29 Feb 2008

Transfusion rules set for Jehovah's Witnesses in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun & AP

March 1, 2008

Jehovah's Witnesses aged under 15 should be given blood transfusions if their lives are at risk--even if they or their parents object on religious grounds, according to new guidelines officially announced by a group of academic societies Thursday.

The group, headed by Fukushima Medical University Prof. Hitoshi Oto and comprising five associated academic societies including the Japan Society of Transfusion Medicine and Cell Therapy, also calls for the psychological needs of such patients to be taken into account.

Fearing that young Jehovah's Witnesses who receive transfusions against their faith and the will of their parents could become distressed, the committee has requested that medical institutions provide child psychologists to give specialist counseling to such patients after they are discharged from hospital.


Culture cited in voodoo whipping case

The Calgary Sun - February 28, 2008

by Kevin Martin - Sun Media

Cultural and generational differences played a part in a case where a voodoo practitioner whipped a young girl under her care, a lawyer argued yesterday.

Defence counsel Sheldon Kaupp said his client, who can't be named to protect her victim's identity, is from Africa, where using force as punishment is more accepted.

And, Kaupp told Judge Heather Lamoureux, his client also comes from a generation where corporal punishment was more allowable than today, even in Canada.

"It's not that long ago in our history," said Kaupp, relating how he and his brothers used to be whipped by their father with a belt as youngsters.

Kaupp noted that in some African nations, offenders can be sentenced to lashes.

Kaupp's client was convicted in November of assault causing bodily harm for whipping a girl she claimed was her daughter with a cable cord for coming home late.

The girl, who was 12 when assaulted in December 2005, said she was handed over to her abuser by her real parents in Sierra Leone so she could seek a better life in Canada.

Kaupp suggested probation would be appropriate, but Crown prosecutor Grant Schorn said a short jail term or more lengthy conditional sentence is warranted.

The woman was also disruptive after being taken into custody to provide a DNA sample. Defence counsel Patrick Flynn said the woman is a practitioner of voodoo and giving up any bodily fluid violates her religion.



US girl 'burnt in voodoo ritual'

28 Feb 2008

Police: Priest abused kids

Daily Gazette - Schenectady, NY

February 28, 2008

by Steven Cook

MONTGOMERY COUNTY — A Catholic priest acting as a Montgomery County family’s spiritual adviser has been arrested, accused of sexually abusing the family’s four children, state police said Wednesday.

John W. Broderick, 47, of Nicholville, St. Lawrence County, is accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with the children, ages 5 to 11, over several months last year.

State police in Fonda began investigating after receiving a complaint from a Montgomery County family. The parent told police Broderick befriended the family and became their spiritual adviser.

He left the county in May 2007, ending up in Massena, at the Holy Name of Jesus Academy. He was arrested by state police investigators there.

State police identified him with the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse; however, the school he was arrested at appears to be run by a sect not officially recognized by the Catholic Church.

Montgomery County District Attorney Jed Conboy said he did not believe Broderick was in the county acting on behalf of any diocese. Conboy was unsure how long Broderick was in the county.

State police spokeswoman Maureen Tuffey said the extent of the allegations make investigators fear Broderick had more victims.

“If somebody is 47 years old and doing this, it’s usually not their first time,” Tuffey said. “Generally speaking, when you see these cases, you usually encounter other victims.”

She cited that as the main reason they publicized the case Wednesday. Anyone with information was asked to call the state police at 853-4708.

State police described Broderick as a pastor who was not assigned to a particular church.

Broderick faces three counts of first-degree sexual abuse, felonies, one count of second-degree sexual abuse and four counts of endangering the welfare of a child, misdemeanors.

He was arraigned in Town of Palatine Court and ordered held on $50,000 bail.

Broderick was suspended earlier this year by the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, police said.

However, the school where he was arrested is run by the Dominican Sisters of Idaho, a group not officially recognized by the Catholic Church, according to an article in the Watertown Daily Times.

A spokesperson for the Syracuse Catholic diocese did not return a call for comment Wednesday. Neither Montgomery County nor Massena are part of that diocese.

Montgomery County falls under the Albany diocese. Ken Goldfarb, spokesman for Albany, confirmed Broderick is not a priest for Albany and he was never assigned to any diocese parish. The Albany diocese extends west to include Herkimer County.

Further, any priest from another diocese would have to ask permission from the local bishop to practice, Goldfarb said. “We have no knowledge of him ever seeking permission.”

Massena is under the Ogdensburg diocese. An official there said the Holy Name of Jesus school was under another group’s control. Calls to the school’s listed number were not returned Wednesday.

The Holy Name of Jesus Academy opened in September, serving about 50 girls in preschool to seventh grades, according to a newsletter from a group related to the Dominican Sisters of Idaho.

The newsletter also includes several photographs. In one photo, a man identified as “independent New York state priest, Fr. John Broderick” is described as helping bless the school complex.


Scientology Endangers Children

These two videos show some of the ways that Scientology harms children.

In the first clip you will see a little bit about Scientology's uniformed security and the children's Rehabilitation Project Force, which seems like an abusive bootcamp. This is from the documentary "Missing in Happy Valley"

The second clip is court testimony from an ex-Scientologist.

New Book on Warren Jeffs' Polygamy Sect Provides Insight into Lives of Women Enslaved by Fundamentalist Group

News Release - 2008-02-27

The Bohle Company Kelly Taylor, 310-785-0515, ext. 207 kelly@bohle.com

A new book, Inside the World of Warren Jeffs, by author Dr. Carole A. Western, takes the reader inside Short Creek, two nearby communities in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) leader ruled until his arrest and conviction in the fall of 2007 as an accomplice in the rape of a 14-year-old girl.

Western details the experiences of several young women enslaved in Short Creek and lets them tell in their own words how they were coerced into virtual servitude and forced into unwanted pregnancies by the "husbands" they were ordered to marry.

In addition, Western explains the power of the "First Wife," family sleeping arrangements and how polygamists manage to receive support from the U.S. Government under its welfare programs as well as Medicaid.

Western also covers how teenage boys in polygamy sects are forced out of the colony, so as not to create competition for older men.

With Jeffs about to stand trial in Arizona on additional counts, Inside the World of Warren Jeffs is a timely read. The self-proclaimed prophet of the FLDS gained international notoriety in May 2006 when he was placed on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" List. Western's Prologue brings the reader up-to-date on Jeffs, who is currently serving two five year sentences at the Utah State Prison.

An English teacher, Dr. Western moved to Southern Utah a decade ago. Before long she began noticing young girls, 12 to 14 years old, pregnant with husbands in their 60's. It took seven years, death threats and undercover visits to Short Creek to glean information for her book.

Before attempting her expose, Dr. Western authored 15 other books. She holds a BA in English from Bedford University, an MBA from the University of Utah and a PhD in philosophy and creative writing, from Bedford.

Inside the World of Warren Jeffs is available at www.insidetheworldofwarrenjeffs.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million, Waldens and Amazon for a suggested retail price of $16.95.


27 Feb 2008

Children are targets of Nigerian witch hunt

The Observer - UK

December 9, 2007

Evangelical pastors are helping to create a terrible new campaign of violence against young Nigerians. Children and babies branded as evil are being abused, abandoned and even murdered while the preachers make money out of the fear of their parents and their communities

by Tracy McVeigh in Esit Eket

The rainy season is over and the Niger Delta is lush and humid. This southern edge of West Africa, where Nigeria's wealth pumps out of oil and gas fields to bypass millions of its poorest people, is a restless place. In the small delta state of Akwa Ibom, the tension and the poverty has delivered an opportunity for a new and terrible phenomenon that is leading to the abuse and the murder of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children. And it is being done in the name of Christianity.

Almost everyone goes to church here. Driving through the town of Esit Eket, the rust-streaked signs, tarpaulins hung between trees and posters on boulders, advertise a church for every third or fourth house along the road. Such names as New Testament Assembly, Church of God Mission, Mount Zion Gospel, Glory of God, Brotherhood of the Cross, Redeemed, Apostalistic. Behind the smartly painted doors pastors make a living by 'deliverances' - exorcisms - for people beset by witchcraft, something seen to cause anything from divorce, disease, accidents or job losses. With so many churches it's a competitive market, but by local standards a lucrative one.

But an exploitative situation has now grown into something much more sinister as preachers are turning their attentions to children - naming them as witches. In a maddened state of terror, parents and whole villages turn on the child. They are burnt, poisoned, slashed, chained to trees, buried alive or simply beaten and chased off into the bush.

Some parents scrape together sums needed to pay for a deliverance - sometimes as much as three or four months' salary for the average working man - although the pastor will explain that the witch might return and a second deliverance will be needed. Even if the parent wants to keep the child, their neighbours may attack it in the street.

