31 Jul 2008

Larry King Live: Inside a Cult

CNN - Larry King Live - July 31, 2008

It might be the most sinister and secretive cult ever! The group has a history of sex with children, seduction and even suicide. We pull back the curtain on The Family International. Has the sect changed its ways? Those who were members talk.

This program will air on Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 9:00 ET, 6:00 PT

Watch the video here.

Cult bans kids from school

The Fiji Times - July 31, 2008

SOCIAL welfare officers are investigating a settlement which has stopped children from attending school because of its cult beliefs.

Parents of the children who live at Loqa settlement in the foothills of the Nakauvadra mountains in Ra have refused to send their children to school despite pleas by senior civil servants.

Ra social welfare officer Una Waqa said they had been keeping tabs on the settlement and were aware that some children born there were not registered.

Children between the ages of four and 13, she said, stayed home to help their parents.

District Officer Ra Asaeli Cava said those who lived at the settlement were from Vatukacevaceva Village and were involved in a cult known as Lotu Kadrala.

Vatukacevaceva Primary School headteacher Taubale Mocevakaca said he was accompanied by other teachers and the village headmen to the settlement three times to try to talk to the elders but without success.

He said what concerned them was that children were being denied an education.

"Their religion does not believe that the children should go to school," said Mr Mocevakaca.

"It is a basic right for any child to be allowed education. I have tried three times, even with the village headman, to go there and convince them to send the children to school.

"Some of the practices they follow are questionable. When we met them there, the elders actually asked us where in the Bible does it say that children should go to school."

Mr Mocevakaca has compiled a case file on the settlement and handed it to the Ministry of Education.

Interim Education Minister Filipe Bole said he was aware the cult settlement "had been around for some time".

He said he had once led a team to try to convince the elders at the settlement to ensure that the children were sent to school.

"That settlement has been there for a long time and we can only appeal to them to send their children to school. Other than that, there is nothing we can do."

Fijian Teachers Association president Tevita Koroi said some communities in Fiji preferred not to send their children to school but teach them subsistence farming and business.

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30 Jul 2008

5 polygamist sect members arraigned in abuse of girls

Dallas Morning News - July 30, 2008

by Emily Ramshaw | Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Five men from a West Texas polygamist sect were arraigned on Tuesday, the day after they surrendered on charges related to the sexual assault and "spiritual" marriage of underage girls.

As of Tuesday evening, four of the men – members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – remained in custody in Schleicher County. A fifth had posted bail and been released, a sect official said.

A sixth suspect, sect prophet Warren Jeffs, is in jail in Arizona, but could be extradited to Texas to face his sexual assault charge.

Sect leader Willie Jessop, who is speaking for the group in Mr. Jeffs' absence, said he couldn't confirm whether the other men who surrendered would post bail, and said he wasn't at liberty to answer any more questions.

"I can't go on the record with anything right now – I'll explain later," said Mr. Jessop, who has called the charges outrageous. "When all of this comes out, you will be very amused and shocked."

Mr. Jeffs and four other men – Merril Leroy Jessop, 33; Raymond Jessop, 36; Michael Emack, 57; and Allan Keate, 56, – were charged with first-degree felony sexual assault of a child, a crime punishable by five years to life in prison. The younger Mr. Jessop is also charged with first-degree felony bigamy, which means one of his alleged wives is younger than 16. At least three of the other men, including Mr. Jeffs, are believed to have taken underage wives.

Dr. Lloyd Barlow, a 38-year-old physician whose indictment indicates he delivered the babies of underage mothers on the Yearning for Zion ranch, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of failing to report child abuse.

Any of the men who post bail will be required to refrain from contacting their alleged victims, surrender their passports, remain within the state of Texas and notify authorities before leaving the county, according to a statement released by the attorney general's office.

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Exclusive Brethren rejects crime link claim

NEWS.com.au - July 30, 2008

THE Exclusive Brethren says three Indian sisters have failed in an effort to bring criminal action against the sect.

In a statement, the Exclusive Brethren said the High Court in Canberra had refused to accept a writ the women tried to file today.

The writ alleged the controversial group had been involved in fraud and kidnapping.

The women, who yesterday said they were on the run from the Brethren, also claimed it was involved in money laundering and immigration fraud in New Zealand, and bribing police and members of the judiciary in India.

The Exclusive Brethren denies the allegations.

"The sisters' allegations, contained in media reports today, are absolutely refuted in every detail by the church,'' the Exclusive Brethren said in the statement issued via a Sydney-based public relations company.

"There is not the slightest vestige of truth in the claims made by the sisters, who reside in New Zealand.''

The sect said it understood the High Court refused to accept the writ on the grounds it did not properly invoke the jurisdiction of the court and was not in the correct form.

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Former vicar jailed over sex abuse

Evening Telegraph - UK    July 30, 2008

Sexual acts performed on boys aged 12 and 15

by Simon Hughes | Corby reporter

A former vicar who admitted sexually abusing two boys over 20 years ago has been jailed for five years.

Rev Colin Pritchard, 64, admitted four indecent assaults of two underage boys and three acts of gross indecency dating back to the early 1980s, at Northampton Crown Court yesterday.

The unmarried retired vicar was in charge of St Andrew's Church, in Berrymoor Road, Wellingborough, until 1989 and it was during this period that the abuse happened.

Judge Christopher Metcalf said: "It was the most appalling breach of trust. It's clear to me from the evidence that you have betrayed your calling. You took advantage of young boys who wanted to involve themselves in your church."

Speaking after the case, a spokesman from the Diocese of Peterborough said: "We were dismayed to hear of the charges brought against Mr Pritchard. The Church of England takes child protection very seriously.

The crimes were a betrayal of the standards expected of clergy and we offer our sympathy to the victims of the crimes and their families. A full review of this case will be undertaken."

The court heard Pritchard "groomed" one of the victims, inviting him to his home and even taking him on trips away, including a stop-over in London and a camping trip in France. The child's mother, a church-goer, gave her son permission, trusting the leader of her church, the court was told.

But soon Pritchard was kissing the child when the pair were alone, inviting him into his bed and then involving him in sexual acts.

When the youngster asked the priest about telling others of their relationship, Pritchard told him: "Oh, they wouldn't understand because it's very special. They would stop us seeing each other."

Years later, when the victim was a father himself and about to enrol his son in a Church of England school, he told a member of the clergy about Pritchard and the priest was arrested.

In a victim impact statement, he said: "I hate what he did to me, how it makes me feel and the person it turns me into.

"He was a person in a position of trust who abused that position in the worst way possible. Nothing can make up for the pain I have suffered."

Pritchard's second victim was introduced to him by another member of the clergy, Anglican rector Roy Cotton, who died in September 2006.

This child was abused by both Cotton and Pritchard but prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to charge Cotton before his death.

However, when the victim was interviewed by police investigating the first victim's complaint there emerged an unholy alliance between Pritchard and Cotton, who knew about each other's "special" relationships with the two children.

He told police of a New Year's Eve party, when he became drunk in a house with both men and woke up naked with no recollection of how he lost his clothes. In the morning, Pritchard pushed him against a wall in the kitchen and sexually abused him.

"When your first sexual experiences are with overweight, middle-aged men who are older than you, they stay with you," said the second victim.

Pritchard, now of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, retired from the church on health grounds in 1989.

Mitigating, Icah Peart QC said his client had allowed his affection for the boys to affect his good sense. "There can be no excuse for allowing himself to behave as he did."

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Exclusive Brethren accused of kidnapping

Sydney Morning Herald - July 29, 2008

A writ is expected to be filed in the High Court on Wednesday alleging the involvement of the secretive Exclusive Brethren in a variety of crimes, including fraud and kidnapping.

Three sisters, from India, who say they are on the run from the religious sect, allege they can link it to numerous crimes.

The women also allege the Exclusive Brethren is involved in money laundering, immigration fraud in New Zealand and bribery of police and members of the judiciary in India.

"We've got 3,000 pages of evidence ... and now we're going to expose this whole thing," one of the sisters told reporters in Canberra.

They said they feared for their lives and did not wish to be identified until after the legal action is taken.

They say they will file a "writ of mandamus" in Canberra. This article was found at:

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5 more arrested from west Texas polygamist sect

The Associated Press - July 29, 2008

by April Castro

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Five indicted members of a West Texas polygamist sect turned themselves in to authorities Monday to face charges related to allegations of child sexual abuse.

The five men were indicted last week with Warren Jeffs, the already-jailed leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The charges stem from a state investigation into allegations that the sect forced underage girls into marriage and motherhood with much older men.

State authorities raided the FLDS's Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado on April 3, eventually sweeping more than 400 children into foster care until the state Supreme Court said officials had overreached and sent the children home.

