30 Aug 2008

'Arming' for Armageddon: Militant Joel's Army Followers Seek Theocracy

Southern Poverty Law Center - Intelligence Report, Fall 2008

Joel's Army followers, many of them teenagers and young adults who believe they're members of the final generation to come of age before the end of the world, are breaking away in droves from mainline Pentecostal churches.

by Casey Sanchez

Todd Bentley

Canadian Todd Bentley, who preached for months on end this year in Florida, is a general in Joel's Army.

LAKELAND, Fla. — Todd Bentley has a long night ahead of him, resurrecting the dead, healing the blind, and exploding cancerous tumors. Since April 3, the 32-year-old, heavily tattooed, body-pierced, shaved-head Canadian preacher has been leading a continuous "supernatural healing revival" in central Florida. To contain the 10,000-plus crowds flocking from around the globe, Bentley has rented baseball stadiums, arenas and airport hangars at a cost of up to $15,000 a day. Many in attendance are church pastors themselves who believe Bentley to be a prophet and don't bat an eye when he tells them he's seen King David and spoken with the Apostle Paul in heaven. "He was looking very Jewish," Bentley notes.

Tattooed across his sternum are military dog tags that read "Joel's Army." They're evidence of Bentley's generalship in a rapidly growing apocalyptic movement that's gone largely unnoticed by watchdogs of the theocratic right. According to Bentley and a handful of other "hyper-charismatic" preachers advancing the same agenda, Joel's Army is prophesied to become an Armageddon-ready military force of young people with a divine mandate to physically impose Christian "dominion" on non-believers.
Todd Bentley healing

"An end-time army has one common purpose — to aggressively take ground for the kingdom of God under the authority of Jesus Christ, the Dread Champion," Bentley declares on the website for his ministry school in British Columbia, Canada. "The trumpet is sounding, calling on-fire, revolutionary believers to enlist in Joel's Army. … Many are now ready to be mobilized to establish and advance God's kingdom on earth."

Joel's Army followers, many of them teenagers and young adults who believe they're members of the final generation to come of age before the end of the world, are breaking away in droves from mainline Pentecostal churches. Numbering in the tens of thousands, they base their beliefs on an esoteric reading of the second chapter of the Old Testament Book of Joel, in which an avenging swarm of locusts attacks Israel. In their view, the locusts are a metaphor for Joel's Army.

Despite their overt militancy, there's no evidence Joel's Army followers have committed any acts of violence. But critics warn that actual bloodletting may only be a matter of time for a movement that casts itself as God's avenging army.

Those sounding the alarm about Joel's Army are not secular foes of the Christian Right, few of whom are even aware of the movement or how widespread it's become in the past decade. Instead, Joel's Army critics are mostly conservative Christians, either neo-Pentecostals who left the movement in disgust or evangelical Christians who fear that Joel's Army preachers are stealing their flocks, even sending spies to infiltrate their own congregations and sway their young people to heresy. And they say the movement is becoming frightening. "The pitch and intensity of the military rhetoric of this branch of the global Dominionist movement has substantially increased since the beginning of 2008," writes The Discernment Research Group, a Christian watchdog group that tracks what they call heresies or cults within Christianity. "One can only wonder how long before this transforms into real warfare with actual warriors."

'Snorting Religion'

Joel's Army believers are hard-core Christian dominionists, meaning they believe that America, along with the rest of the world, should be governed by conservative Christians and a conservative Christian interpretation of biblical law. There is no room in their doctrine for democracy or pluralism. Dominionism's original branch is Christian Reconstructionism, a grim, Calvinist call to theocracy that, as Reconstructionist writer Gary North describes, wants to "get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."

Notorious for endorsing the public execution by stoning of homosexuals and adulterers, the Christian Reconstructionist movement is far better known in secular America than Joel's Army. That's largely because Reconstructionists have made several serious forays into mainstream politics and received a fair amount of negative publicity as a result. Joel's Army followers eschew the political system, believing the path to world domination lies in taking over churches, not election to public office.

Another key difference between the two branches of dominionism, which maintain a testy, arms-length relationship with one another, is Christian Reconstructionism's buttoned-down image and heavy emphasis on Bible study, which contrasts sharply with Joel's Army anti-intellectual distrust of biblical scholars and its unruly style. "Some people snort cocaine, others snort religions," Joel's Army Pastor Roy said while ministering a morning program at Todd Bentley's Lakeland, Fla., revival in late May.