This is not just a few cases. This is becoming commonplace. In Esit Eket, up a nameless, puddled-and-potholed path is a concrete shack stuffed to its fetid rafters with roughly made bunk beds. Here, three to a bed like battery chickens, sleep victims of the besuited Christian pastors and their hours-long, late-night services. Ostracised and abandoned, these are the children a whole community believes fervently are witches.

Sam Ikpe-Itauma is one of the few people in this area who does not believe what the evangelical 'prophets' are preaching. He opened his house to a few homeless waifs he came across, and now he tries his best to look after 131.

'The neighbours were not happy with me and tell me "you are supporting witches". This project was an accident, I saw children being abandoned and it was very worrying. I started with three children, then every day it increased up to 15, so we had to open this new place,' he says. 'For every maybe five children we see on the streets, we believe one has been killed, although it could be more as neighbours turn a blind eye when a witch child disappears.

'It is good we have this shelter, but it is under constant attack.' As he speaks two villagers walk past, at the end of the yard, pulling scarfs across their eyes to hide the 'witches' from their sight.

Ikpe-Itauma's wife, Elizabeth, acts as nurse to the injured children and they have called this place the Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network, a big name for a small refuge. It has found support from a charity running a school in the area, Stepping Stones Nigeria, which is trying to help with money to feed the children, but the numbers turning up here are a huge challenge.

Mary Sudnad, 10, grimaces as her hair is pulled into corn rows by Agnes, 11, but the scalp just above her forehead is bald and blistered. Mary tells her story fast, in staccato, staring fixedly at the ground.

'My youngest brother died. The pastor told my mother it was because I was a witch. Three men came to my house. I didn't know these men. My mother left the house. Left these men. They beat me.' She pushes her fists under her chin to show how her father lay, stretched out on his stomach on the floor of their hut, watching. After the beating there was a trip to the church for 'a deliverance'.

A day later there was a walk in the bush with her mother. They picked poisonous 'asiri' berries that were made into a draught and forced down Mary's throat. If that didn't kill her, her mother warned her, then it would be a barbed-wire hanging. Finally her mother threw boiling water and caustic soda over her head and body, and her father dumped his screaming daughter in a field. Drifting in and out of consciousness, she stayed near the house for a long time before finally slinking off into the bush.Mary was seven. She says she still doesn't feel safe. She says: 'My mother doesn't love me.' And, finally, a tear streaks down her beautiful face.

Gerry was picked out by a 'prophetess' at a prayer night and named as a witch. His mother cursed him, his father siphoned petrol from his motorbike tank and spat it over his eight-year-old face. Gerry's facial blistering is as visible as the trauma in his dull eyes. He asks every adult he sees if they will take him home to his parents: 'It's not them, it's the prophetess, I am scared of her.'

Nwaeka is about 16. She sits by herself in the mud, her eyes rolling, scratching at her stick-thin arms. The other children are surprisingly patient with her. The wound on her head where a nail was driven in looks to be healing well. Nine- year-old Etido had nails, too, five of them across the crown of his downy head. Its hard to tell what damage has been done. Udo, now 12, was beaten and abandoned by his mother. He nearly lost his arm after villagers, finding him foraging for food by the roadside, saw him as a witch and hacked at him with machetes.

Magrose is seven. Her mother dug a pit in the wood and tried to bury her alive. Michael was found by a farmer clearing a ditch, starving and unable to stand on legs that had been flogged raw.

Ekemini Abia has the look of someone in a deep state of shock. Both ankles are circled with gruesome wounds and she moves at a painful hobble. Named as a witch, her father and elders from the church tied her to a tree, the rope cutting her to the bone, and left the 13-year-old there alone for more than a week.

There are sibling groups such as Prince, four, and Rita, nine. Rita told her mum she had dreamt of a lovely party where there was lots to eat and to drink. The belief is that a witch flies away to the coven at night while the body sleeps, so Rita's sweet dream was proof enough: she was a witch and because she had shared food with her sibling - the way witchcraft is spread - both were abandoned. Victoria, cheeky and funny, aged four, and her seven-year-old sister Helen, a serene little girl. Left by their parents in the shell of an old shack, the girls didn't dare move from where they had been abandoned and ate leaves and grass.

The youngest here is a baby. The older girls take it in turn to sling her on their skinny hips and Ikpe-Itauma has named her Amelia, after his grandmother. He estimates around 5,000 children have been abandoned in this area since 1998 and says many bodies have turned up in the rivers or in the forest. Many more are never found. 'The more children the pastor declares witches, the more famous he gets and the more money he can make,' he says. 'The parents are asked for so much money that they will pay in instalments or perhaps sell their property. This is not what churches should be doing.'

Although old tribal beliefs in witch doctors are not so deeply buried in people's memories, and although there had been indigenous Christians in Nigeria since the 19th century, it is American and Scottish Pentecostal and evangelical missionaries of the past 50 years who have shaped these fanatical beliefs. Evil spirits, satanic possessions and miracles can be found aplenty in the Bible, references to killing witches turn up in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Galatians, and literal interpretation of scriptures is a popular crowd-pleaser.

Pastor Joe Ita is the preacher at Liberty Gospel Church in nearby Eket. 'We base our faith on the Bible, we are led by the holy spirit and we have a programme of exposing false religion and sorcery.' Soft of voice and in his smart suit and tie, his church is being painted and he apologises for having to sit outside near his shiny new Audi to talk. There are nearly 60 branches of Liberty Gospel across the Niger Delta. It was started by a local woman, mother-of-two Helen Ukpabio, whose luxurious house and expensive white Humvee are much admired in the city of Calabar where she now lives. Many people in this area credit the popular evangelical DVDs she produces and stars in with helping to spread the child witch belief.

Ita denies charging for exorcisms but acknowledges his congregation is poor and has to work hard to scrape up the donations the church expects. 'To give more than you can afford is blessed. We are the only ones who really know the secrets of witches. Parents don't come here with the intention of abandoning their children, but when a child is a witch then you have to say "what is that there? Not your child." The parents come to us when they see manifestations. But the secret is that, even if you abandon your child, the curse is still upon you, even if you kill your child the curse stays. So you have to come here to be delivered afterwards as well,' he explains patiently.

'We know how they operate. A witch will put a spell on its mother's bra and the mother will get breast cancer. But we cannot attribute all things to witches, they work on inclinations too, so they don't create HIV, but if you are promiscuous then the witch will give you HIV.'

As the light fades, he presents a pile of Ukpabio's DVDs. Mistakenly thinking they are a gift, I am firmly put right.

Later that night, in another part of town, the hands of the clock edge towards midnight. The humidity of the day is sealed into the windowless church and drums pound along with the screeching of the sweat-drenched preacher. 'No witches, oh Lord,' he screams into the microphone. 'As this hour approaches, save us, oh Lord!'

His congregation is dancing, palms aloft, women writhe and yell in tongues. A group moves forward shepherding five children, one a baby, and kneel on the concrete floor and the pastor comes among them, pressing his hands down on each child's head in turn, as they try to hide in the skirts of the woman. This is deliverance night at the Church of the True Redeemer, and while the service will carry on for some hours, the main event - for which the parents will have paid cash - is over.

Walking out into the night, the drums and singing from other churches ring out as such scenes are being repeated across the village.

It is hard to find people to speak out against the brutality. Chief Victor Ikot is one. He not only speaks out against the 'tinpot' churches, but has also done the unthinkable and taken in a witch to his own home. The chief's niece, Mbet, was declared a witch when she was eight. Her mother, Ekaete, made her drink olive oil, then poison berries, then invited local men to beat her with sticks. The pastor padlocked her to a tree but unlocked her when her mother could not find the money for a deliverance. Mbet fled. Mbet, now 11, says she has not seen the woman since, adding: 'My mother is a wicked mother.'

The Observer tracked down Mbet's mother to her roadside clothing stall where she nervously fiddled with her mobile phone and told us how her daughter had given her what sounded very much like all the symptoms of malaria. 'I had internal heat,' she says, indicating her stomach. 'It was my daughter who had caused this, she drew all the water from my body. I could do nothing. She was stubborn, very stubborn.' And if her daughter had died in the bush? She shrugged: 'That is God's will. It is in God's hands.'

Chief Victor has no time for his sister-in-law. 'Nowadays when a child becomes stubborn, then everyone calls them witches. But it is usually from the age of 10 down, I have never seen anyone try to throw a macho adult into the street. This child becomes a nuisance, so they give a dog a bad name and they can hang it.

'It is alarming because no household is untouched. But it is the greed of the pastors, driving around in Mercedes, that makes them choose the vulnerable.'

In a nearby village The Observer came across five-year-old twins, Itohowo and Kufre. They are still hanging around close to their mother's shack, but are obviously malnourished and in filthy rags. Approaching the boys brings a crowd of villagers who stand around and shout: 'Take them away from us, they are witches.' 'Take them away before they kill us all.' 'Witches'.

The woman who gave birth to these sorry scraps of humanity stands slightly apart from the crowd, arms crossed. Iambong Etim Otoyo has no intention of taking any responsibility for her sons. 'They are witches,' she says firmly and walks away.