Raymond Merrill Jessop, 36, Allan Eugene Keate, 56, Michael George Emack, 57, and Merrill Leroy Jessop, 33, were charged with one count each of sexual assault of a child, a felony punishable by a sentence ranging from five to 99 years or life in prison. Their bond was set at $100,000 each.

Merrill Leroy Jessop also was charged with bigamy, a felony with the same potential penalties as the sexual assault charge.

Lloyd Hammon Barlow, 38, the ranch's onsite physician, was charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison. His bond was set at $5,000.

Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday declined to provide details of what the men were accused of doing.

Efforts to find the men's attorneys were not immediately successful. A message left for FLDS attorney Rod Parker was not immediately returned.

Abbott said the state would try to have Jeffs extradited to Texas to face a charge of sexual assault of a child.

Last week's charges were the first since the April raid.

Jeffs has been convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice and is awaiting trial in Arizona on other charges.

Last week, when the indictments were announced, FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop said sect members would cooperate.

"We don't believe their evidence is credible," he said. "We don't believe they obtained it legally, but we'll stand up in court and face the allegations," he said. "We believe in our innocence."

Child Protective Services is also continuing its investigation, even with the roughly 440 children returned to their parents six weeks ago.

Agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said last week that investigators will look at the living circumstances of the children associated with the men who were indicted and determine if they are safe.

Under Texas law, a girl younger than 17 cannot generally consent to sex with an adult.

The FLDS, which believes polygamy brings glory in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially renounced polygamy more than a century ago and has sought to distance itself from the FLDS.

Associated Press writer Jay Root contributed to this report.

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Hillsong accused of closet zealotry

Brisbane Times - July 29, 2008

by Paul Bibby

STUDENTS opting out of scripture classes at a Sydney high school are being invited to attend a personal development program run by the Hillsong Church where they are hearing personal testimonials from church members, a teacher at the school says.
The teacher's federation representative for Cheltenham Girls High, Doug Williamson, said non-scripture students at the school were being invited to join the Shine program, where they were exposed to religious content.
Hillsong Church says Shine is non-religious and the volunteers who conduct the program do not evangelise, but Mr Williamson said children had been told stories about finding religion.
"My understanding is that on a number of occasions the facilitators have spoken about their own lives and how they came to be members of the Hillsong Church," Mr Williamson said. "It is inappropriate for students to be subjected to this kind of closet evangelism."
Speaking through the NSW Department of Education's media unit, the school's principal, Susan Marshall, told Fairfax Media all parents were informed the Shine program was run by Hillsong and had to sign a permission slip.
She said there was no evidence to suggest testimonials were provided during the program and that "if they were, the program would be terminated".
But Mr Williamson said he believed many parents were not fully aware of what the classes involved, and that without constant monitoring, there was "no way to know exactly what's going on".
A parent from another Sydney school said students at her child's school were automatically enrolled in the Shine program if they chose not to attend scripture.
"When you tick the box [for non-scripture] you are automatically told that your child will be enrolled in Shine," the parent said. "It appears that they don't have enough teachers to supervise the kids if they don't do scripture, so they just bung them in Shine. It's an alarming situation because most of the mums and dads don't even know it's happening."
The NSW Greens yesterday called for Shine to be suspended while allegations that it put an unhealthy and inappropriate emphasis on physical appearance were investigated. It joined the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens in expressing concern that the program could damage the self-esteem of the at-risk girls it purported to help.
Hillsong Citycare said grooming was an aspect of the program but not its main focus.
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PRIEST who worked on the Australian Central Coast has been found guilty of sexually abusing seven teenage boys

The Herald - Australia
July 28, 2008

by Joanne McCarthy

A PRIEST who worked on the Central Coast has been found guilty of sexually abusing seven teenage boys in the 1980s.
A Sydney District Court jury found Paul Raymond Evans, 56, of Saratoga, guilty of 18 sex offences during his time as dormitory master at Boys' Town Catholic boarding school for troubled teenagers at Engadine.
He was in jail on Friday night after a judge refused bail.
The court heard Evans was charged and acquitted of sexual offences involving two teenagers in 1988 and was moved to St Patrick's parish at East Gosford in 1991 where he was assistant priest with the then Father Michael Malone, now the bishop of Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.
When Evans was moved to Kincumber parish on the Central Coast in 2002 he was known by locals as the "king of the kids" because of his close links with youth groups.
He was charged with new offences after a man approached Broken Bay Diocese, then the police. Six other men said they had also been abused.
Broken Bay Diocese Bishop David Walker said Evans was immediately stood aside and people in parishes where Evans had worked were asked to come forward if they had allegations of other offences.
"It is sad. I think every case is sad," Bishop Walker said.
There was "a bad dimension to the priest that's now been accounted for", he said.
But the man whose allegations led to the convictions said the five-year process adopted by the diocese was "like being abused all over again".
"It's been a bloody hard road. I got the ball rolling to weed this mongrel out but the church put everything on hold the minute I went to the police," he said.
Evans pleaded not guilty to 20 charges. He was found guilty of nine counts of homosexual intercourse, seven counts of indecent assault and two acts of indecency. He was found not guilty of one homosexual intercourse charge and one charge of indecent assault. He will be sentenced in September.
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28 Jul 2008

Family resolves to take fight over exorcism to Supreme Court

Star-Telegram, Texas
July 27, 2008

by Max B. Baker

Laura Schubert Pearson was an impressionable 17-year-old when friends in her church youth group thought demons possessed her.
Repeatedly, over two days, the youth pastor, his wife and others held the girl down on the floor of the Pleasant Glade Assembly of God Church in Colleyville, even as Pearson screamed, fought and begged to be released.
They cast it as wrestling with the devil.
But she said it was "like being pummeled by this very large group. These were our friends, people we hung out with."
The 1996 episode left her physically and emotionally scarred, and "this stuff is still hard to talk about," Pearson told the Star-Telegram after the Texas Supreme Court dismissed her lawsuit against the church June 27. The majority said the courts can’t get involved in a religious debate over church doctrine.
Pearson, now 29 and living near Atlanta with her new husband and her children, said: "You can’t use your religious beliefs to get away with harming a child."
After the exorcism, she dropped out of high school her senior year, began to cut herself as many as 100 times over several years, and refused to leave the house. Pearson slit her wrists with a box cutter.
Her father, a former missionary and minister, became an agnostic.
But Pearson and her parents, Tom and Judy Schubert, say they are willing to go to the U.S. Supreme Court in their fight against a church they once loved.
As the parents see it, Pleasant Glade members abused their daughter in the same way a husband or a boyfriend abuses a wife or a girlfriend — and all under the guise of serving the Lord.
"This is so much bigger than myself," Pearson said.
"This is about not allowing the cover of religion to permit physical abuse in a church, and particularly to a child," Pearson added.
Called out-of-control
The Rev. Lloyd McCutchen, who later merged the Pleasant Glade church with another congregation to create the Assembly of God Church in Colleyville, did not return calls seeking comment. But in 2002, he said that the congregation was a "Bible-believing Pentecostal church. For this we make no apologies."
David Pruessner, the church’s attorney, has repeatedly described Pearson as an out-of-control, attention-seeking teenager who he once said "breathes in attention the same way we breathe in air."
In court testimony, church members did not deny holding her down.
"None of them had a personal vendetta," Pruessner said. "She was in a church service and screaming and in a lot of pain, so they were stepping forward to help her."
Pearson already suffered from psychological problems caused by traumatic events she witnessed while her parents were missionaries in Africa, including "beatings and burnings," Pruessner claimed in court documents.
In a 1992 letter to church officials from Cameroon, Tom Schubert said Pearson had fallen into a "terrible depression" and often can be found "curled up on her bed."
Pruessner said the fact that Pearson has been able to attend college and is on her way to getting her second degree — something she claimed during the 2002 trial that she would never be able to do — is evidence that this episode has been "blown out of proportion."
"One of the easiest claims to make is that someone has caused you an emotional injury," Pruessner said.
Six difficult days
Although it happened more than 12 years ago, Pearson says it is still hard to talk about those harrowing six days in June 1996.
Pearson and her brother, Joseph, had been left with their older sister, Amy, while their parents went on a fundraising trip in Indiana. She was going to hang out with the church youth group and work at her part-time job. On June 7, a Friday, Pearson went to the church to help the youth group prepare for a garage sale. At about midnight, one of the teens rushed in saying he had seen a demon in the darkened sanctuary.
Rod Linzay, the youth pastor, urged everyone to anoint the sanctuary with holy oil. They rapped on pews. They prayed. They propped a cross against the doors to keep demons out or drive them out. They were up until early morning.
"I had been around [the church] all of my life, but I had not experienced anything of this sort.  . . .  After being up all of those hours and involved in all of that, it was easy to believe what was going on was real," she said.
Exhausted, Pearson went home and then to work but was unable to sleep that night. By the time she returned to the church on Sunday evening, she had been up for 72 hours.
It was then that people believed demons had possessed her and the first exorcism was performed. Pearson said she collapsed on the floor out of exhaustion. During the trial, doctors suggested she was hypoglycemic. She clenched her fists, gritted her teeth, made guttural sounds, cried and yelled.
"I was moving my head back and forth, and I hear people saying things are wrong with me and the youth pastor’s wife saying it was the demons," Pearson said. They held her down, but after the thrashing stopped, Pearson was allowed to get up after saying the name Jesus.
On Wednesday, Pearson returned to the church. After hearing a sermon about "putting on the whole armor of God to fight off the devil," Pearson said she went off to a corner, curled into a fetal position and prayed.
When another youth asked to pray for her, Pearson refused. Eventually, she was held spread-eagle on the floor. She fought those holding her and asked to be let go. They said "it was the devil talking," Pearson said.
McCutchen then entered the room. He tried to calm Pearson and told her to "just say the word Jesus." Eventually, he called Pearson’s parents, who came and took their "dazed" daughter home. Later they saw the bruises and carpet burns. Soon she began having nightmares about hands and faces coming out of her bedroom walls to grab her.
When her senior year in high school started later that summer, Pearson suffered such a strong anxiety attack that she attended school for only one day. In October, she cut her wrists with a dull box cutter at work. She later tried to overdose on her medications. Pearson was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. "My health was so poor. I weighed about 87 pounds.  . . .  I was afraid to go out of the house," she said.
Turning the corner
In November 1998, the family left Texas, and Tom Schubert resigned as an Assemblies of God minister and missionary. The Schuberts moved to Georgia to be near the wife’s family.
Tom Schubert worked as manager of an auto-parts store but eventually got degrees in counseling. Now 56, he is retired and on disability after being diagnosed with severe osteoporosis, which has caused spinal fractures.
Schubert has lost his faith, while his wife and daughter continue to believe.
"I do not hold the religious views I once held," Schubert said. "I don’t know what is out there. I don’t think what is out there is what I thought was there in the past.  . . .  I don’t believe in demons and such.  . . .  I doubt that God exists."
Their son, Joseph, who witnessed at least one of the exorcisms, also struggled with what happened and eventually dropped out of school.
He now works for a company that builds trade-show exhibits.
Pearson said she has started to rebuild her life. "For the first several years, it was very, very difficult, dealing with nightmares and feeling out of control," Pearson said. "Getting my bearing again was very hard to do."
Her first marriage ended in divorce, but she credits the birth of her daughter, now 7, with turning her life around. She also has a 5-year-old son.
She remarried on the day the Texas Supreme Court tossed out her lawsuit.
Pearson got an associate degree in criminal justice, then decided to continue her education and will soon complete a degree in social work. In her internship, she works with children from broken homes who have been in abusive situations.
"I wanted to understand why good people do bad things or why bad things happen to good people," Pearson said. "I had a lot of questions I needed legitimate, honest answers to."
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Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Hearings on Polygamy Crimes: What Needs to Be Done at the Federal Level to Protect Children from Abuse and Neglect