As this article went to press, Bentley's "Florida Outpouring" had been running for more than 100 days straight. Many attendees came in search of spontaneous physical healing and a desire to be part of a mystical community marked by dancing, shouting, gyrating, speaking in tongues and other forms of ecstatic release. Snide jabs at traditional church services are fairly common at Bentley's revivals. In fact, what takes place onstage at the Florida Outpouring looks more like a pro wrestling extravaganza than church.

On stage, Bentley and his team of pastors, yell, chant, and scream "Fire!" and "Bam!" while anointing followers.  "The Call," a 12-hour revival of up to 20,000 young people held in a different city each year, is led by Joel's Army pastor Lou Engle. The audience members behave as if they are at a psychedelic counterculture festival. One couple jumps up and down twirling red and silver metallic flags. Dyed-haired teenagers pulled in by the revival's presence on Facebook and MySpace wander around looking dazed. Women lay facedown on the floor, convulsing and howling. Fathers wail in tongues as their confused children look on. Strangers lay hands on those who fail to produce tongues or gyrate wildly enough, pressuring them to "let it out."

Bentley is considered a prophet both by his followers and by other leaders of the Joel's Army movement, whose adherents claim to be reviving a "five-fold ministry" of prophets, apostles, elders, pastors and teachers, as outlined in the Book of Ephesians. Not every five-fold ministry is connected to the Joel's Army movement, but the movement has spurred an interest in modern-day apostles and prophets that's troubling to the Assemblies of God, the world's largest Pentecostal church, which has officially disavowed the Joel's Army movement. In a 2001 position paper, Assemblies of God leaders wrote that they do not recognize modern-day apostles or prophets and worried that "such leaders prefer more authoritarian structures where their own word or decrees are unchallenged."

They are right to worry. Joel's Army followers believe that once democratic institutions are overthrown, their hierarchy of apostles and prophets will rule over the earth, with one church per city. Warrior Nation According to Joel's Army doctrine, the enforcers of the five-fold ministry will be members of the final generation, for whom the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade constituted a new Passover. "Everyone born after abortion's legalization can consider their birth a personal invitation to take part in this great army," writes John Crowder, another prominent Joel's Army pastor, who bills his 2006 book, The New Mystics: How to Become Part of the Supernatural Generation, as a literal how-to guide for joining Joel's Army.

Both Bentley and Crowder are enormously popular on Elijah's List, an online watering hole for a broad spectrum of Joel's Army enlistees, from lightweight believers who merely share an affection for military rhetoric and pastors who dress in army camouflage (several Joel's Army pastors are addressed by their congregants as "commandant" or "commander") to hardliners who believe the church is called to have an active military role in end-times that have already begun.

Elijah's List currently has more than 125,000 subscribers on its electronic mailing list. Rick Joyner, a pastor whose books, The Harvest and The Call, helped popularize Joel's Army theology by selling more than a million copies each, goes the furthest on Elijah's List in pushing the hardliner approach. In 2006, he posted a sermon called "The Warrior Nation — The New Sound of the Church," in which he claimed that a last-day army is now gathering and called believers "freedom fighters." "As the church begins to take on this resolve, they [Joel's Army churches] will start to be thought of more as military bases, and they will begin to take on the characteristics of military bases for training, equipping, and deploying effective spiritual forces," Joyner wrote. "In time, the church will actually be organized more as a military force with an army, navy, air force, etc." In a sort of disclaimer, Joyner writes at one point that God's army "will bring love, peace and stability wherever they go." But several of his books narrate with glee what he describes as "a coming civil war within the church."

In his 1997 book The Harvest he writes: "Some pastors and leaders who continue to resist this tide of unity will be removed from their place. Some will become so hardened they will become opposers and resist God to the end." Two years later, in his book The Final Quest, Joyner described a vision (taken as prophecy in the Joel's Army world, where Joyner is considered an "apostle") of the coming Christian Civil War in which demon-possessed Christian soldiers enslave other, weaker Christians who resist them. He also describes how the hero of the novel — himself — ascends a "Holy Mountain" in order to learn new truths and to acquire new, magic weapons.