And by nightfall there are 133 children in the chicken coop concrete house at Esit Eket.

· Watch the video: Child witches in Africa

To sign petitions against this religious child abuse please visit http://childwitches.blogspot.com/


26 Feb 2008

Munich Closes Scientologists' Day-Care Center

Spiegel Online - February 26, 2008

Authorities have shut down a child-care facility in Munich, saying it was trying to indoctrinate young minds with Scientology. The war between the California "church" and the German government continues.

The name on the door in the Sendling district of Munich sounded innocent enough: "Kinderhäusl" (Little House for Kids). Child-drawn art hung in the windows. On a normal day, the sounds of children playing would have come from inside.

But the little house, which had been open as a day-care center since the summer of 2007, was shut down Monday by Munich officials, who say its teaching methods are illegal. An estimated 20 children will now have to find new day-care.

"The well-being of the children in the establishment was under threat," the Munich Education Department declared, "because the education process was based on the principles of Scientology." The organization's principles threaten a child's right to free growth and development, the statement continued.

The German government has been locked for years in legal battles with the Church of Scientology, which it considers a cult and a threat to its democratic system. The idea of a day-care center run by Scientologists would have raised official hackles, and in fact the Kinderhäusl's troubles started early.

"A few weeks after the center opened we received a letter from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution," Eva-Maria Volland from Munich's Education Department told SPIEGEL ONLINE. All members of the Kinderhäusl's board were Scientologists, according to the letter, and the children were being raised according to the cult's ideology.

Germany's Office for the Protection of the Constitution was set up after World War II to pursue any group which the government deemed a specific threat to its democratic system. Neo-Nazis as well as radical Muslim groups have been watched and shut down by the office.

A regional court in Germany recently ruled (more...) that Scientologists had enough "ambitions against the free, democratic basic order" for the agency to go on watching them.

"There are concrete indications that Scientology's activities are to implement Scientology's program in Germany," the court in North Rhine-Westphalia ruled on Feb. 12, "and to expand more and more Scientology's principles in government, economy and society." Scientologists have consistently claimed that they do nothing against German law and say the government persecutes them.

The Education Department in Munich sent inspectors to the day-care center last winter; then state officials asked the center for an explanation of their work. Scientologists organized protests against this pressure, but on Monday the Education Department announced that the Kinderhäusl's license to operate had been revoked.

Nicola Cramer, who sits on the day-care center's board and whose own child attended the Kinderhäusl, called the decision a "government discrimination campaign" against a "religious community," saying the center was "neutral in its world-view" and open to children from any creed. "We will appeal this decision," she said.


Cult Claims To Be "Living by the law of love"

Sunday Vision, Uganda

Feb. 23, 2008

Living by the law of love

by Esther Namugoji and Henry Lubega

BECAUSE of its liberal attitude to sex, the Family International, has been baptised ‘the sex cult’ by the Western media. But the group insists it is a religious movement living according to the law of love. They talked to Esther Namugoji and Henry Lubega.

The Family International has been baptised ‘the sex cult’ by the media in the West, chiefly because of its liberal attitude toward sex. It has issues with the ‘cult’ label. They identify themselves as a new religious movement and insist that they live according to the law of love.

Others still refer to it as a child sex cult, although the group asserts that any sexual incidents between adults and children were isolated and that since 1987, any sexual contact with minors has been an excommunicable offence.

Founded 40 years ago, by David Brandt Berg (Moses David or Mo), the movement has traded names from ‘The Children of God’ to ‘The Family of Love’ and then ‘The Family International’ or simply ‘The Family’. The group spread over 100 countries, living in communal homes where everything is shared, including sex. Although Berg died in 1994, the group continues under the leadership of his wife Karen Zerby (Mama Maria).

A book published last year by three former second generation members has revived interest in the Family. Not Without My Sister tells the story of Celeste and Kristina Jones and Juliana Buhring who were separated from their father, mothers and one another at the whim of Family leadership. They were switched from home to home, finding and then losing each other in a confusing maze they had no control over.

The authors of the book tell of being raised in communal homes, according to the strange decrees of Berg. Berg, known to adult members as Dad and Grandpa to the children, ruled through letters called Mo Letters. Rules included memorising Bible verses, a lot of housework, witnessing in the streets to win converts.

Begging for food is one of the things they found difficult. There were sessions for outings and playtime and school time, according to a Family-created home education system. Failure to obey elders or any perceived insubordination almost always resulted in severe corporal punishment and labour, or sessions reading Mo Letters and Bible verses. Celeste also tells of being locked up in solitary confinement as one of the extreme punishments meted on teenage children seen to have a rebellious spirit.
The official Family position is that a few individuals misused their authority and misapplied the law of love.

Many of the publications in which Berg glorified sex were destroyed in what was called the ‘Pubs Purge’ and new rules instituted. Sexual sharing among adults, however, is one of the things that the Family still permits.

The authors say their father was always called away to serve in World Services, the inner circle of the group’s leadership which often lived in secret locations. Because of the tight security around the leaders, the children went years without seeing their father. They document their struggle to get out of the oppressive Family.

The father of the Jones girls has been living in Uganda since 1998. One of the girls spent about seven years here and her experiences written in the book cast the spotlight on the Family’s activities in Uganda.

The Ugandan Chapter of the Family falls under two main organisations — RadioActive Productions headed by Simon Peterson and one Kathleen and Family Care Uganda (FCU) headed by one Robin.

Last December, Sunday Vision visited the Family home in a Kampala suburb. Peterson is smartly dressed, except for a little oddity; on closer scrutiny, it turns out that the socks on his feet do not match. He is a successful audio producer and he presents ‘Night Light’ on Alpha FM, a Christian radio station owned by Victory Christian Centre, Ndeeba. He also championed Nu Beat on several stations around the country.
RadioActive studios produced Juliana Kanyomozi’s You’re My Centre, a song written by Peterson’s daughter Celeste.

RadioActive worked closely with Richard Kaweesa on the music for Miss Uganda 2003 and other productions. Peterson has also acted with Kampala Amateur Dramatics Society along with his daughter Juliana. Peterson also entertains children at parties. In the book Not Without My Sister, he is referred to as Christopher Jones, but Peterson told Sunday Vision that the girls used a pseudonym to protect him. At a later meeting, he said that those were his original names, before he took on the name Simon Peter when he became a member of the Children of God. He has used other names though.

Peterson says the Family is not a cult, but a Christian group that follows the Bible.
“To call us a cult is absolute lies. The word cult has become a purgative word to persecute Christians. They start with the small groups and then on to bigger groups.

“We believe in communal groups just like the Israel Kibbutz system where everything was shared. They share their children, clothes and there’s complete sexual sharing. We believe this is how Christians should live and it is how many of them are in Africa, Asia and Arabia live in extended families and that is very godly. It is not like in the West where people are selfish. If a father is called away, the others just pitch in, there are always other adults. It is the Biblical model in Acts 4,” Peterson explains the unique communal living arrangements. With this biblical model, anybody can be a father to a child.

“People adopt children. A child needs both a mother and a father and for fathers to just get up and leave is wrong. They should sacrifice their own ideas for the children.” This statement contradicts the earlier one, but Peterson states that the Family raises healthy, happy and talented children.

Peterson initially declines to discuss Not Without My sister, saying it would affect his relationship with his daughters. “They received a lot of money to publish the book. I don’t understand how anyone can do something like this,” he says.
Peterson says accusations of sexual abuse in the Family are false. Each individual community is responsible for its own work. Kathleen emphasises that members of the homes carry out evaluation every six months to make sure they are on the right track.
“We are made of people, imperfect people. It was never meant for the law of love to be applied the way it was. As soon as Berg found out that the law was being abused, he put a stop to it.”

Peterson says the Loving Jesus doctrine, which encourages sexual liberties and imagining one is making love to Jesus, is optional. “It is a personal thing and purely voluntary. We have controversial doctrines, but we don’t propagate them here because some people can’t handle them. But we are not the first group to refer to Jesus as our husband. The Bible is full of such imagery. Sexual feelings are not sinful. We take a positive view of sex.”

Juliana Buhring, in her story, alleges that most of the charity work is done to maintain the façade of a good Christian organisation. She claims that photos were taken to be used to ask for more donations and that many times they used some of the donated items, while the rest that could not be used were given out.

Robin denies these allegations. “We do not get money, just goods. We have many good people who give tonnes of stuff, useful things and it is all going out to those who need them. We do not keep any of it for ourselves.”

Kathleen adds: “We are using particularly radio to teach Christians to love Jesus and to be effective witnesses and the chain goes on. To imply that we are trying to use these things ourselves is absolutely not true. We don’t have any ulterior motives; if we were selfish, we would not be doing all the work that we do.”