FindLaw - July 24, 2008

by Marci Hamilton

The tide is turning in favor of protecting children in polygamous communities – as several new developments evidence. First, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on the crimes that occur in polygamous communities today. I have submitted written testimony to the Committee regarding this matter, which is reproduced below. As regular readers of this column know, I have been very concerned about the plight of children in these communities and, most recently, in the issues arising out of the Texas authorities' rescue of children from the FLDS compound in Eldorado, Texas. In prior columns, I covered both the initial Texas decision in that case, and the decision of the Texas Supreme Court.
Second, Texas authorities now have indicted six of the men from the FLDS compoundon a variety of counts, including child sex abuse, bigamy, and failing to report child sex abuse to the authorities. These indictments alone confirm the high level of risk faced by the children in the self-isolated FLDS, and should give fresh ammunition to Texas CPS authorities to protect the children from future abuse.To put the numbers in perspective, there were approximately 420 children rescued from the compound, a group the size of an entire small elementary school. Imagine if there were six teachers in your child's elementary school who sexually abused their students or failed to report abuse. That is the situation in which these FLDS children live daily, except that the children live at home with their abusers, and do not just see them at school.

Third, Sen. Harry Reid will be introducing a bill today that would establish a Task Force to investigate crimes in polygamous communities. While a Task Force is a great idea, there is a risk that the issue will be studied to death, without action ultimately being taken. In my testimony, reproduced below, I therefore ask the Judiciary Committee to charge the Task Force with consideration of three avenues of legal reform that would provide ways to punish and deter child abuse and neglect in polygamous (and other) communities: (1) amend the civil and criminal RICO laws to encompass child abuse and neglect; (2) incentivize the states to eliminate the statutes of limitations on child abuse and neglect; and (3) amend the tax laws to revoke the tax-exempt status of any organization that fosters or furthers child abuse or neglect. (I also suggest prohibiting federal agencies from doing business with organizations that foster or further child abuse or neglect.)
More specifically, the substance of my testimony submitted to the Committee is as follows:
My testimony will focus on the child abuse and neglect crimes that arise out of polygamous communities and suggest legislative solutions to these serious problems. As is well known, religious polygamous communities have exhibited a disregard for the laws of marriage, child sex abuse, statutory rape, and criminal child neglect.
The problems for children in these groups arise directly from the desired proportion of men to women in the groups. At the base line, girls and boys are usually born in about equal proportions. In order to have as many women to choose from as possible, girls are married to men as soon as they are of childbearing age and forced to have as many children as possible. To keep the number of men low vis-à-vis the women, select boys are discarded.
No civilized society can permit such practices – once known – to continue.
I applaud Senator Reid for introducing a bill to institute a federal task force to study abuse, extortion, embezzlement, and other illegal activities associated with polygamous groups. I strongly recommend that the Committee charge the Task Force with consideration of the following proposals.
There is a need for punishment, deterrence, and public accountability. I will make three proposals necessary to ensure that these three public goals are served: (1) amend the RICO laws to encompass organizations that foster and further child abuse and neglect; (2) create incentives for the states to eliminate statutes of limitations so that victims can identify their predators and those who aided them through court actions when the victims are ready; and (3) deter child abuse and neglect through financial means: (a) upon conviction of a nonprofit organization for fostering abuse and neglect in a criminal or civil action, remove the organization’s tax exempt status and (b) prohibit all federal agencies from doing business with organizations that foster and further child sex abuse.
I. Amend the RICO laws
Organizations that encourage and foster child sex abuse need to be made accountable. Federal authorities have not had the legal tools to pursue organizations that foster and further child sex abuse and neglect. The criminal and civil RICO laws, taken together, are best suited to this end, because they combine punishment with deterrence and with financial accountability for organizations.
Criminal RICO should be amended to ensure that it encompasses organizations fostering and furthering child sex abuse and neglect.
First, amend 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) to include the following bolded language:
It shall be unlawful for any person, or enterprise engaging in, promoting, or facilitating childhood sexual abuse or neglect, employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.
Second, amend 18 U.S.C. 1961(1)(a), the definition of “Racketeering Activity,” to include the bolded language:
(1)“racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, engaging in, promoting or facilitating childhood sexual abuse or neglect, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), which is chargeable under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year;
Civil RICO should be amended to deter organizations from harboring or encouraging child abuse or neglect, hiding child abuse or neglect, or recklessly disregarding child abuse or neglect. I suggest the following amendments (new language in bold):
The first sentence of Section 1964(c) of the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § § 1961- 1965 should be amended to include the bolded language:
‘Any person injured in his business, property, or in his person if a victim of childhood sexual abuse or neglect by reason of a violation of section 1962 of this chapter may sue therefore in any appropriate United States district court and shall recover threefold the damages he sustains and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee, except that no person may rely upon any conduct that would have been actionable as fraud in the purchase or sale of securities to establish a violation of section 1962.’
II. Encourage the States to Eliminate the Statutes of Limitations for Child Sex Abuse So that More Organizations and Perpetrators Are Publicly Identified and Made to Pay for the Harm that They Have Caused
Child abuse and neglect have cost the United States billions – from physical and mental health care costs, to opportunity costs from underperformance and the inability of victims to fulfill their full potential. It is inevitable that some of these costs will have to be absorbed by public social services, but that does not mean that organizations should not be held liable for their part.
When organizations foster child abuse and neglect, they should be made to pay for the harm that they have imposed on the victims and the costs they have imposed on all taxpayers. The most efficient means of pursuing this goal is to create greater opportunities for victims to go to court.
Right now, the vast majority of states have statutes of limitations on child abuse that are so short that victims are not able to come forward before the courthouse doors have been locked shut. As I argue at more length in my book Justice Denied; What America Must Do to Protect Its Children, the federal government should create incentives for the states to eliminate the statutes of limitations to create such opportunities. Only then will more of the organizations and perpetrators responsible for the abuse be publicly named and only then will they be forced to pay for the harm they have caused, both through penal fines and through civil lawsuits.
III. Revoke Nonprofit Tax-Exempt Status for Organizations that Foster or Further Child Abuse or Neglect and Prohibit Federal Agencies from Doing Business with Organizations Furthering or Fostering Child Abuse or Neglect
The tax law governing tax-exempt status needs to be clarified to plainly deter child abuse and neglect. The following is suggested legislative language regarding the tax-exempt status of nonprofits that foster or further child abuse or neglect:
Revocation of tax-exempt status for organizations furthering child abuse or neglect. Tax-exempt status for a charitable organization under the Internal Revenue Code shall be revoked by the Internal Revenue Service from any organization if it is found by a court of law in a civil or criminal case that the organization:
(a) Fostered the abuse of children,
(b) Took steps to conceal the abuse of children,
(c) Failed to report knowledge of child abuse or neglect to the relevant law enforcement authorities.
Finally, federal agencies should not be permitted to do business with any organization that furthers or fosters child sex abuse or neglect.