Kids on Fire

Bentley, who claims to be a supernatural healer, is no less over the top, playing his biker-punk appearance and heavy metal theatrics to the hilt. On YouTube, where clips of his most dramatic healings have been condensed into a three-minute highlight reel, Bentley describes God ordering him to kick an elderly lady in the face: "I am thinking, 'God, why is the power of God not moving?' And He said, 'It is because you haven't kicked that women in the face.' And there was, like, this older lady worshipping right in front of the platform and the Holy Spirit spoke to me and the gift of faith came on me. He said, 'Kick her in the face … with your biker boot.' I inched closer and I went like this [makes kicking motion]: Bam! And just as my boot made contact with her nose, she fell under the power of God."

The atmosphere is less charged with violence at "The Call," a 12-hour revival of up to 20,000 youths led by Joel's Army pastor Lou Engle and held every summer in a major American city (this year's event was scheduled for Washington, D.C. in August). Attendees are called upon to fast and pray for 40 days and take up culture-war pledges to lead abstinent lives, reject pornography and fight abortion. They're further asked to perform "identificational repentance," lugging along family trees and genealogies to see where one of their ancestors may have enslaved or oppressed another so that they can make amends. (Many in the Joel's Army movement believe in generational curses that must be broken by the current generation). As even his critics note, Engle is a sweet, humble and gentle man whose persona is difficult to reconcile with his belief in an end-time army of invincible young Christian warriors. Yet while Engle is careful to avoid deploying explicit Joel's Army rhetoric at high-profile events like The Call, when he's speaking in smaller hyper-charismatic circles to avowed Joel's Army followers, he can venture into bloodlust.

This March, at a "Passion for Jesus" conference in Kansas City sponsored by the International House of Prayer, or IHOP, a ministry for teenagers from the heavy metal, punk and goth scenes, Engle called on his audience for vengeance. "I believe we're headed to an Elijah/Jezebel showdown on the Earth, not just in America but all over the globe, and the main warriors will be the prophets of Baal versus the prophets of God, and there will be no middle ground," said Engle. He was referring to the Baal of the Old Testament, a pagan idol whose followers were slaughtered under orders from the prophet Elijah. "There's an Elijah generation that's going to be the forerunners for the coming of Jesus, a generation marked not by their niceness but by the intensity of their passion," Engle continued. "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.

Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus is going to make war on everything that hinders love, with his eyes blazing fire." Although Joel's Army theology is mainly directed at people in their teens and early 20s via events like The Call and ministries like IHOP, sometimes the target audience is even younger. In some of the most arresting images in "Jesus Camp," a 2006 documentary about the Kids on Fire bible camp in North Dakota, grade school-aged kids dressed in army fatigues wield swords and conduct military field maneuvers. "A lot of people die for God and they're not afraid," one camper told ABC News reporters in a follow-up segment. "We're kinda being trained to be warriors," added another, "only in a funner way." Cain and the Intellectuals Both Christian and secular critics assailed the makers of "Jesus Camp" for referring to the camp's extremist, militant Christianity as "evangelical."

There is a name, however, that describes Kids on Fire's agenda, if you're familiar with their theology: Joel's Army. Pastor Becky Fischer, who runs the camp, said that a third of the kids at her camp were under 6 years old because they are "more in touch in the supernatural" and proclaimed them to be "soldiers for God's Army." Her camp's blend of end-times militancy and supernaturalism is perfectly emblematic of the Joel's Army movement, whose adherents believe their cause is prophesied in the Old Testament chapter titled "An Army of Locusts."

The stark, evocative passages of that chapter describe a locust swarm that lays waste to Israel (to this day, the region suffers periodic locust invasions): "Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come." As remarkable as the language is, most biblical scholars agree that it is a literal description of a locust invasion and resulting famine that occurred sometime between the 9th and 5th centuries B.C.E. In the Book of Joel, the locust invasion is described as an omen that an Assyrian army to the north may attack Israel if it fails to repent as a nation. But nowhere is the invasion described as an army of God. According to an Assemblies of God position paper: "It is a complete misinterpretation of Scripture to find in Joel's army of locusts a militant, victorious force attacking society and a non-cooperating Church to prepare the earth for Christ's millennial reign."