However, they argue that it is not unusual for missionaries to sustain themselves by the donations they receive. Through the donations, FCU gives food, clothing, books and other necessities to children’s homes and other needy people.

The Family painted Mulago Hospital children’s ward some years ago. They also visited the remote Ik tribe in northeastern Uganda and donated items, including hand-cranked radios, so they could listen to the Bible recorded in their language.

On a second visit, Sunday Vision interacted with two young members of the group who represent the fresh face of the Family.
Malaika, born to a Nigerian father and an Indian mother, is proud of the things she has been able to do as a member of the group.
Besides getting to see many parts of the world, she has helped in free medical camps in Nigeria, Senegal and the DR Congo. Malaika and Rajan, a young Indian from Canada, both assert that they were brought up well.

Peterson explains that the group’s only motive is to bless Ugandans and they are not interested in controversies. Even on the second visit, he is wearing socks that do not match. It is difficult to resist the temptation to draw a parallel between the socks and the Family.

From a casual glance, one would think the Family is just another Christian missionary group. But closer scrutiny would reveal many differences.
They admit the oddities of their group, but explain that they are not in Uganda to promote those unique practices because they recognise that our society is different.

“Not everyone is called to be different,” Kathleen explains. “A communal life is not easy. There is nothing individual.” After a local newspaper printed a review of Not Without My Sister, Peterson met Sunday Vision again. He maintained that the girls made up most of the details to make it more sensational.

He had found old pictures and hand-made cards that his daughters had sent him when they were younger, to prove that they were not angry children then. The letters and pictures showed that they loved him and were happy. There are photos of the girls visiting relatives, contrary to the view that they were not allowed contact with each other. There are photographs of Celeste and Juliana in Uganda. According to Peterson, they were happy until they met ‘apostates’ who made them see the Family differently.
“First of all the book cover is a lie. Those sad looking girls are not my girls. You would not find any kids in the Family looking like that. Secondly, that they were miserable is a lie. After meeting with bitter people, they reinterpreted their past experience, which is a psychological phenomenon that scholars have studied.”

He says he will set up a website with all the evidence that they were not miserable in the Family as they say in the book. Celeste, he notes, was a talented musician who wrote beautiful songs and poems. Juliana lived with foster parents whom she was so attached to, that she cried when she had to leave them. She was with foster parents because as a single father, he could not take good care of her.

“She was with Celeste in Thailand — it was like a boarding school — and that is where she learnt to be as smart and talented as she is. Juliana was very popular here in Uganda as part of the Radioactive dancers and even after she left, she worked here for two years at Club Rouge and Mamba Point. She was happy and had an active social life. As far as I know, she never suffered any abuse. She basically spiced up her story to fit in with the rest of the stories,” he says.

Peterson says he cannot say Kristina was not abused because she was not in his custody. He says the stepfather whom she accused of sexually abusing her sent him a video apologising to him.

“He said: ‘I don’t deny that I had inappropriate contact with her, but it was very mild, just fatherly love.’ He swore to me that it was nothing like she described. It was in her interest to make the story juicy.”

Peterson reiterates that such behaviour was corrected long time ago and such people excommunicated, never to be readmitted. In the book, it appears that Kristina’s abuser was not excommunicated like Family rules state, but moved to different communes around the world, under different names as often happens in the group. Peterson says this man was doing missionary work in Kenya recently, but has left the Family.

Peterson states that Kristina is always there, when a witness against the Family is needed and in the media. He says her perception of Family homes is not based on current life since she left the home when she was 12. Her sisters left at 25 and 27 years, yet they were free to leave from 16 years. He believes they were instigated by Kristina and other people. “We’ve nothing to hide. There is nothing sinister. This is a trial by the media and that’s unfair. I do nothing illegal. We have got to stand up and show the truth,” says Peterson.

That truth is constantly under attack by former members who maintain that the founder abetted unchristian practices that may still be practised today. How did David Brandt Berg start a contentious revolution that has survived 40 years?

Continues next Sunday


X-tian group worships Jesus with sex

Sunday Vision, Uganda

Feb. 23, 2008

By Esther Namugoji

AN international Christian group with a reputation for glorifying sex as a form of worshipping Jesus has been operating in Uganda for the last nine years. Family International is represented in the country by Family Care Uganda and RadioActive Productions.

They operate from a house in Kibuli, a Kampala suburb, where they produce radio programmes on Christianity, which are aired on a Kampala FM station.

“We believe in communal groups just like Israel’s Kibbutz system, where everything was shared. They share their children, clothes, and there is complete sexual sharing,” said Simon Peterson, the head of RadioActive Productions.

But due to cultural sensitivities, he admits most of the Family doctrine is not being practised to the letter and spirit in Uganda.

“We have controversial doctrines, yes, but we don’t propagate them here because some people can’t handle them,” Peterson, who hails from the UK, stressed in an interview with Sunday Vision.

“Sexual feelings are not sinful. We take a positive view of sex,” he defends The Family doctrine, arguing that they are not the first group to uphold Jesus as a husband.

In a book, Not Without My Sister, Peterson’s three daughters describe their life in the organisation, which they left because of their discomfort with the organisation’s teachings.

The authors write that the group practises a ‘Loving Jesus Revolution’, in which members can imagine they are having sex with their ‘husband’ Jesus and even use vulgar language.

Peterson’s daughters give a detailed account of David Berg, the founder of the organisation who promoted the Law of Love as a replacement for the biblical laws of Moses. This, they point out granted members sexual freedoms.

According to the trio, Berg encouraged followers to be comfortable with all sexual matters, including masturbation, extra-marital sex, sex with teenagers and even incest. He discouraged homosexuality but was liberal with lesbianism. The three girls claim that some adults used these liberties to abuse children sexually in the name of loving them.

According to Berg’s teachings, female members were also expected to win converts by offering sex whenever necessary, the authors write.

Responding to the book, Peterson told Sunday Vision that the authors were influenced to exaggerate their stories by people who he claims are persecuting the group.

“Contrary to what they write, I have evidence that the girls were happy in the Family,” he said, showing a collection of photographs, letters and cards as proof.


The zealous: A woman is driven by her grandson's death

St. Petersburg Times - February 25, 2008


The ashes lie in a tiny green urn, on the coffee table of a St. Petersburg living room. The room is filled with figurines and chiming clocks, beside cards and a photograph of a smiling teenage boy.

Olga Lindberg, 66, got the ashes by agreeing not to attend the funeral of her grandson, Dennis Lindberg. Her daughter, Dennis' aunt and guardian, made the offer in what has been their last communication.

The mother-daughter relationship splintered after Nov. 8, when Dennis, 14, was diagnosed in a Seattle hospital with leukemia. His doctors had given Dennis a 70 percent chance at a full recovery, provided he accept repeated blood transfusions.

Though badly depleted from chemotherapy, Dennis refused because he was a devout Jehovah's Witness.

In a case that drew national attention, Dennis held firm. He died Nov. 28 at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, hours after a judge denied a legal attempt to force the transfusion.

His death split Olga's family and tested her faith, launching her on a mission to sway public opinion against the church. She knows that in her grief, she has become a zealot as passionate as any church member. But she presses on for Dennis, she says, but also to purge her nightmares and her guilt.

"I know it's not right what I'm doing," she says. "But it's the only way I can know that my little grandson did not die in vain."

The daughter of a German soldier, Olga emigrated to the United States 45 years ago with an American GI.

She bore a son and a daughter, Dennis and Dianna. They were a military family, moving around the country and Germany until husband Albert, now dead, retired in St. Petersburg. Dianna attended St. Petersburg Junior College before moving to Washington state.

Dennis and his girlfriend had a son, also named Dennis. He was curious about everything, especially his German ancestors. When he saw Olga, he called her Oma instead of Grandmother and said ich liebe dich to tell her he loved her.

Dennis' family moved a lot, and during her visits Olga grew concerned about the conditions in her son's home, the lack of food and the adults who always seemed to be hanging around.

In 2003, Olga's phone rang. It was her daughter, Dianna Mincin. She'd gotten a call from a family in Idaho. Dennis' parents were drug addicts; they had left him stranded with a babysitter for four days.

"You go down to Boise, Idaho, and you get this little boy," Olga told Dianna.

Dennis flourished in his aunt's home in Mount Vernon, just outside Seattle. He loved the theater, skateboarding and the color pink. He dressed extravagantly, sometimes in suits.

In middle school, Dennis was popular and respected, befriending lonely or shy students. Or so Olga is told. Much about what she learned of Dennis came from Morgan Curry, Dennis' girlfriend in sixth and seventh grades.

He had also become increasingly active in the Jehovah's Witnesses, a faith with 30,000 members in Washington state, including Dennis' aunt. He used his personal story as a fulcrum, evangelizing to young people about the evils of drugs just as he witnessed door to door on Saturdays. He told his family that he wanted to be an electrician and help build Kingdom Halls.