Marci Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge 2008). A review of Justice Denied appeared on this site on June 25, 2008. Her previous book is God vs. the Gavel: Religion and the Rule of Law (Cambridge University Press 2005), now available in paperback.

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26 Jul 2008

Sect kids not being educated, Arizona's AG tells Congress

Arizona Daily Star - July 25, 2008

by Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services

Hundreds of children in the polygamous community of Colorado City are not getting an education, Attorney General Terry Goddard said Thursday.

But the Mohave County school chief said that figure is likely exaggerated.

Goddard, testifying before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, said close to 1,000 youngsters were pulled out of Colorado City public schools in 2000 on the orders of Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints.

But Goddard said the church-run schools have been closed since Jeffs' arrest two years ago.

Goddard acknowledged that Arizona law permits parents to educate children at home.

He said, though, the law requires the parents to file affidavits with the county school superintendent of the intent to home school. Goddard said only 12 such affidavits have been recorded.

"Children are consistently observed in the late morning playing on the streets throughout Colorado City and (the Utah community of) Hilldale," he testified. "We also have received information that boys as young as 12 years of age are sent out to work on construction sites."

Mohave County School Superintendent Mike File acknowledged enrollment in the school district went from close to 1,100 to about 150 after Jeffs' decree.

But File said about 300 of those children have since re- enrolled in the schools. And he questioned Goddard's estimate of those who are truant.

"My personal opinion, having been up there in late March, I don't think there's that many children left in the community," File said. He said many families have moved elsewhere, possibly to other FLDS communities, like El Dorado, Texas.

File conceded that doesn't mean every child who is supposed to be in public school — everyone between ages 6 and 16 — is there or being legally home schooled.

"You can't walk up and go door-to-door and say, 'You need to sign this affidavit,' " he said. "As we see, they don't follow the prototypical laws that everyone else does anyway."

Goddard's comments came as he told members of Congress Arizona and other states need more help from the federal government in investigating and prosecuting crimes committed by leaders and members of the church.

He said much of what and has been taking place in Colorado City is beyond his jurisdiction.

And Goddard said though federal prosecutors have talked a lot about cases they're pursuing there has yet to be a single charge filed.

"We think that there may be evidence that there's tax evasion going on," he said.

And Goddard said federal laws regulating child labor are being broken and that federal civil rights of teen boys are being violated by the city marshals who are forcing them out of town so the older men don't have to compete for brides.

"It seems like the federal government has got to step up to a further degree," he said.

But Goddard said nothing he is doing, or wants the federal government to do, should be interpreted as infringing on the religious liberties of church members.

He said that's why his office and that of Mark Shurtleff, his Utah counterpart, have focused their efforts on specific crimes, like child abuse.

"That gives us the benefit of a specific targeted prosecution for a demonstrable crime and I think is total protection against the allegation, although they still make it, that what we're doing is stigmatizing a religious belief, not a practice," he said.

"In both Utah and Arizona, we've made it very clear that it's the practice we're looking at and it's children we're trying to protect and their mothers right behind them in terms of the victim class," Goddard continued. "We have more than enough to do in following up on those complaints."

Goddard specifically said he doesn't want a repeat of what happened in 1953 when then-Gov. Howard Pyle ordered the Department of Public Safety to raid the polygamous community, then known as Short Creek, to round up and arrest people for violating state bigamy laws.

He said most Arizonans perceived that to be an attack on the "lifestyle" of individuals.

Aside from leading to Pyle's defeat at the next election, Goddard said the raid made FLDS members more suspicious of the government which, in turn, enabled church leaders to exercise "ever-increasing autocratic control over their followers."

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Polygamist custody battle now 234 separate cases

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2008
Associated Press

SAN ANGELO — The judge who had her custody decision reversed on more than 400 polygamist sect children has ordered the cases divided by mother, meaning there are now 234 separate child welfare cases from the Yearning For Zion Ranch.

Texas District Judge Barbara Walther on Thursday signed orders splitting the children who were previously lumped into two large court cases, creating 119 new cases. Court-ordered DNA testing was used to determine the divisions.

The new cases are in addition to 115 individual cases authorities began filing soon after an April raid prompted by claims that children were being abused. The state seized all children at the ranch, and officials eventually were overwhelmed by the number of cases and began lumping many of them together.

Currently, 440 children are being monitored by child welfare officials.

While the split creates more cases, it reduces the paperwork that must be sent to lawyers and parents involved by narrowing cases to specific families, said Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

The Texas Supreme Court in May struck down Walther's order that the children taken from the YFZ Ranch be placed in foster care, saying authorities had shown no more than a handful of teenage girls were abused or at risk.

A child welfare investigation continues even though the children were returned to their parents last month.

Lawyers for children and parents from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints complained from the beginning that they were unfairly treated as one large group, rather than individual households. Thursday's order legally separates them from one another.

Separately, five men, including jailed FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, were indicted for sexual abuse of a child on Tuesday in Eldorado. A sixth sect member was indicted for failure to report child abuse.

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Kenja Communications cult abuse case: 'staff asked to lie'

Sydney Morning Herald - July 26, 2008

by Alex Tibbitts

A FORMER executive of Kenja Communications - the personal development group founded by Ken Dyers, who committed suicide last year while facing 22 charges of sexual assault against two girls - has claimed she was asked to lie when other abuse allegations were made against Dyers in the 1990s.
"I can't say I ever saw him do anything," a former director of a Kenja centre told the Herald after the screening of a documentary about Dyers at the Dendy Cinema in Newtown on Thursday night.
"I didn't have any intimate knowledge of what was happening in the rooms but what they wanted us to do was to all say that the processing doors were open because that was their argument - that Ken wasn't in the rooms on his own with the children - but he was."
Dyers's widow and Kenja co-founder, Jan Hamilton, said Dyers was cleared of those charges in court and last night she presented a "public lecture" entitled "Guilty until Proven Innocent: Jan Dyers and friends expose the facts about the attack on Ken Dyers, Kenja and your personal freedom".
The $65 "lecture" is actually a play reading, which would make little sense if you were not well versed on the allegations against Dyers.
Ms Hamilton also said the film Beyond Our Ken was "a tabloid beat-up with serious omissions and that she and Dyers were not given the right of reply.
But the film culminates in a scene in which Dyers responds to a question by poring over a young girl's body, explaining he needs to clear her of negative sexual energy. He then launches into a seven-minute tirade in which he accuses his persecutors of tactics used by Hitler, Mussolini, the Spanish Inquisition and the Salem witch hunt.
"I think it's a very balanced film," film-maker Luke Walker said. "I made sure Kenja always had their right of reply often to the detriment of the narrative."
The film-makers interviewed Hamilton, psychologists and cult-busting Uniting Church minster David Millikan as well as happy and disgruntled Kenja participants including Cornelia Rau, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia after attending Kenja sessions and ended up in an immigration detention centre.
They also interviewed relatives of another four Kenja attendees who either committed suicide or went missing, presumed dead.
The film-makers set out to demonstrate how one ends up trapped in such an organisation, which has been labelled a cult.
Kenja's basic tenant is that a human is a spirit whose potential is blocked by "negative spirits" that have "attached" themselves to the person's spirit in this and past lives.

