwards, I felt a tiny edge of triumph.

And so I starved. For a week she gave me nothing - not a single scrap to eat. It was a real battle of wills, and I became so weak and sick that I was hallucinating.

In my desperation, I resorted to the pig bin and feasted greedily on mouldy boiled potatoes, vegetable peelings and pig nuts. It was revolting, but I just hoped it would give me the energy to survive.

Eventually, maybe after a week, Eunice handed out some food at a mealtime to me, as well as the other children. There was no apology, no explanation, no making up. I was suddenly just included.

I guess she felt she had to feed me something or I would die. Whatever the explanation, the rebellion had begun and battle lines had now been drawn.

There was a long way to go before I'd finally be free of her clutches, as I'll explain on Monday. But at last I had hope.

• Adapted from Deliver Me From Evil by Alloma Gilbert, to be published by Pan on March 7 at £6.99. To order a copy (p&p free), call 0845 606 4206.


Niece of Scientology Leader Rebuts Claims of Family Values

The following was reported on the blog Xenu TV on January 25, 2008:

Just as Scientologist PR person Pat Harney appears on the radio to brag about Scientology bringing families together, we get news that David Miscavige’s own niece is saying otherwise.

Dear Karin [Pouw, spokesperson for official Scientology] ,

I could not resist the opportunity to write you this letter having read your official rebuttal regarding the Tom Cruise biography. I have been involved in the Church of Scientology since birth. David Miscavige as you well know is my father’s brother, making him my uncle. In fact you and I actually know each other although not very well.

I cannot comment on your responses regarding the personal life of Tom Cruise because I know nothing about this, but I am absolutely shocked at how vehemently you insist upon not only denying the truths that have been stated about the Church in that biography, but then take it a step further and tell outright lies.

You go so far as to state:

7. Does Scientology encourage their members not to speak to their family if they don’t support the religion?

This allegation is not only false, it is the opposite of what the Church believes and practices. -Karin Pouw

As you well know, my parents officially left the Church when I was 16 in 2000. I, having been separated from them at the age of 12 and thoroughly engulfed in the beliefs of the Church since birth decided not to go with them.

Not only was I not allowed to speak to them, I was not allowed to answer a phone for well over a year, in case it was them calling me.

To give exact specifics, this “law” was enforced ruthlessly by one Tracye Danilovoch - the local representative for the Religious Technology Center - who intercepted all letters from my parents (and my friends). She would then pass them on to Marc Rathbun (the then 2nd in command of the Church) and Mike Rinder - who happens to be the former head of YOUR office - “The Office of Special Affairs” (you can thank me later for not elaborating on this one). Only after they had seen the letters and decided it was ok for me to see them would I receive some of them while sitting in a board room while they watched me read them and asked me to comment on them.

I was allowed to visit my parents from the age of 16-22, once a year for a maximum of 3-4 days, but that was only after they (my parents) threatened legal action if the Church got in the way of this and even then only after I underwent a “Security Check Confessional” before I saw them and immediately after I came back. A security check is interrogation (usually about if I intend on leaving the Church, or finding out if my parents have said anything bad about the Church, etc.) while being attached to an electrophsychometer which is similar to a lie detector. This happened every single time I saw then (which was never more than 3 or 4 days a year).

For a more recent example of families being destroyed, My Aunt Jennifer Pantermeuhl has recently contacted my parents and let them know that she can no longer speak to them or be in contact with them because they speak to and live near, my other Aunt Sarah Mortland.

Sarah is my mom’s and Jennifer’s sister. This is because Sarah is not in favor with the Church. Jennifer also contacted my brother Sterling as well as the rest of the family for the same reason most of whom had to lie to her and said they weren’t talking to Sarah for fear of getting found out about.

Another good example would be when my other brother, Justin, was in Florida a few years ago and was on his way to visit our Aunt Denise Gentile (our father’s sister and David Miscavige’s twin) with his girlfriend. Denise abruptly canceled while they were on their way over because the Church would not approve - because he was an ex-member. Not to mention the fact that Kirsten Caetano (a member of the Church’s Office of Special Affairs - the very same organization you belong to) was contacting Justin several times when he was in Florida working, telling him that he needed to leave the state because he is an ex-member and his presence at the “mecca of Scientology” was disturbing to the church. Kristen has admitted to my face that she did this when I confronted her and even went so far as to admit that she lied to my brother after denying the incident. This is the least of what Kirsten Caetano has done!

You cite this quote from L.Ron Hubbard about what the Church believes with regards to families…. . yes we know what the Church claims to “believe” and has written in its policies! - BUT do they practice that? Absolutely not!

I can name at least 5 friends off the top of my head who’s family members are not allowed to speak to them without being themselves ousted from the Church and prevented from communicating with other members of their family and even their children still involved in the Church lest THEY too be ousted! They cant speak to their children because they have left the Church on their own determinism. This is a widespread practice and if you dare deny it I have a list of all of there names together-these people’s families are crying every day because they can’t speak to their children who did nothing but leave the Church of their own free will.