Dennis was baptized in February 2007, meaning he was now ordained to do God's word. That was about the time Dennis' father legally gave up his parental rights, signing over guardianship to Dianna, 45. By then, Dennis' parents said they had stayed clean for four years but still had too many health and money problems to care for their son.

In November, Dianna called Olga in St. Petersburg to say that Dennis had leukemia and had been admitted to Children's Hospital in Seattle.

When Olga offered to fly there, Dianna said everything was under control. She phoned Dianna daily, and learned that doctors wanted Dennis to have a blood transfusion in addition to chemotherapy.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe there is no substance more sacred than blood, which is not to be "eaten" taken into the body as in a transfusion.

"He doesn't want it," Dianna told Olga. She said she needed to respect Dennis' wishes. To Olga, respecting a 14-year-old boy's wish to die seemed outrageous.

Olga began leaving messages on Dianna's answering machine. "If you let that boy die, you die along with him," she told her.

Dennis knew from church teachings that the penalty for accepting blood was worse than death excommunication and eventual damnation.

"If someone knowingly and unrepentingly undergoes a blood transfusion," said J.R. Brown, the Jehovah's Witnesses' national spokesman, "we would regard that person as no longer a member of our church because, obviously, he does not believe what we believe."

In St. Petersburg, Olga searched for a plan of attack. She called her son, then her lawyer. Neither could help.

"I finally realized that the Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in blood transfusions," she says. "Then I started to worry."

Washington's Child Protective Services contended that Dennis was too young to refuse life-saving treatment, and filed a motion to compel the transfusion. The state flew in Dennis' parents, who wanted Dennis to accept the blood.

Dennis was transferred to a hospice wing. His room became a rallying point for up to 20 Jehovah's Witnesses and family members, who slept on the extra bed and on the floor or spilled into an adjacent lobby. They played a video game called Battleship with Dennis, watched DVDs and ordered pizza.

Attempts to stimulate Dennis' red blood cells with EPO, a hormone found in bone marrow, failed. Doctors gave the boy a 70 percent chance at recovery if he submitted to three years of chemotherapy and transfusions.

Olga was allowed to speak to Dennis by phone. She pleaded with him to let the doctors help him. She heard several adult voices in the background.

"Oma, it's okay," he told her. "I'm going to meet Jehovah. I'm going to have eternal life."

"You need blood now," she said, before the phone connection abruptly ended.

Whenever Olga tried to reach Dennis' room after that, a nurse told her he was sleeping.

As Dennis lay dying, the drama of his refusal played out in court. At the hearing, Teresa Vaughn, Dennis' sixth-grade teacher, heard Dianna compare Dennis' friends to Satan trying to tempt Jesus away from being crucified. Dianna says she doesn't remember saying that.

In a highly publicized ruling on Nov. 28, Superior Court Judge John Meyer denied the state's request to force a blood transfusion, calling the decision the most difficult of his career. The testimony of Dianna and others about Dennis' convictions impressed the judge, who added that he would make a different decision if the patient were his own child. Around 9 that evening, Dennis died.

Olga flew to Seattle. She went to a memorial service with 150 of Dennis' friends, former teachers and schoolmates. Even more people attended the funeral Dianna had organized. Family members on both sides had agreed to a deal offered by Dianna: If Olga and Dennis' parents would stay away from the funeral, she would share Dennis' ashes with them.

Dennis' death consumed Olga, and she never stopped to grieve. Only her favorite TV shows 24, Lost, her soaps provided an escape. She threw away the Jehovah's Witnesses Bible Dianna had given her.

One Friday, Olga drove a few blocks to the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses on 69th Street N in St. Petersburg. She burst in on a Bible study and addressed the group.

"You are all murderers," she remembers saying.

The Jehovah's Witnesses were shocked. She looked "boiling mad," remembers Frances Boyne, 76, who was there that day. The Jehovah's Witnesses were familiar with Dennis' case. They told her it had been Dennis' choice to refuse the blood.

Olga addressed a group of children, the eldest about 6. "You and you and you and you," she said, pointing to them and then to the adults in the sanctuary. "If you ever get sick, they are going to let you die."

On a Saturday morning in January, at an Albertson's store, Olga buys diet food, deodorant, smoothies. She sees an older woman by the produce and pulls her cart up near her.

"Do you have grandchildren?" she asks. "See this little boy?" She shows the woman the picture she always shows people, of Dennis playing the guitar on his hospital bed.

"The Jehovah's Witnesses killed that little boy," she says. She begins to tell the story. The woman remains still and birdlike poised for flight. She says she has heard about that kind of thing, and moves away.

Over by frozen foods, she tries again with a white-haired woman. Angelina Fisher, 80, says that Jehovah's Witnesses would not be able to get into her gated community in South Pasadena. She soon steers the conversation to calories and yogurt.

After one more conversation with a couple who seem sympathetic, Olga swings her cart into the next aisle. Then she stops, rests her foot and elbows on the cart, puts her face in her hands and cries.

Olga carries the photo in her purse. She approaches customers at the post office. At the mall. In grocery store lines. She shows them the picture of Dennis with the guitar. Before she is finished, she will padlock Dennis' death securely to the Jehovah's Witnesses.

"When they listen," she says, "I get a little bit of relief."

Dianna is grieving, too. She remembers how firm Dennis was in the hospital how she asked him each day if he was still comfortable with his decision. Every day he told her he had no regrets. He hoped to go to sleep and be awakened into a paradise on earth, a restored Garden of Eden where there is no leukemia. A few days before he died, Dennis asked his aunt what preparations he might make for her in the paradise, should he be resurrected first. She can't wait to see him there.

Dianna says she knows the relationship with her mother, whom she calls "an extremely emotional, fanatical woman," is likely over. "My mother has rejected me because of my faith," she said. "I have not rejected her."

As Dennis' death recedes in time, Olga has trouble sleeping. She prays nightly for forgiveness. She should have known a conflict like this could have developed out of her daughter's faith. Maybe she should have taken Dennis herself when he needed a family, instead of giving him over to Dianna. Somehow, she should have seen it coming.

Every so often, Olga is startled awake by a recurring dream. She sees Dennis sitting in a bed. He is alone, and calling to her for help.


25 Feb 2008

Scientology kindergarten in Germany shut down

Agence France-Presse - February 25, 2008

From correspondents in Berlin

CITY authorities in Munich, southern Germany, have closed down a kindergarten with immediate effect after discovering it was run by the Church of Scientology, the municipality said overnight.

"The wellbeing of the children in the establishment was under threat because the education process was based on the principles of Scientology," the municipality said.

The kindergarten opened last summer and had 18 children looked after by two adults.

The Church of Scientology became the subject of intense debate in Germany last year when Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise, one of its most famous followers, was chosen to play the role of a resistance hero in a film about a failed plot to kill Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Cruise was deemed by many Germans to be unsuitable for the part because of his beliefs. In January, German historian Guido Knopp compared a speech the actor made to fellow Scientologists with a call to war by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

The comparison drew a furious response from the Church of Scientology, which has been described in Germany as a sect that exploits its members financially.

It has been under surveillance in some German states for more than 10 years and regional ministers agreed in December to investigate the possibility of banning it.

A court in southern Germany earlier this month threw out a bid by the Church of Scientology to stop intelligence services watching it.

It ruled that there were clear indications that the movement "seeks to establish a social order that runs counter to the constitution".


Brisbane sex abuse priest may be defrocked

AAP | Monday, 25 February 2008

An Anglican Church tribunal this week will hear evidence which could lead to a priest jailed for child sex being stripped of his orders.

Robert Francis Sharwood, 62, of Brisbane, was jailed for 12 months in November 2006 after being found guilty of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy in Brisbane more than 30 years ago.

Sharwood was released from jail in November last year, attracting calls by child protection advocates for him to be immediately stripped of his holy orders.

While Brisbane Anglican Archbishop Phillip Aspinall removed Sharwood's licence to operate as a priest in the diocese in 2002, the church's Professional Standards Board has yet to complete its processes which could lead to Sharwood being defrocked.

The process involves allowing Sharwood to make a submission before any decision is made on his Anglican orders, and could allow him to cross-examine his victim.

A church spokesman today said a formal hearing would be held in Brisbane on Saturday.

He said the hearing would be open to the public and its findings made public.

The church also plans to review its system of handling clergy convicted of serious offences.

Meanwhile, The Courier-Mail newspaper today published a photograph of Sharwood singing in an inner-Brisbane church choir which included children.

A church spokesman told AAP Sharwood was taking part in a public performance and was "monitored by suitable adults".

"He was kept a distance from children," the spokesman said.

"It's important to note part of our policy requires that parishioners are informed of his presence ... so they have the right to take any action they deem necessary.

"This whole system is aimed at ensuring that parishioners and, in particular, children are at no risk.

"Our requirements are more strict than any other requirement the law has of him."


Colorado City polygamist prophet headed to court

The Mohave Daily News - February 24, 2008


KINGMAN - The jailed leader of a polygamist sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Colorado City could arrive in Mohave County in a few days.