In the film Dyers demonstrates how he rids participants of these spirits through "energy conversion" - a process in which he or a Kenja "processor" stairs at the subject for an inordinate amount of time.
The film says Kenja creates a non-threatening environment to teach their philosophy then isolates the participant from the outside world by filling their lives with expensive Kenja activities, leaving them with little time for sleep or engaging with the world outside Kenja.
Kenja runs many activities so participants can reach their potential but if the standard of singing and dancing shown in the film is any indication they have a long way to go or Dyers' philosophy was seriously flawed.
Mr Walker spent six months attending the Melbourne centre before Melissa Maclean came in with the cameras.
"I just hung out with them for six months and couldn't see the problem. They believed in peculiar things but many people believe in peculiar things. What's the problem with that? If anything I found it tedious and exhausting feigning enthusiasm for all that time."
But former participants say Kenja makes it difficult for you to leave the organisation, by suggesting people outside the organisation will not understand you, that you can't survive in the outside world without Kenja's support and if you do leave you will lose any contact with your only social network - Kenja participants.
"The problem with Kenja is they practise a form of unregulated psychotherapy; that's what energy conversion is," Mr Walker said. "The majority find it harmless but when someone has a latent medical illness such as Richard Leape [who went missing 14 years ago] and Cornelia Rau, it exacerbates their condition. When they start jabbering like idiots, they panic and throw them out. They don't want anything to show that Kenja doesn't work."
The film alleges Kenja sessions involved nudity and sex.
Dyers was charged in 1995 with 11 counts of sexual assault against four girls from two former Kenja families. He was acquitted of all charges.
In 2005 he was charged with another 22 counts of sexual assault against two girls who were 12 at the time.
Dyers twice asked to be declared medically unfit so he would not have to stand trial and was given a year's stay of proceedings.
The day Dyers committed suicide police telephoned him about more allegations of sexual assault.
The day after the complainant's father, a long-time Kenja participant, said he raised the issue with Kenja executives, one of them, Windy Tinkler, accused him of assaulting her and took out an interim apprehended violence order against him.
The father was charged with assault but this month was found not guilty and the AVO was revoked.
The film catches him before his daughter made the allegations, saying Kenja training "made me more effective in what I do in my business life and my personal life".
After the film screened on Thursday night he said he was left with a feeling of "betrayal" by Kenja.
Beyond Our Ken will screen in Brisbane on Tuesday and Canberra on Wednesday. It will also be screened in Melbourne on September 10 to coincide with its release on DVD.
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Hillsong hits schools with beauty gospel

Sydney Morning Herald - July 26, 2008

by Paul Bibby

EVERY Tuesday afternoon during the first term at Matraville Sports High School, a group of young women take part in classes intended to boost their self-esteem. Some have personal problems, others have behavioural issues, while a few simply go because their friends do.
For the next two hours they learn a range of skills including how to put on make-up, do their hair and nails, and walk with books balanced on their heads.
The program, called Shine, was created by the Hillsong Church. It is being run in at least 20 NSW public schools, numerous small community organisations and within the juvenile justice system.
Hillsong describes Shine as a "practical, life-equipping, values-based course" and its website is awash with glowing testimonials from young women whose lives have been improved by learning about "being a good friend" and "learning about myself".
But serious concerns have been raised by teachers, adolescent developmental experts and parents groups. They say the program is inappropriate for troubled young women, that the under-qualified facilitators are reinforcing gender stereotypes. and that some parents have not been properly informed.
Shine was originally developed by the CityCare arm of Hillsong as an explicitly religious program. The church says it is now "community-based, not religious-based" but, as recently as 2005, promotional material referred to young women's "created uniqueness".
"Through skin care, natural make-up, hair care, nail care girls discover their value and created uniqueness," the material says.
The term has been omitted from more recent material but the beauty classes remain, as do etiquette and deportment lessons.
The program has set alarm bells ringing for psychologists such as Dianna Kenny, an adolescent development expert at the University of Sydney. "They are essentially saying you are not appropriate as you are and we're going to show you how to be appropriate," Professor Kenny said.
"We don't have control of our physical characteristics. To emphasise that takes away from the autonomy of people as individual human beings. That runs completely contrary to what we know about adolescent development.
"We do want our young people to feel good about themselves, but what [they] need is help from professional counsellors."
Most of the facilitators who deliver Shine in Sydney classrooms have no university counselling qualifications, although Hillsong says they must have some qualifications or experience.

In some schools, Matraville Sports High included, the program is run by careers or physical education teachers. At other schools, including Alexandria Park, Glenwood and Cheltenham Girls, it is run by young recruits from Hillsong's leadership college.
Schools pay Hillsong to run the program, with parents asked to pay for books and materials such as hair spray and make-up.
"Over the last two or three years teachers have been coming to us with concerns about Shine," said the president of the Hills Teachers Association, Sui-Linn White. "It is the gender stereotypes that they are imposing. The focus on skin care, nail care, hair care - it objectifies women … These are things women fought against for centuries - they've got no place in a public school."
One teacher from a Hills district school, who asked not to be named, said Shine facilitators had run activities that undermined other teachers. "They were asking the kids to talk about which of the teachers they didn't like."
He said parents may not have been properly informed. "I don't know whether the parents, knowing what we know now, would have put their kids in. I don't know whether the school would have hired them in the first place."
Parents groups from Queensland and the Northern Territory have complained that their schools have tried to sneak Shine in almost unnoticed.
"In our view, this is a way of getting religion into schools through subterranean means," said one parent, Hugh Wilson. "The principal or the chaplain decides it's a good idea and, next thing you know, your kids are being taught about make-up by the Hillsong Church."
The church says parents have been overwhelmingly supportive of the program.
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25 Jul 2008

TV rabbit preaching hatred and telling young Muslims to 'kill and eat Jews'

Daily Mail - UK July 23, 2008

by Daily Mail Reporter

An Islamic TV station using a Bugs Bunny lookalike to preach hatred to children has been slammed by religious leaders in the UK who fear it could brainwash vulnerable British children.

Assud the rabbit, who vows to 'kill and eat Jews' and glorifies the maiming of 'infidels' appears on Palestinian children's show, Tomorrow's Pioneers.

The rabbit is a number of characters who is punished by viewer's vote when he breaches Sharia law.

In one episode, Assud admits stealing money and is seen begging for mercy after young viewers and parents phone in demanding his hands are cut off as punishment.

Assud the rabbit is threatened with punishment for stealing on Palestinian children's show Tomorrow's Pioneers

At that point the 11-year-old presenter intervenes - and rules that the bunny should only have his ears severed because he has repented.

The rabbit is played by an actor in fancy dress and is one of the main characters on the show broadcast in Gaza by the al-Aqsa channel - known as Hamas TV.

Religious leaders across the UK have today spoken out against the controversial show which can be viewed via satellite.

The programme is also easily viewed on internet sites such as YouTube, sparking fears that British children could be subjected to the radical Islamic message.

The Association of Muslim Schools, which represents the UK's 143 Muslim schools, said it was opposed to any shows that incite violence.

Spokesman Dr Mohamed Mukadam said: 'It goes without saying that any programme which promotes the killing or injuring of human beings is wrong.

Assud encourages children to 'eat and kill Jews' and preaches hatred

'Regardless of religion, shows that incite or inspire others to inflict violence of any kind should be condemned.

'Such shows are against the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, and we would urge people of all ages not to watch them.'

Set up as a regional station prior to the Palestinian elections in January 2006, al-Aqsa TV now airs on a satellite slot.

It broadcasts what many call a mixture of news of Islamic propaganda, but has picked up a substantial following across the Arabic-speaking world.

Tomorrow's Pioneers was first aired in April 2007, and features young host Saraa Barhoum and her co-host, a large costumed animal.

The show originally featured a Mickey Mouse-style character called Farfur who urged children to fight against the Jewish community and form a world Islamic state.

Farfur was later replaced by a bumble bee called Nahoul, who told viewers to 'follow the path of Islam, of martyrdom and of the Mujahideen'.

He was 'martyred' earlier this year and replaced by Assud, who tells children in his first episode: 'I, Assud, will get rid of the jews, Allah willing, and I will eat them up.'

UK religious leaders fear young British children could be subjected to the rabbit's hate teachings

In a discussion with 11-year-old host Saraa Barhoum, the young viewers are referred to as 'soldiers'.

Assud asks Saraa: 'We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not?'.

To which she replies: 'Yes, we are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland.'

The phone-in show accepts calls from children as young as nine on topics about life in Palestine.

During one show broadcast in February, Assud vows to kill and eat all Danish people over the cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad which appeared in a newspaper.

He also pledges to assassinate the illustrator and Saraa also agrees that she would martyr herself for the cause of Palestine.

Saraa, who has seven brothers and sisters, was invited to host the show after entering a singing competition.

But speaking last year, she defended the programme - and insisted it was not responsible for spreading extremism.