If I am in fact wrong and you want to prove me as such, then allow me and my family to be in contact with our family members that are still part of the Church such as my Grandpa, Ron Miscavige, and his wife, Becky. Allow the same of my friends. And don’t even start with the, “it’s their choice all along story…” -nobody is going to buy that, there are way too many destroyed families for that to be true.

I am tempted to take up many of the other accusations you categorically deny in your novel, but for the purpose of keeping this letter readable and focused on the most important part (family) I will resist.

I will suggest however that maybe you should spend the manpower and time of drafting your masterpiece rebuttal - why don’t you take the high road for once and put that time towards repairing the families you have destroyed, starting with the family of David Miscavige himself - hell, if Scientology can’t keep his family together - then why on earth should anyone believe the Church helps bring families together!


Jenna Miscavige Hill

Just as L. Ron Hubbard’s family was rocked with turmoil, so it seems is Miscavige’s.


Niece of Scientology leader describes how her own family was broken apart by the movement’s policies.

24 Jan 2008

Honor killings: When the ancient and the modern collide

San Francisco Chronicle - January 23, 2008

by Cinnamon Stillwell

Throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, young Muslim women are being targeted for violence. Lest it be thought hate crimes are to blame, it is, in fact, their own relatives who are the perpetrators. So-called honor killings, whereby a Muslim male family member, typically the father, murders his daughter in order to defend the family's honor, is a growing problem.

While statistics are notoriously hard to come by due to the private nature of such crimes and the fact that very few are reported, the United Nations Population Fund approximates that as many as 5,000 women are murdered in this manner each year worldwide. Undoubtedly that's a low estimate, as reports from Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories, among other locales, are filtering in at an alarming rate. Add to the list Germany, Sweden, other parts of Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, and it's clear that young Muslim women in the West are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

While fathers are commonly responsible for honor killings, they often act in concert with their daughters' brothers, uncles, and even female relatives. For infringements upon a Muslim daughter's "honor" constitute the greatest humiliation possible to the religious and tribal tradition from which many such immigrant families emerged. Acts that demand "punishment" include refusing to wear a hijab (or headscarf), having non-Muslim boyfriends or male friends of any origin, being sexually active, rejecting arranged marriages, aggressively seeking employment and education, and, more than anything else, attempting to assimilate into Western culture.

Trying to balance a tightrope between the demands of competing and in some cases incompatible cultures, young Muslim women in the West are caught between two worlds. And all too often they pay the ultimate price. Indeed, two such cases have rocked the United States and Canada in recent months, bringing the specter of honor killings much closer to home.

On New Year's Day, residents of Lewisville, Texas were shocked to hear about the brutal murder of teenage sisters Sarah and Amina Said. The two were found shot to death in a taxi after having made a last phone call to a police dispatcher asking for help. The police immediately issued an arrest warrant for the girls' father, Egyptian-born cab driver Yaser Abdel Said, who remains at large to this day.

A Muslim married to a Christian woman, the elder Said had a history of physical and sexual abuse toward his daughters. This past Christmas, his wife, Patricia, finally fled the state with the girls and set up residence in Tulsa, Okla., under an assumed name. Said's violent and domineering behavior was apparently motivated by his concern that, as the Dallas Morning News describes it, "Western culture was corrupting the chastity of his daughters." Honor students and athletes at Lewisville High School, Sarah and Amina were the quintessential American teenagers. Amina had been awarded a $20,000 college scholarship and Sarah planned to study medicine. Photos of the two young women demonstrate a vibrancy and attractiveness that undoubtedly induced fear in their controlling father. The emergence of non-Muslim boyfriends was the final straw.

Although the girls' mother denied that Said was motivated by religion or culture and their brother, Islam, claimed it was not an honor killing, all evidence points to the contrary. While, reportedly, the family was not terribly observant, Said, as described by the Dallas Morning News, "often espoused his version of traditional Middle Eastern values," including marrying his then 15-year-old wife when he was 30, threatening to take one of his daughters "back to Egypt and have her killed," where, as he put it, "it's OK to do that ... if you dishonor your family," trying to break up one of his daughters and her non-Muslim boyfriend, and threatening to kill both his daughters on multiple occasions over disputes surrounding their social lives. Summing it all up, the sisters' great-aunt Gail Gartrell stated unequivocally, "This was an honor killing."

The slayings of Sarah and Amina Said came on the heels of another apparent honor killing, that of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez in Mississauga, Ontario, last December. Aqsa was a vivacious and popular young woman whose attempts at a normal, Western teenage social life angered her Pakistani father, Muhammad Parvez. Aqsa, who was opposed to wearing a hijab and sometimes changed her outfit once she got to school, often clashed with her father and had left the family home a week before the attack out of fear. But she eventually returned, only to be met with strangulation at the hands of her own father. She died later in the hospital and the elder Parvez, who initially called the police, was charged with her murder. Aqsa's 26-year-old brother, Waqas, was charged with obstructing police.