Warren Steed Jeffs, 51, faces charges of two counts of incest and two counts of sexual conduct with a minor in one 2007 case involving one victim and two counts of incest and two counts of sexual conduct with a minor in another 2007 case involving another victim.

He is also still charged with three counts of sexual conduct with a minor in one 2005 case, sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor in another case, and sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor in a third case.

Jeffs' Tucson attorney, Michael Piccarreta, said Thursday his client could be in Kingman this week. The defense attorney will file a motion to move the trial to another county.

Jeffs was convicted last year in St. George, Utah, of two counts of rape as an accomplice and was sentenced to consecutive five-year prison terms for each count.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith said he will proceed with the two 2007 cases first, and whether he proceeds with the three 2005 cases will be determined by the outcome of the 2007 cases.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office will pick up Jeffs in Utah and fly him back to Kingman. Once the case is brought to Mohave County, it will be heard before Superior Court Judge Steven Conn.

Sheriff Tom Sheahan previously said Jeffs would be kept in the medical wing of the county jail in a single cell and will be locked down 23 hours a day. He will be out of the cell one hour a day to shower or make phone calls. He is expected to be on a suicide watch. He was reportedly hospitalized last week for being on a self-imposed fast.

In the first of the 2007 cases, Jeffs was allegedly an accomplice to cases of sexual conduct with a minor and incest between May 1 and June 30, 2002, and between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15, 2002. In the second case, he was allegedly an accomplice to cases of sexual conduct with a minor and incest on Aug. 31, 2003, and in September 2003.

In the first of three 2005 charges, he is charged with three counts of sexual conduct with a minor that allegedly occurred between December 1998 and March 1999.

The second case involving charges of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor allegedly occurred between June and December 2001. The third case allegedly occurred between January and June 2002. All of the alleged crimes occurred in Colorado City.

Eight members of the Colorado City polygamist sect also faced similar charges of sexual conduct with a minor in the past two years in Mohave County Superior Court.

Two men were convicted, three had their charges dropped, two entered into plea agreements and one was acquitted.


24 Feb 2008

Mom's case revisits child-bigamy issue

The Arizona Republic

Feb. 24, 2008

by Amanda J. Crawford

When Sarine Jessop left her husband, he had already taken a second wife and was pursuing teenage girls to bring into the marriage, too, she said.

Now, Jessop is fighting for custody of her eight children in a courtroom where she doesn't think her concerns about her ex-husband's polygamous lifestyle or his belief in underage marriages for himself or his daughters are being considered at all.

Rep. David Lujan, a Phoenix Democrat who is helping Jessop in her case, wants to change that. He has introduced a bill that would bar judges from awarding custody to a parent who practices child bigamy, a polygamous relationship involving someone underage.

The measure is inspired by the plight of women fleeing Warren Jeffs' fundamentalist sect in Colorado City, which has come under scrutiny for the spiritual marriages of underage girls to older men.

Lujan said the bill is designed to address the women's biggest fear: that they will have to leave their children behind.

But the bill raises questions of religious freedom and what standards courts should look at when determining custody of children.

It has passed the House Human Services committee unanimously for two years in a row, but has been blocked from proceeding by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Mesa, who has refused to hear it in his judiciary committee.

He calls HB 2009 a "bad bill" that builds a false assumption into state law: Someone who practices child bigamy is not necessarily a bad parent, he says.
The state's long battle

Historically, Arizona has had a spotty record when it comes to wading into the practices of groups that believe salvation lies in the marriages of men to multiple women. A crackdown on the polygamous community of Short Creek (now known as Colorado City) along the Utah line in the 1950s sparked a national backlash. Pictures of families being torn apart inspired sympathy for the polygamists and outcries that the state had gone too far.

A renewed focus in recent years on underage marriages within Colorado City's Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints led to the prosecution of several men from that group, including Jeffs, the group's prophet.

In 2004, lawmakers made child bigamy a felony in Arizona, allowing prosecutors to go after parents and religious leaders who promote the practice.

But critics say that those efforts haven't gone far enough and say Lujan's bill is needed to provide an extra layer of protection for women and children if they decide to leave one of the growing number of polygamist groups in Arizona.

Lujan has worked with several women through his position as an attorney with the non-profit Defenders of Children. He said these women often leave with few resources and face long and costly custody battles.

"This will reassure women that the courts will back them up if they want to leave," he said.

Now, Lujan says, judges in custody cases confronted with allegations of polygamy or child bigamy "are basically looking the other way," leaving young girls living in homes where they face the threat of being married off in their teens.

As it was originally drafted, the bill would have addressed parents practicing polygamy, not just child bigamy. But Lujan said he changed it to avoid arguments that it tramples on religious freedom.

"My intent is to look at those engaged in what I believe is child abuse, and that is child bigamy," Lujan said.

The bill would not allow judges to grant custody or unsupervised visitation to someone who has practiced child bigamy, unless the court makes a written finding that it would not pose a significant risk to the child.

But Farnsworth contends that judges already consider child abuse, domestic violence and other issues in custody disputes. And child bigamy is already a crime.

He notes that Arizona law defines the practice of child bigamy to include those who transport a minor to such a marriage ceremony or minors who themselves have multiple spouses - and those individuals could also lose custody of their children.

There is no "nexus of connectivity" between being a bad parent and engaging in those practices, he said. The court should focus on whether the person is fit to have custody of the child.

Lujan said that if the bill does not move in the House, he thinks he has the support to revive it in the Senate.

Mother's cry for help

For Sarine Jessop, the law would help her convince the court of what she already believes: that her husband's beliefs put her children in danger.

Raised in a Utah polygamous group, Jessop married her husband at 17. They moved to Arizona a decade ago, to a polygamous compound near St. Johns, which is not affiliated with the FLDS of Colorado City but holds similar beliefs, she said.

She said she lives in constant fear that her ex-husband will abscond to Mexico with her children during his visitations.

He has courted teenage girls, she said, and she worries he will push his daughters into early marriages. Last year, he sent the three eldest girls a pamphlet on the sanctity of marriage: They were 7, 10 and 11 years old at the time, she said.

"I live every day in fear for my children's safety," said Jessop, who notes how hard it is to break out of some of these groups. "I feel like I'm screaming my lungs out, and no one is listening to me."

Reach the reporter at 602-444-4870.


22 Feb 2008

Pastor denies abuse claims / Breast fondling greeting recalled

Canoe (Canada), February 20,21,22, 2008
by Jane Sims, Sun Media

Witness says he left the church after seeing inappropriate behaviour on the pastor's part.

It was not the "affection program" former Ambassador Church member Richard Leblanc had envisioned when his church leader described it.

At the front of the church, under the pulpit, his revered pastor, Roy Wood was entangled in a 20-minute embrace with a female member, his waist thrust forward into hers and her arms around his neck.

A month after seeing that, he said at Wood's Superior Court trial in London yesterday, he left the church he'd believed in for more than 20 years.

LeBlanc, one of Ambassador Baptist Church's original members, was clearly shaken at testifying for the Crown at the trial of his former pastor.

"Saying these things here would be easier to say against my father," he said, tears in his eyes, to assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk.

"I didn't go to bed last night because I didn't want to be here."

Wood, 57, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges -- 10 involving a "self-control" discipline program imposed on three boys in the church's alternative school between 1985 and 1987, and three sex- related charges involving females.

The case has focused on the activities of the now-defunct church at King and Adelaide streets and some of the unusual ideas of its leader.

Yesterday, Superior Court Justice Templeton lifted a publication ban on the names of the three boys after assistant Kierluk indicated he wouldn't seek a permanent ban.

Now men, the boys - John Melonis, 35, and brothers Richard Howell, 34 and Norman Howell, 36 - have testified to being ordered to stand at attention for hours, run laps around the block, have hair pulled from their faces with fingers and pliers and be hit on the shoulder repeatedly. They also described "the basement treatment," the most extreme discipline where they were punched in the stomach.

LeBlanc, who left the church in the late 1990s, testified to seeing some of these disciplines, but nothing extreme, and added the boys were proud of their self-control.

Wood said at church he was helping the boys become men.

LeBlanc, instructed by Wood once to punch Richard Howell, said he had "complete trust in Roy at that time."

In cross-examination, Wood, representing himself without a lawyer, reminded LeBlanc four types of affection were taught, although he could only remember three, including physical.

Kierluk asked LeBlanc about church members who left and how Wood would talk about them from the pulpit.

When members left, LeBlanc said, they lost their family and friends. Personal conversations with Wood were leaked.

The affection program was "the straw that broke the camel's back" for LeBlanc. He stood up to voice his concerns.

When LeBlanc left, Wood told the members he owed money and passed bad cheques, LeBlanc said.

"I snuck out the back door like you told me to," LeBlanc told Wood.

The trial continues today.