She said: 'We are not terrorists. We do not support terrorism. We are normal people, but we are defending our homeland.

'The Israelis hit next door to my house with a shell. I was wounded on my feet and my little brother Youssef was wounded in the legs.

'We, as Muslims, are against suicide bombers. We are against the death of civilians on all sides. We are only the enemy of those who took our land and kill us every day.'

The show is regularly translated and posted online by The Middle East Media Research Institute, an independent media monitoring group based in the United States.

Al-Aqsa was today was unavailable for comment.

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Senate hearing: "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response."

Las Vegas Review-Journal July 24, 2008

Senator Reid presents bill aimed at polygamy

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Harry Reid on Wednesday introduced a bill in Congress to crack down on polygamous groups, charging that crime is organized and "rampant" within the communities.

Reid's first stop today to promote the bill will be at a hearing that he largely organized with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The measure calls for formation of a federal task force to combat "the unique set of crimes committed by polygamist organizations."

It also would make available $2 million in federal grants for local authorities to investigate and prosecute crimes linked to polygamy. Another $12 million over five years would be offered to organizations that provide protection and services to family members seeking to escape plural marriages.

Former members of polygamous groups have charged domestic and sexual abuse is common through forced marriages and unions involving underage girls, along with other crimes such as welfare fraud, tax evasion, extortion and kidnapping.

Reid, the Senate majority leader from Nevada, has equated activities of polygamist groups with organized crime and has been pressing for federal racketeering investigations of their activities.

The Senate hearing is expected to focus on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect whose adherents believe plural marriage is ordained by God. The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy in 1904.

FLDS membership is based in communities on the border of Utah and Arizona, while members also live in Nevada and other Western states. Its membership is estimated to be between 6,000 and 10,000.

State and local authorities have pursued criminal allegations against FLDS leaders and members, while Reid has argued a stronger federal hand is necessary.

FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was convicted in Utah last year of two counts of being an accomplice to rape, for his role in arranging a 2002 marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old first cousin.

Jeffs faces similar charges in Arizona and this week was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on sexual assault charges.

"We are taking aim at the blatant and systemic crime that is rampant within these polygamist groups," Reid said in a statement accompanying his bill.

Reid, one of 16 Mormons serving in Congress, did not consult with the church in forming his bill, according to his spokesman Jon Summers.

The Mormon church has not taken a position on the bill, spokeswoman Kim Farah said. In an e-mail, she said "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has repeatedly expressed concern about the illegal practice of polygamy and persistent reports of the possible emotional and physical abuse of women and children."

Today's hearing is entitled "Crimes Associated with Polygamy: The Need for a Coordinated State and Federal Response."

Chief federal prosecutors from Nevada and Utah are scheduled to testify along with attorneys general from Arizona and Texas. Also listed to testify are former FLDS member Carolyn Jessup, and Stephen Singular, who has written about the FLDS and Jeffs.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that FLDS spokesman Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney, sent the Senate Judiciary Committee a letter protesting that no members of the group were invited to testify.

"History is replete with examples of misinformation becoming the foundation of persecution and hysteria, leading in turn to real harm to real people," Parker wrote, according to the newspaper.

Parker could not be reached by telephone message or e-mail on Wednesday.

Asked why there were no FLDS witnesses invited, Summers said the committee did not need to hear from them.

"This is not a trial," Summers said. "This is a hearing about ways to increase enforcement against crimes committed by these groups. Are they going to come in and say this is the best way to bust us?"

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Polygamous Sect to Defend 6 Members in Court and Its Practices on Capitol Hill

New York Times - July 24, 2008

by Gretel C. Kovach

DALLAS — Texas Rangers and prosecutors prepared Wednesday to arrest five members of a polygamous sect indicted the day before with their imprisoned leader on charges relating to under-age marriages and bigamy.

Warren Jeffs

Also Wednesday, supporters and critics of the sect converged on Washington for a Senate committee hearing on “crimes associated with polygamy.”

The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, had announced the indictments by a Schleicher County grand jury late Tuesday, which accused the sect leader, Warren Jeffs, and four other members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of sexual assault. One of those men was also accused of bigamy. A sixth man was charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse.

The indictment against Mr. Jeffs, the only one yet made public, charges him with first-degree felony sexual assault involving a child.

The other men will not be identified or the indictments unsealed until they have been taken into custody, the authorities said.

The grand jury investigation stemmed from a weeklong raid on the church’s Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado in April that led to 440 children being temporarily taken into state custody. The children were returned after two state courts ruled there was insufficient evidence of abuse or neglect, but court-ordered parenting classes are scheduled to begin this week as the criminal investigation continues.

Willie Jessop, a sect spokesman, said Wednesday, “We feel like it is a desperate attempt for Texas to save face on their barbaric actions on their first raid,” but Mr. Jessop added that the indicted men would turn themselves in to fight the charges in court once the arrest warrants were served.

Dirk Fillpot, a spokesman for the attorney general, said his office was “coordinating with multiple law enforcement agencies to ensure all suspects are taken into custody quickly and in a manner that does not harm an ongoing criminal investigation.”

Natalie Malonis, the court-appointed lawyer for one of Mr. Jeffs’s daughters, said, “It’s a tragedy all the way around, a sad, sad situation for a lot of people.”

“The indictments indicate there was something wrong going on and it was happening with children,” Ms. Malonis said, but added that in her view the legal system was not equipped to deal with such a closed society.

As the criminal case against the men unfolded in Texas, advocates and critics of the sect headed to Washington for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, introduced legislation Wednesday calling for a national task force on polygamy and a $4 million fund to bolster law enforcement and social service efforts to fight it and associated crimes.

Jon Summers, a spokesman for Mr. Reid, said the senator had long been concerned over “rampant” levels of crime in polygamous communities, including the abuse of women and children, financial crimes like welfare fraud and tax evasion, kidnapping and extortion.

“We see it in Arizona, in Utah; clearly we’ve seen it in Texas,” Mr. Summers said, “and Warren Jeffs was arrested in Nevada.”

Sect members plan to attend the hearing on Thursday to speak on their own behalf, and their lawyer, Rod Parker, sent committee members a letter saying the sect had been persecuted for maintaining its religious practices.

Shannon Price, a social worker with close relatives in the church, said that even if all of its leaders were imprisoned, the group would never abandon its practice of polygamy.

“It’s essential to their faith,” Ms. Price said. “You can’t enter the celestial kingdom unless you’ve been entered into a polygamous or plural marriage.”

Carolyn Jessop, a former member of the sect who fled with her children, said she would lobby at the Senate committee hearing for federal protection and support for women and children trapped in the polygamous lifestyle.

“When you’re born into this kind of society, it is next to impossible to leave,” Ms. Jessop said.

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Catching 5 from West Texas polygamist ranch may require wide net

Dallas Morning News - July 23, 2008

by Emily Ramshaw

AUSTIN – Authorities began their pursuit Wednesday of five members of a West Texas polygamist sect accused of committing crimes against children but acknowledged the men – some of whom are believed to be influential elders who married underage girls – could be difficult to find.

By Wednesday evening, no arrests had been made, and state and county law enforcement officials said they had no timetable for completing them. Officials close to the investigation said the names weren't being released because the suspects are considered a flight risk – and some of the men haven't been seen in Texas since this spring's raid on the compound.

"They could literally be anywhere," said Sam Brower, a Utah private investigator who has worked on polygamy cases. "They have unlimited resources and thousands of people willing to help them hide."

State law enforcement officials acknowledged that the search could lead them to the polygamist group's headquarters on the Utah-Arizona border, or even outside of the country. Polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs – the only one of the men identified by authorities when the indictments were released Tuesday – was on the run for more than a year before he was apprehended in 2006.

"What we're doing right now is networking," said Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran. "We've got the indictments, the warrants in hand. We've got the Texas Rangers and the attorney general's office. It's really hard to say" how long the arrests will take.

The day after a grand jury brought sexual assault indictments against Mr. Jeffs and five followers, the Eldorado sect's de facto leader said the men would turn themselves in – if only the state would identify them.

"If they tell us who they are looking for, they will step up to the allegations," Willie Jessop said. "What we're afraid is that they won't tell us the names, and then they'll try to justify their actions by staging some hocus-pocus raid."

In April, child welfare investigators obtained an order to seize 440 children and about two dozen women from the Yearning for Zion ranch over allegations that the sect permitted a culture of sexual abuse and "spiritual" marriages between young girls and older men. The judge's order was overturned by the Texas Supreme Court months later, and most children were returned to their parents.

On Tuesday, the attorney general's office presented evidence against several sect members to a Schleicher County grand jury for the second time in two months – and left 10 hours later with charges against six men.