Like the Said sisters, Aqsa had long suffered abuse at the hands of her father, reports of which were never adequately pursued by Canadian authorities. But Aqsa's friends saw trouble brewing and, according to the National Post, noted that "she had been threatened by her strictly religious family before." According to one of them, Ebonie Mitchell, Aqsa held conflicting opinions with her family on wearing a hijab. As she put it, Aqsa "just wanted to dress like we do. Last year, she wore like the Islamic stuff and everything, the hijab, and this year she's all western. She just wanted to look like everyone else." As another friend, Krista Garbhet, noted, "She just wanted to be herself; honestly, she just wanted to show her beauty." However, as Aqsa was to discover, the latter desire can have dangerous consequences for young Muslim women in the West.

In the wake of Parvez's murder, one would hope for moral clarity from the Canadian Muslim community. But with a few exceptions, the usual suspects issued the usual apologetics.

Following Parvez's funeral, an anti-violence vigil was held at the Mississauga Civic Centre and organized by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. Unfortunately, CAIR-CAN, like its American counterpart, is part of the problem, not the solution. Working to further acceptance of Sharia (or Islamic) law in the United States and Canada and trying to silence — either through accusations of "Islamophobia," libel lawsuits or boycotts — voices of criticism and reform, CAIR's agenda would seem to be working against the advancement of Muslim women's rights.

Accordingly, representatives of other allegedly mainstream Muslim groups, instead of taking the opportunity to address the scourge of honor killings, downplayed the religious and cultural angle. Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, claimed that "The strangulation death of Ms. Parvez was the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to color or creed," while Sheikh Alaa El-Sayyed, imam of the Islamic Society of North America in Mississauga, came to the following conclusion: "The bottom line is, it's a domestic violence issue."

In contrast, Canadian Muslim reformer Irshad Manji, in addressing Aqsa Parvez's murder, put it like so:

Moderate Muslims have warned that we shouldn't leap to conclusions. Who knows what other dynamics infected her family, spout hijab-hooded mouthpieces on Canadian TV. Not once have I heard these upstanding Muslims say that whatever the 'family dynamics,' killing is not a solution. Ever. How's that for basic morality?

Similarly, Tarek Fatah, founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress, labeled Parvez's murder "a blight on Islam." "In my mind," he added, "this was an honor killing."

Until this kind of self-reflection and self-criticism become the norm in the Muslim community, much-needed reform will remain elusive. This includes addressing the root causes of honor killings and sanctioned violence against Muslim women. Although the Koran does not authorize honor killings, Quran 4:34 instructs men to beat disobedient wives and send them to sleep in separate beds. Then there are tribal leaders such as Jordanian Tarrad Fayiz, who tells followers that "A woman is like an olive tree. When its branch catches woodworm, it has to be chopped off so that society stays clean and pure." Op-eds such as the one in the Yemen Times earlier this month recommending violence against women and clerics delivering sermons and speeches doing the same further muddy the waters.

Also at question are the vagaries of the Arab honor/shame culture, in which men's "shame" (or that of the family or tribe) at the prospect of women's sullied "honor" (or chastity) must be avoided at all costs. Honor killings are not, as the apologists would have us believe, simple acts of domestic violence akin to those that take place in all communities. They are specific to Muslim religion and culture and must be addressed as such if ever honest debate about the matter is to ensue.

Regrettably, silence is the more typical reaction to these crimes. Fearful of giving offense or being branded with the ubiquitous "Islamophobia" label, law enforcement, journalists, social workers, government officials and, most of all, Western feminists are allowing a grave threat to women's rights go unaddressed. The misguided purveyors of multiculturalism — an ideology that holds that all cultures or religions are equivalent and none (save for the dominant, or Western, culture) worthy of condemnation — have rendered the West incapable of addressing evils where Third World cultures are to blame. But the truth is Western culture offers the greatest boon to women's rights and must therefore be vigorously defended, even if that means stepping into the realm of the politically incorrect.

Feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women, which put out an occasional press release decrying honor killings, need to make combating this practice as high a priority as defending choice and railing against "glass ceilings." Instead, it is a precious few who are telling it like it is when it comes to the oppression of women in Muslim culture. Ironically, many of them are on the right side of the political spectrum or, like author, blogger and activist Phyllis Chesler, have been cast out of the leftist-dominated feminist movement for speaking the uncomfortable truth.

As I have noted previously, the challenges posed by the Muslim world are the next frontier for women's rights and all those interested in advancing such goals will have to rise to the occasion. It is up to every one of us to speak out where, not only women's, but human rights are in question. Young women's lives are at stake.

Cinnamon Stillwell is a San Francisco writer. She can be reached at cinnamonstillwell@yahoo.com. She also writes for the blog at campus-watch.org.