Breast fondling greeting recalled

It seemed like unusual behaviour inside a church.

The adolescent girls who attended the now-defunct Ambassador Baptist Church had come up with "the Ambassador handshake," a woman at the trial of the former senior pastor Royden Wood said yesterday.

It comprised of three parts.

"Handshake," they'd say, and shake hands.

"Man-shake," they'd say, and grab their hands with thumbs locked.

"Milkshake," they'd say, and grab each other's breasts.

Six years ago, said the 20-year-old woman, whose identity is protected by court order, the three-part "handshake" was common in the main sanctuary of the church.

So was coming up behind a girl and undoing their bra.

"It was very funny to do it to me because I am a larger girl," she said.

And twice, she said, she had her bra lifted at the front by Wood.

Wood, 57, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges -- 10 involving alleged assaults on three boys between 1985 and 1987 when they were under a "self-control" program devised by Wood when they were students at the church's alternative school.

The other three charges --two of sexual assault and one of sexual interference -- involved two of the female witnesses yesterday.

One of them testified to having her breast touched by Wood, then having him comment on its size, during conversation.

The 20-year-old was a life-long member of the church and was close to Woods until her parents decided to leave the church.

She described being 14 and standing with her mother in the main sanctuary of the church speaking to Wood and his wife.

"Don't move," he told the girl, then put his finger under her bra and lifted it over her breasts.

"I didn't move," she said. "I didn't know what he was going to do."

She said she didn't react. She turned around and put herself back together.

"I think we left shortly after," and added she didn't think much more about it.

Two years later, after the family had left the congregation when she was 16, Wood visited their home.

On his way out, she said, she went to give him a goodbye hug when he said, "Don't move."

She said he lifted her bra and said, "Look, two sets."

She said she laughed, but told assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk she wouldn't consent to that activity.

She said she never discussed the event with anyone until she talked about it with her mother.

She told Kierluk her mother and siblings were sad to leave Ambassador in 2003. Her father made the decision to leave the congregation.

She said they knew "in no time no one would talk to us."

When they attended other churches, she said, it was "nice to have someone not come up and undo your bra or comment on your breast size."

The trial continues today.

Witness testifies former pastor 'very much in charge' at church

It was supposed to be the men who made the decisions at the now defunct Ambassador Baptist Church.

But ultimately, one female church member testified yesterday, Pastor Roy Wood was "very much in charge" and made the decisions.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton heard from the woman who testified to a range of activities at the church while she was a long-term member.

Wood, 57, has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges -- 10 of which involve assaults on three boys who were pupils at the church's alternative school that operated between 1985 and 1987.

The other three charges --two of sexual assault and one of sexual interference -- involve breast-grabbing of two women in the congregation.

The witness yesterday said women were not given any position of authority within the church's structure, which followed some Biblical scripture that said men were to be the head of the households and the church.

In the early days of the church, the men would meet to discuss issues. But soon, Wood found the meetings "too problematic," she said.

Church members thought it was the men making the financial decisions, but the witness said it was Wood, who had "a good business mind" and "a distaste for legalities and red tape."

Church votes were usually on issues that Wood didn't have any opinion on, although, the congregation agreed to the paint colour he and his wife picked for the the church at Adelaide and King streets.

Wood took over the church school as teacher, even though, the woman said, "formal education was not valued highly."

Wood said he had trouble in Bible college and thought education should be at home and at church, not at schools.

The woman said she saw the boys -- brothers Richard and Norman Howell and John Milonas -- disciplined by Wood, when they were ordered to run around the block and stand at attention.

"Roy made it apparent they were sloppy, lazy and disrespectful," she said.

The trial continues today.




A former Utah teenager who was kicked out of a polygamous sect six years ago still is no closer to finding his mother

Deseret Morning News - February 22, 2008

by Linda Thomson

A former Utah teenager who was kicked out of a polygamous sect six years ago still is no closer to finding his mother, whom he has seen only once since he was 13.

Johnny Jessop, now 19, filed a civil lawsuit last year against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs seeking information about the location of the young man's mother, Elsi Jessop.

A 10-minute deposition with Jeffs at the Utah State Prison Thursday yielded no answers because Jeffs repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment, said attorney Roger Hoole, who represents Johnny Jessop.

"He is not willing to answer questions at this point, and we are not surprised," said Hoole.

The deposition almost did not take place due to a fast that Jeffs began on Feb. 15, according to a fax from the prison. Jeffs was moved to the prison infirmary on Feb. 19.

Hoole said 3rd District Judge L.A. Dever ordered Wednesday that the deposition should go forward unless the prison doctor advised against it. Hoole had argued that this was a "partial fast" that was self-imposed and did not make Jeffs unfit to take part in a deposition.

Jeffs, 52, resigned in November as president of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, which practices polygamy and long has been located in the adjoining towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. It also has been building a compound in El Dorado, Texas.

It is unclear whether Jeffs is still the sect's religious leader.

The organization has no connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jeffs is in prison after being convicted last year of two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice. The charges and conviction stem from an arranged marriage Jeffs performed between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. He was sentenced to two prison terms of five-years-to-life.

Johnny Jessop sued because he claims Jeffs "reassigned" his mother and siblings to another man nine years ago. Hoole said Jessop was kicked out of the organization when he was 13 — one of hundreds of "Lost Boys" who have been ousted and left to fend for themselves with no contact with their families.

Hoole said Johnny Jessop simply wants to see his mother again, and both Jessop and Hoole are convinced that Jeffs holds the key to Elsi Jessop's whereabouts.

"I think there's no question that Warren Jeffs could easily reunite Johnny Jessop with his mother," Hoole said. "At some point, something has to happen to get these people reunited with their family members. We have hundreds of these young men now that have been kicked out, and they need this business to end."

Warren Jeffs' attorney, Walter Bugden, did not respond Thursday to a phone call request for comment from the Deseret Morning News.


Mormons, Boy Scouts targets of new suit

The Oregonian - February 22, 2008


The Oregonian Staff

The Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon church face another lawsuit for alleged child sexual abuse.

The $5.1 million case filed Thursday by a Portland man alleges that Larren Arnold, a Boy Scout and Mormon youth leader, abused him as a Scout in Idaho and Oregon between 1967 and 1970.

Arnold, now 72, was convicted in Bannock County, Idaho, in 1985 of felony child abuse in an unrelated case.

A May 31, 1990, letter from then-Ore-Ida Council executive Kim Hansen, obtained by The Oregonian, says:

"Arnold's ecclesiastical leader . . . had firsthand knowledge of child sexual molestations of one or more Scouts. No charges were filed as the mother was talked out of it at the time by church leaders."

The Scouts blacklisted Arnold in 1991, six years after his conviction, Scout records show.

The plaintiff, now 53, is the seventh Portland man suing the Boy Scouts for alleged sexual abuse.

One case, brought by two brothers last year, also targets the Mormon church. Combined, all the suits seek $33 million.

The latest case, like one other, alleges the Boy Scouts and the Mormon church knew by the 1960s they had a widespread pedophile problem. The Scouts nationally removed leaders at a rate of one every three days for child molestation, the latest suit says.

"These institutions of trust -- the (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and the Boy Scouts -- which held such emotional, spiritual, and moral authority over children, badly failed at protecting them," said Portland attorney Kelly Clark, who is handling the suit along with others.

The Mormon church and the Boy Scouts say they take child abuse seriously, do everything possible to protect children and will investigate the alleged abuse from 40 years ago. Boy Scout Ore-Ida Council executive David Keeper said the Scouts need an opportunity to review the case before responding to its specifics.

Church spokesman J. Craig Rowe said in an e-mail that it "seems difficult for anyone to claim that some unidentified church leader somehow kept the matter (Arnold's 1985 conviction) from becoming public, or otherwise allowed Arnold to prey on children."

The case was filed in Malheur County, where some abuse is alleged to have occurred.

Arnold, reached in Arizona, said he lives in Pocatello, Idaho.

He said he abused more than one boy while a Scout leader, stayed in Scouting for 12 to 15 years and that the church and Scouts never questioned his background or tried to stop him.

Arnold said he turned himself in in 1984 for abuse in the Bannock County case. He said he has had a clean record since, went through years of treatment and doesn't recall molesting anyone in Oregon.

"I'm not saying I didn't do it, but I don't remember," he said. "I'm sorry for what happened."


Polygamists hit the Web in search of 'sister-wives'

Columbia News Service

Feb. 20, 2008

by Zehra Mamdani

NEW YORK -- Albert Morrison is a religious man. He prays, he reads the Bible and says he has a deep connection with Jesus. It is this devotion that helps explain why Albert and his wife, Sarah, are searching for a second wife.

"David, Abraham, Jacob, Solomon -- they all had multiple wives," he said, referring to the four of the Bible's most revered prophets. "The Bible never banned polygamy, it glorified it."