The story of how an ancient insect invasion came to be a rallying flag for 21st-century dominonists begins just after World War II in Canada. Out of a small town in Saskatchewan, a Pentecostal preacher named William Branham spearheaded a 1948 revival in which he claimed that his followers lived in a new biblical time of "Latter Rain." The most sinless and ardent of his flock would be called "Manifest Sons of God." By the next year, the movement was so strong — and seemed so subversive to some — that the Assemblies of God banned it as a heretic cult. But Branham remained a controversial figure with a loyal following; many of his followers believed him to be the end-times prophet Elijah. Michael Barkun, a leading scholar of radical religion, notes that in 1958, Branham began teaching "Serpent Seed" doctrine, the belief that Satan had sex with Eve, resulting in Cain and his descendants. "Through Cain came all the smart, educated people down to the antediluvian flood — the intellectuals, bible colleges," Branham wrote in the kind of anti-mainstream religion, anti-intellectual spirit that pervades the Joel's Army movement to this day. "They know all their creeds but know nothing about God."

The Gates of Hell

Branham was killed in a car accident in 1965, but his Manifest Sons of God movement, the direct predecessor of Joel's Army, lived on within a cluster of hyper-charismatic churches. In the 1980s, Branham's teachings took on new life at the Kansas City Fellowship (KCF), a group of popular self-styled apostles and prophets who used the Missouri church as a launching pad for national careers promoting outright Joel's Army theology. The Joel's Army movement began with the 1940s preaching of William Branham, whose group was banned as heretical by the Assemblies of God.

Ernie Gruen, a local pastor who initially promoted and gave citywide credibility to KCF pastors in the early 1980s, cut his connections in 1990. Concerned about KCF's plans to push its teachings worldwide, Gruen published a 132-page insider's account, based on taped sermons and conversations and interviews with parents who had enrolled their kids in KCF's Dominion school. According to Gruen's report, students at the school were taught that they were a "super-race" of the "elected seed" of all the best bloodlines of all generations — foreknown, predestined, and hand-selected from billions of others to be part of the "end-time Omega generation."  Though he'd once promoted these doctrines himself, Gruen became convinced that the movement was turning into an end-times cult, marked by what he summarized as "spiritual threats, fears, and warnings of death," "warning followers to beware of other Christians" and exhibiting "a 'super-race' mentality toward the training of their children."

When contacted by the Intelligence Report, Gruen's spokesman said that Gruen stands by everything he published in the report but no longer grants media interviews. The Kansas City Fellowship remains in operation and has served as a farm team for many of the all-stars of the Joel's Army movement. Those larger-than-life figures include John Wimber, the founder of a California megachurch, The Vineyard, who, before his death in 1997, proclaimed that Joel's Army would not only conquer the earth but defeat death itself. Lou Engle founded The Call based on the Joel's Army visions that KCF "prophet" Bob Jones (not to be confused with Bob Jones III of Bob Jones University) received while at KCF. Mike Bickle, another KCF member, stayed in Kansas City to form the International House of Prayer.

IHOP members and other Joel's Army adherents are well aware of how their movement is perceived by other conservative Christians. "Today, you can type 'Joel's Army' into a search engine and a thousand heresy hunter websites pop up, decrying the very mention of it," writes John Crowder in The New Mystics. Crowder doesn't exactly allay critic's fears. "This is truly warfare," he writes. "This battle is not a game. They [Joel's Army warriors] will not be on the defense; they will be on the offense — and the gates of hell will not be able to hold up against them."

So far, few members of the secular media have taken notice of Joel's Army, even as they report on Protestant dominionists like Pat Robertson or the more outrageous calls for the stoning of gays and lesbians emanating from Reconstructionist circles. There are exceptions, however. On the DailyKos, a well-read, politically liberal blog, a diarist has been blogging for two years about her experiences as a walkaway from a Joel's Army church. She writes under a pseudonym out of fear of physical reprisals. She may have real cause for concern. As Wimber, the late founder of The Vineyard, put it in one of his most famous and fiery sermons, one that is still frequently cited by Joel's Army followers: "Those in this army will have His kind of power. … Anyone who wants to harm them must die."  