Five men, including Mr. Jeffs, were charged with felony sexual assault of a child, and one of those men was also charged with felony bigamy. A sixth man was charged with a misdemeanor: failing to report child abuse.

Investigators had long struggled to link men to their wives and children – the result, they said, of sect members giving them various names and ages. But DNA evidence was available for Tuesday's grand jury.

Mr. Jeffs, who at one time was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, has already been convicted of similar charges in Utah. The 52-year-old is in jail in Arizona awaiting trial on separate charges.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said Tuesday that he plans to extradite Mr. Jeffs to Texas, but the sect prophet might not be moved until after he stands trial in Arizona, a law enforcement official said. Even if he is convicted in Texas, Mr. Jeffs would have to return to Utah to finish his sentence there.

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but his spokeswoman said any extradition negotiations would be left up to the state's governor. Officials from the offices of both the Arizona and Utah attorneys general declined to comment on whether they were helping Texas track down the men in question.

Mr. Jessop said he's confident in the "character of the people from the ranch," and that they would "certainly step up to the allegations." He said the idea that anyone has fled the state in fear of indictments is outrageous; those who have families here have stayed in Texas and are not "running from anything."

"I'll tell you right now, anyone under these indictments will step up and answer the charges, to show the judicial system that we're not guilty of what they've accused us of," Mr. Jessop said. "We believe it is a strategy of the Texas government to try to raid us, to terrorize our families in the hopes they'd drive us out of Texas."

The Schleicher County grand jury will hear more evidence on the polygamy case in late August and could indict other individuals.

Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for Texas Child Protective Services, said in light of Tuesday's charges, his agency is taking a closer look at the living situations of each child related to the indicted individuals.

"An indictment doesn't automatically trigger a removal," he said, "but we need to be comfortable that the children are protected."

What's next?

Today, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will take testimony on coordinating the state and federal response to polygamy. Among those set to testify are Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have complained that no church members have been invited to participate.

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23 Jul 2008

Pakistan court rules conversion of kidnapped Christian girls is legal

Ecumenical News International   July 15, 2008

by Anto Akkara

Bangalore, India (ENI). A Christian father in Pakistan is trying without success through the courts to gain custody of his two pre-teen daughters who were kidnapped and made to convert to Islam.

On 12 July, a judge in Pakistan's Punjab province ignored pleas that Saba Younis, aged 12, and her 10 year old sister, Anila Younis, who went missing on 26 June from the small town of Chowk Munda, had been kidnapped while on their way to their uncle's residence and ruled that their conversion to Islam was legal.

The kidnappers, who had married the girls, had also filed for custody of the girls at a local police station on 28 June, asserting that the sisters had converted to Islam and their father no longer had jurisdiction over them.

"We are shocked by this court order," Anita Maria, a lawyer and a spokesperson for a Pakistani Christian group told Ecumenical News International on 14 July. "Poor Christians in remote areas have to live with that." Maria said that in some cases young women who have been abducted are charged with adultery if they refuse to convert and marry their abductors.

The police had been unable to trace the girls, and members of the local Christian community were shocked when their abductors came forward to claim that the girls had converted to Islam and that they had married the girls.

The Muzaffargarh district court on 12 July said the disputed conversion of the girls was legal, and it was this ruling that left the local Christians stunned.

"We will move the [Lahore] high court to challenge this order," said Maria, who works as the programme coordinator for Pakistan's Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement.

The Pakistan Minorities Concern network said in a statement that Younis Masih, the father of the kidnapped girls, was threatened by the local police when he went to complain about the kidnapping of his daughters. The statement noted that the village has only a few Christian families living among 150 Muslim families, and said that police refused to support the Christian family. The network pointed out that in 2005, nearly 50 Hindu girls and 20 Christian girls were kidnapped and the majority had been forcibly converted to Islam.

"This is a travesty of justice. But unfortunately, this is the practice here," lamented Victor Azariah, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan, which groups four Protestant churches. Azariah said, "The courts never help us."

Christians account for only about two percent of Pakistan's 168 million people, more than 90 percent of whom are Muslim.

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U.S. polygamist sect leader charged with child sex assault

Canada.com AFP - July 22, 2008

ELDORADO, Texas - The jailed leader of a polygamist sect and five other men linked to a Texas compound raided earlier this year have been indicted on child sexual assault and other charges, officials said Tuesday.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he hopes to extradite sect leader Warren Jeffs, who was convicted last year of being an accomplice to rape and is currently in an Arizona jail.

Abbott did not release the names of the five other men charged but said there "will be an aggressive attempt to apprehend them."

"The indictments issues today are part of an ongoing and continuing criminal investigation," Abbott said, adding that few other details could be released.

More than 400 children were seized from the Yearning For Zion ranch in April amid allegations of widespread sexual and physical abuse.

Officials said girls were being "groomed" to accept sex with their middle-aged "spiritual husbands" as soon as they hit puberty and boys were being indoctrinated to perpetuate the cycle of abuse.

They were returned to their parents two months later after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that state child welfare officials had overstepped their authority when they took the 468 children and did not prove the children were in immediate danger.

Jeffs was indicted on charges of felony assault of a child. Four other men were charged with "sexually assaulting young girls under the age of 17," Abbot said, adding that one of those men was also charged with bigamy.

A sixth man was charged with three counts of failing to report child abuse.

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Polygamist sect leader Jeffs, 5 others indicted

The Associated Press - July 22, 2008

by Michelle Roberts

ELDORADO, Texas (AP) — A Texas grand jury Tuesday indicted polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs and four of his followers on charges of felony sexual assault of a child. Another was indicted for failing to report child abuse.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said the five men are charged with one count of sexually assaulting girls under the age of 17. One of them, but not Jeffs, faces an additional charge of bigamy.

Abbott said a sixth member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is charged with three counts of failure to report child abuse.

Jeffs, already convicted of being accomplice to rape in Utah and awaiting trial in Arizona on other charges related to underage marriages, is accused of assaulting a girl in Texas in January 2005, according to the indictment issued Tuesday.

"Our investigation in this matter is not concluded. This is an ongoing investigation that we intend to continue," said Abbott, whose office is acting as the special prosecutor in the case.

The grand jury in this tiny western Texas ranching community will continue consideration of other possible criminal charges on Aug. 21, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because proceedings of the panel are secret by law.

The identities of the Jeffs' followers who were indicted in addition to him were not released Tuesday because the indictments remain sealed until authorities can arrest the men.

"There will be an aggressive effort to apprehend them," Abbott said when asked whether he was concerned the men may have fled Texas.

FLDS members have historically lived around the Arizona-Utah line and bought the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado about five years ago.

Calls to spokesmen for the church were not immediately returned Tuesday.

The indictments follow a child custody case in which more than 400 children were placed in foster care. The Texas Supreme Court ruled child welfare authorities overstepped in taking all the children from their parents even though many were infants and toddlers and the state failed to show any more than handful of teenage girls were abused or at risk.

The criminal charges came during the panel's second meeting on the case; it met in June without taking any action.

Abbott spent Tuesday in the small community building where the grand jury was meeting near the courthouse. Women and girls in prairie dresses, including a 16-year-old daughter of Jeffs, were escorted in and out, while lawyers and FLDS members crowded a bench in front of the courthouse.

Grand jury proceedings are supposed to be secret, but documents released as part of the separate child custody case involving the FLDS children have revealed some of the evidence collected by law enforcement during the weeklong raid that began April 3.

Among the hundreds of boxes of photos, documents and family Bibles, investigators found photos of Jeffs in intimate embraces and kissing several apparently underage girls.

A journal entry purportedly from Jeffs attached to a report by a child advocate indicates he married his daughter to a 34-year-old man the day after she turned 15. The girl turns 17 on Saturday and has denied being married, though the child advocate report indicates intimate notes between the girl and man were also found in the raid.

In addition to discussions of the girl's marriage, the Jeffs journal entry also indicates he blessed marriages of two other underage sect member to himself and another member.

FLDS leaders have consistently denied there was any abuse at the ranch and vowed not to sanction underage marriages.

Under Texas law, a girl younger than 17 cannot generally consent to sex with an adult. Bigamy is also illegal in Texas, and although FLDS plural marriages were not licensed by the state, the law contains a provision outlawing the act of "purporting to marry" more than one person.

The FLDS, which believes polygamy brings glory in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, which officially renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

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22 Jul 2008

Hare Krishna temple leader quits over beating scandal

Times - UK July 19, 2008

by Filip Hnizdo

The president of a Hare Krishna temple in Letchmore Heath has been forced to resign after being found guilty of beating students in India.

Gauri Das, president of Bhaktivedanta Manor, in Hilfield Lane, inflicted "inappropriate and excessive corporal punishment", according to a report published this week.