The Morrisons are part of a group of Evangelical Christian polygamists who believe that polygamy, the practice of taking more than one wife, is spiritually and even economically more favorable than monogamy.

Taking multiple wives is essential for them, but finding them isn't easy. The Morrisons, who live in eastern Idaho, do not have a church or a religious community and have very limited social networks through which they can meet potential spouses, or sister-wives. All this is complicated by the fact that polygamy is illegal in the United States. So, the Morrisons and a growing number of polygamists like them are looking where millions of people seeking companionship, love and sex have ventured: the Internet.

"Sarah and I wish there were as many legitimate avenues for finding a spouse as there are for traditional relationships," said Morrison. "But, that's the beauty of the Internet. It eases the loneliness of being a Christian polygamist. You can connect with people all across the country."

Albert, 44, who drives a truck, and Sarah, 31, a manager at a nursing home, have been married for six years. They started looking for a third spouse three years ago and put up ads on various sites like SoulfulHarmony.com, 2Wives.com and ChristianMarriage.com. Since then, they have heard from people in nearly every state and Canada.

Their personal ad reads like any other on the site: "Loving couple seeks to share life with like-minded woman. We don't care what color your skin is, we want to get to know your heart."

"It is not about the sex," Albert said. "It's about companionship."

Evangelical Christian polygamists have no connection to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), an offshoot of the Mormon Church that openly practices polygamy. While polygamy experts say there are about 35,000 FLDS polygamists in the United States, there is no exact number for Christian polygamists. Mark Henkel, the founder of TruthBearer.org, a Christian evangelical pro-polygamy organization, said that the polygamist movement has been growing steadily for the past 12 years. Henkel says there are less than 50,000 Christian polygamists, but experts cannot substantiate this.

"The advent of the Internet really put Christian polygamy on the map," said Henkel, adding that his Website and its sister site, 2Wives.com, received the most number of hits and new members in August 2006, when Warren Jeffs, the fugitive "prophet" of the FLDS, was caught by the FBI. Jeffs was later convicted of being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old church member.

"The bad publicity was good for business, so to speak," said Henkel. "People wanted to find out what separated us from them." While both groups are polygamous, Christian polygamists are scattered across the country, whereas the FLDS is concentrated in Colorado City, Ariz.; Hilldale, Utah; and most recently, El Dorado, Texas.

Both groups, however, share the quality of being extremely conservative in their views about morality, but unconventional in their views about what defines a marriage. Both groups also have a notorious reputation for underage marriage and domestic violence. John Llewellyn, a former deputy sheriff in Utah who has investigated and written about polygamy, says he has not seen cases of exploitation of minors associated with pro-polygamy sites.

Pastor Don Milton, an ordained minister in Arizona who preaches polygamy from his Web site ChristianMarriage.com, says that followers of his brand of Christianity and users of his Web site are decent and upstanding adults. "Christian polygamy attracts extremely religious adults with a desire to live God's word," he said.

Milton hopes to open a church that will be accepting of people who choose polygamous lifestyles. "We can't openly preach polygamy because it's against the law, but we will welcome families who engage in the lifestyle," he said.

Until then, the Internet is his pulpit. His Web site has helped create a virtual community for people who don't have one in the real world. He runs a small personals section on his site, but generally tries not to get involved with matching people up, fearing imprisonment. Still, he makes an enthusiastic pitch for the skeptic.

"Of course a woman would want to marry a married man," Milton said. "A single guy is an unknown quantity, whereas a married guy has a track record."

But, not all single women feel that way. Milton said that couples are desperate to find single women, but single women generally want single men.

So goes the challenge that Margie and Lee Sharp have been facing. Margie, 32, and Lee, 36, live in Loranger, La., and have been looking for a religious, white woman to help raise their four boys.

The Sharps say they are born-again Christians who made the decision to practice polygamy after closely studying the Bible. "We prayed and prayed and prayed about it and God put it in our hearts to practice the Biblical lifestyle," Margie Sharp said.

She goes to church twice a week and started looking for a sister-wife three years ago. When she began telling members of her non-denominational church in Louisiana about her search, some members started calling her wicked and immoral. Her family told her she was crazy and her neighbors thought she was odd. "So, I turned to the Internet, it was the only place I could be honest and not be laughed at," she said.

Although she and her husband have found solace in cyberspace, Margie says, they haven't found a sister-wife. "I want someone who will be my best friend and will give me a baby girl," Margie says, ticking off the criteria that make the search for a soulmate difficult. "We're not into homosexual threesomes; we don't drink, or smoke or gamble," she said. "We're looking for marriage; we're not dating and don't believe in pre-marital sex".

The Morrisons have also experienced the highs and lows of Internet dating. "We met one woman who was 97 years old," Albert said with a chuckle. "But she acted like she was 20!" Last year, they met a more appropriately aged woman from Alabama who might have married them, but neither they nor she could relocate.

"We're just going to keep praying and keep searching the Internet," Albert said. "God will find someone for us when he wills."


18 Feb 2008

More sex abuse allegations against Spokane Diocese boys' ranch

Seattle P I - February 15, 2008


SPOKANE, Wash. -- Three former residents of a boys' ranch operated by the Spokane Catholic Diocese have filed suit, alleging they were physically and sexually abused by priests and a volunteer.

In the lawsuit filed Friday in Spokane County Superior Court, the men accuse Morning Star Boys Ranch of negligent supervision and knowingly allowing employees to sexually abuse residents.

A former Morning Star director, the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner, is among three defendants named in the suit, which seeks unspecified damages. Weitensteiner resigned in 2006. He has denied abusing ranch residents.

The plaintiffs are 39, 48 and 55. They allege the abuse happened in the 1960s, '70s and '80s at the hands of Weitensteiner, the Rev. Patrick O'Donnell and an unidentified volunteer employee.

Morning Star spokeswoman Jenn Kantz said the ranch had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on specific allegations. She said the ranch is a safe and therapeutic place today. The ranch south of Spokane has served more than 1,300 boys with behavioral problems over the past 50 years.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal filings that began in August 2005, alleging abuse at the ranch by Weitensteiner, O'Donnell and other staff members. Thirteen former residents previously sued the ranch over claims of abuse.

In depositions, O'Donnell has acknowledged sexually molesting dozens of boys over three decades. He was named in 66 of the 176 bankruptcy court claims alleging sexual abuse by priests in the Spokane Diocese, more than any other single priest. Last year, the diocese agreed to pay $48 million to settle claims of clergy sexual abuse.

A civil lawsuit against O'Donnell by more than two dozen of his accusers was stayed during the three-year bankruptcy proceeding. The trial could be scheduled later this year.


15 Feb 2008

Witness describes torment by pastor at Baptist school

Canoe Network News - February 15, 2008

by Jane Sims, Sun Media

The grown-up student made it clear to his former church pastor and teacher that he recalled no bad behaviour during classes in the basement of Ambassador Baptist Church.

"Were you an unusual group of kids?" asked Royden Wood, 57, who is defending himself at his assault and sex trial.

"Yeah," Jon Franson, 35, answered yesterday. "We were terrified of you."

Franson testified at Wood's Superior Court trial about watching Wood discipline three boys, who Wood called The Three Stooges.

Wood has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges. Ten of them are for assault and assault with a weapon in connection with his conduct involving three boys who were pupils at the church's alternative school between 1985 and 1987.

The other three -- two for sexual assault and one for sexual exploitation -- involve female complainants.

Superior Court Justice Lynda Templeton has heard from all three boys, two of them brothers, whose identity is protected by a temporary publication ban. They have described a host of punishments carried out daily while they attended the school.

The third of the three boys, now 34, finished his testimony yesterday. He admitted he told Wood when he was a boy the discipline had made him stronger and was "good for me."

But his opinion changed, he said, after a falling out with the church and reflection on what had happened.

He said everyone at the church knew what Wood was doing to him, his brother and another friend.

Franson told assistant Crown attorney Peter Kierluk he recalled Wood forcing the boys -- who he said did nothing more than fidget and talk in class -- to stand in the same spot for hours. He said Wood harassed them so the rest of the class could laugh."

He also said he saw Wood repeatedly hit the boys on the shoulder with his knuckle. He saw one boy develop a "bubble under the skin" from the repeated blows.

Franson recalled the boys sobbing after standing so long. He also said they would run every morning around the block to get Wood a doughnut.

Franson said Wood would give "odd speeches" about when he was a police officer and how he was going to teach them discipline. Franson said it sounded like the army, "with idealistic motives."

If a boy was crying, Wood would tell them, "God's bucket is full of quitters. We don't need any more quitters."

Franson admitted he had engaged in a wrestling match with Wood while a pupil because "I wanted to take you off your high horse a bit."

Wood asked Franson if he recalled that the speeches -- which Franson called "nonsensical" -- were to teach them not to be quitters.

"To abuse little boys, a man of that character can't teach anyone," Franson said.

The trial continues today. Jane Sims is The Free Press justice reporter.