The abuse occurred during his time teaching at the Vrndavana Gurukula school between 1991 and 2001.

The child protection branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), leading the investigation, refused to reveal the ages of the students involved or the extent of the abuse, but 17 students and three adults have given statements against the temple leader.

Following the findings, Gauri Das has been banned from serving in a position of leadership or teaching in temples for the next three years.

He has also been ordered to pay $3,000 to projects benefiting Hare Krishna children.

The first wave of allegations against Gauri Das was investigated in May 1995 by ISKCON.

At the time, it acknowledged the beatings but said they were not "serious".

After the founding of the organisation’s child protection branch, based in Florida, the investigation into Gauri Das was reopened in 2006, resulting in Monday’s report.

Gauri Das made no comment on the findings but said: "I would like to be with my family and spend some time thinking about this."

ISKCON has said he must write a letter of apology to the abused students "clearly stating his actions and expressing remorse".

After all the requirements are met, he will be permitted to return to a position of leadership.

A Bhaktivedanta Manor representative said: "We regret that Gauri Das will not be able to continue as an officer of our temple, but we also recognise the important need of the child protection office to acknowledge problems in the care of children in the past, and to address those issues.

"We are pleased Gauri Das has indicated he would like to meet with the former students in the hope of further reconciliation."

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New book exposes Little Pebble cult leader

The Inverell Times - Australia
July 18, 2008

by Mairi Manley

EVERY now and then, a journalist wanders across a story that he or she must tell, regardless of the risks or irrevocable consequences of doing so.
These are the words of former Inverell school student and journalist, Graeme Webber in describing his decision to expose and understand the inner workings of Australia’s infamous cult leader William Kamm.
Known as The Little Pebble, Kamm is believed to have molested 17 or more under-aged girls “while reaping millions of dollars from his followers,” according to Webber.
Webber’s book, “A Wolf Among the Sheep” describes how this self-proclaimed “God’s prophet” became a womanising, millionaire cult leader.
Webber has pulled no punches in his account, endeavouring to “reach beyond mere description to explain the absurd.”
“I have been driven by fascination with the psyche of both Kamm and those who hailed him as God’s holy seer,” Webber told The Inverell Times.
Webber attended Inverell High School in 1992 and took up journalism at The Inverell Times soon after completing his HSC.
Heading to Sydney in 1996 to complete his Business Degree, he also worked for Cumberland Newspapers and for Australian Associated Press.
He covered the preliminary hearing in Kamm’s first trial as a freelance journalist.
This sparked his interest and fascination for the case.
“This is when I realised there might be a book in this,” he said.
According to Webber, Kamm has fathered more than 20 children and duped dozens of women and girls into sexual relations by convincing them to join his so-called Royal House as “queens and princesses” to “re-populate the Earth after God’s judgement day.”
“I believe my three years of research has pierced the barrier of silence and secrecy surrounding Kamm’s financial dealings, as well as his sexual relations with Royal House members,” Webber said.
In July, 2005, Kamm was jailed for five years.
His second trial in May, 2007 saw him convicted again, with a combined sentence for both trials of 10 years jail.
Webber claims William Kamm is “a pariah, not a prophet.”
“The personal devastation that he has inflicted over the past decades is almost beyond belief,” he said.
“A forbidden destiny fell upon me when I chose to peer behind the enigmatic façade Of William Kamm aka The Little Pebble.”
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Cult rapist loses appeal

Kings and Queens of Cults

Children of God

New York Times Sunday Magazine

This article will appear in the July 27, 2008 edition of the Sunday Magazine

by Sara Corbett

On a humid Wednesday in late June, as she waited to be summoned by a grand jury, 16-year-old Teresa Jeffs hitched up her navy blue prairie dress and hoisted herself into the crooked arms of a live oak tree that sits in front of the Schleicher County Courthouse in Eldorado, Tex. For a few minutes, she was not — as has been speculated about many of the young women of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or F.L.D.S. — a possible child bride, or a sexual-abuse victim, or a member of an out-of-touch, polygamous religious sect. She was just a kid in a tree, perched serenely above the heads of all the lawyers, reporters and sheriff’s deputies — a moon-faced girl with an auburn coxcomb of hair and a mischievous grin.

We understand so little about the view from that tree, about what the world known simply as “outside” looks like to someone like Teresa Jeffs, who was among more than 400 minors forcibly removed from the Yearning for Zion Ranch, which belongs to the F.L.D.S., in early April.

Even after the calls that triggered the military-style raid on the ranch were suspected to be a hoax, Texas child-welfare officials persisted in claiming that F.L.D.S. children were endangered by what they deemed to be a pattern of sexual and physical abuse at the ranch. Those claims have yet to be proved — the Texas Supreme Court ruled that officials had overstepped their authority, and in early June the children were ordered to be returned to their families — but child-welfare and state criminal investigations continue. Investigators have reportedly taken D.N.A. samples from some 600 F.L.D.S. members, including children, presumably in an attempt to establish a biological link between under-age mothers and older men (in Texas, the legal age for marriage is 16 with consent; 17 for unmarried sexual contact when there is an age difference of more than three years). In addition, a handful of the sect’s young women have been subpoenaed by a Texas grand jury.

Only a small number of families have returned to the ranch, according to Willie Jessop, a spokesman for the ranch, who says many of its former residents fear the possibility of more government interference and have opted to try to live quietly elsewhere, while continuing to adhere to F.L.D.S. principles.

Two weeks ago, the photographer Stephanie Sinclair was given rare and intimate access to some of the young women who have found themselves at the center of the often-bilious battle between the state of Texas and the F.L.D.S. What’s interesting is that in a case that is, at heart, about doctrinaire male authority, and supposed abuse committed by men, it’s the women of the F.L.D.S. who have largely had to assume a public mantle these past months, making court appearances, trying to defend both their faith and their life style in the face of deep skepticism.

Meanwhile, the most visible interpreters of F.L.D.S. culture have been two highly critical former members of the sect, Elissa Wall and Carolyn Jessop. (It would be an understatement to say that patriarchal plural marriages spawn vast and complicated family trees: Jessop and Jeffs are common F.L.D.S. surnames.) Both women claim to have escaped abusive, arranged marriages and have since written best-selling memoirs detailing a world in which women are forced into unconditional obedience and rapid-fire childbearing as a ticket to eternal salvation.

We may never know much about the individual circumstances of the young women in these pages or, most important, whether the relationships that carried some of them into motherhood were forced upon them. The women Sinclair met offered no information about the nature of their marriages or who the fathers of their children are.

For at least some F.L.D.S. mothers, these are uneasy times. It would stand to reason that simply by giving their ages and the ages of their children to a grand jury, coupled with court-ordered paternity tests, some of these mothers may — willingly or not — contribute to the indictments of their children’s fathers. (Because plural marriages are often considered “spiritual unions” and not legally recognized, the usual spousal protections do not apply.) Should they refuse to testify, the women risk being held in contempt of court.

Sinclair found Teresa Jeffs living with her mother and other members of her extended family in a sprawling, stately ranch house in the town of New Braunfels, 30 miles northeast of San Antonio. (Teresa’s sister Lenora was visiting that day.) Teresa is a daughter of Warren S. Jeffs, the now-notorious leader of the F.L.D.S., convicted last year on felony charges as an accomplice to rape for his role in coercing the marriage of Elissa Wall, who was then 14, to her 19-year-old cousin. Jeffs is now serving a 10-year-to-life sentence while awaiting trial on other sex charges in Arizona.

Despite a grand jury’s apparent interest in Teresa Jeffs, she has insisted that she is neither married nor has children, though in June her court-appointed lawyer obtained a special order barring any contact between Teresa and a 34-year-old F.L.D.S. man, Raymond Jessop. His relationship to Teresa was not specified at the time. (Teresa has engaged in a public dispute with her attorney, claiming that her interests were not being represented.)

In a rented four-bedroom home on a cul-de-sac in a San Antonio subdivision, Sinclair also visited the household of Sally Jeffs, the mother of 15 children, including LeAnn Jeffs, 17; Pamela Jessop, 18; and Janet Jeffs, 19, who, along with their own young children, were removed from the ranch in the raid. Pamela and Janet, as well as nearly two dozen other mothers, were originally misclassified as minors by the state (under age 18). Sinclair also spent time with 19-year-old Veda Keate in a town house in Converse, Tex. Keate was still fuming about a recent visit from a nurse and two deputies from the Texas attorney general’s office, who came to collect DNA from her and her 2-year-old daughter. With the future uncertain, the women featured here may be keeping their faith and continuing to live in large family groups, but they have, for better or worse, also had to start a new relationship with the “outside” — dealing with investigators and judges, making trips to Wal-Mart for groceries and at least contemplating the sight of their neighbors over the backyard fence.

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