This article was found at: http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=964


'Arming' for Armageddon: Militant Joel's Army Followers Seek Theocracy 

Controversial "faith healer" Todd Bentley a child sex offender Todd Bentley: "I was involved in a sexual assault ring"

Rapid growth of Bible-based education in Canada spurred by Christian nationalists eager to indoctrinate the "Joshua Generation" 

Canadian fundamentalist Christian universities promote religious extremism over knowledge

Memorial service held for toddler in 'cult' murder case

Baltimore Sun - August 30, 2008

|Sun reporter
Javon Thompson

A portrait of 15-month-old Javon Thompson sits at the alter during a memorial service at March Funeral Home in Baltimore. (Baltimore Sun photo by Glenn Fawcett / August 29, 2008)

There was no casket, no bouquets of flowers, no pews filled with people.

Instead, there was a small wooden toybox and pictures of a 15-month-old baby drinking his bottle and playing, and the dozen mourners who came to say good-bye to him.

"I fought hard to save this little boy's life ... but nobody would help me," said Seeta Khadan-Newton, Javon Thompson's grandmother. "So I was fighting a fight by myself which ended with me losing my grandson and my daughter where she is now."

Javon's mother, Ria Ramkissoon, 21, is among five people Baltimore homicide detectives have charged with first-degree murder in connection with the toddler's death. Javon died while in the care of a religious group, 1 Mind Ministries, that police say was a cult. Police say the group denied the toddler food and water because he would not say amen after meals. He died in a West Baltimore apartment in late 2006 or early 2007.

Yesterday at March Funeral Homes in Northwest Baltimore, Khadan-Newton wept as she spoke of the grandson who loved his rubber ducky and swing set and who brought her more joy than anything else. "I loved this baby more than anything in my life," she said. "For him to die the way he died is eating up my heart."

"I don't know why I feel so guilty," she added. "Just because I wasn't there the whole time, that I wasn't there to help him, to save him."

Khadan-Newton has said she called Baltimore's Division of Social Services at least four times between April and December of 2006 because she was concerned about the whereabouts of her grandson and the conditions he was living in. But DSS officials say they only received two calls and that the complaints about how Javon was treated weren't specific enough to investigate.

Police say members of the cult put the boy's remains in a suitcase and brought it with them to Philadelphia in February 2007. They left the suitcase with an elderly man they befriended, and then several members eventually moved to Brooklyn, N.Y., police say. Authorities found the suitcase and the boy's remains in April.

The Rev. Anna V. Nelson read a letter Ramkissoon wrote to her son that was printed on the back of the program for the memorial service. "I want to protect you from all harm, but I have to let you grow and learn on your own," she read. "Remember, no matter what, whether things are good or bad, I want you to know: You're my son, and I love you. Forever and ever."

Nelson offered the family words of consolation. "We would not like to think that it was the will of God what happened to this boy," she said. "I would like to think that this boy died for us. This baby has left a message here for the whole world.

"This baby died so that they could be exposed," she said, referring to 1 Mind Ministries.

At the end of the service, Javon Thompson appeared in a stream of video snippets. Javon in his swing. Javon with a toy turtle. Javon cooing as his mother played with him.

"Bye-bye Javon," says a female voice in the background, as Javon rubs his eyes. "Say bye-bye."

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29 Aug 2008

Former pastor confessed to ritualized sexual abuse of children

WAFB Channel 9 - Louisiana
August 26, 2008

Prosecutors play taped confessions in former pastor's trial

by Doug Mouton

AMITE, LA (WWL) - Jurors heard graphic and disturbing testimony Monday in the child sex trial involving the former pastor of a Ponchatoula church. Prosecutors played audio tapes of two confessions from former Hosanna Church Pastor Louis Lamonica.
Lamonica voluntarily walked into the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office and told deputies he molested several children over several years and he told of "dedications to Satan" inside the Ponchatoula church. Lamonica's confessions give detailed accounts of how he molested two boys, both family members. He tells how it began and how it continued over the course of years. He also told of having sexual relations with several other children inside the Hosanna Church.
Detective Bonita Sager of the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office took the first confession and was there a few hours later for the second. At the time of Lamonica's confessions, he was not under investigation by police. In his confession, Louis Lamonica says he voluntarily came to police for two reasons: "the guilt of all of this" and "because Robin is still doing stuff. She's still in that cult. I know she is and I believe she is molesting them." Robin is Lamonica's wife.
He says in 2000, the Hosanna Church switched from Christianity to Satanism, although he says, the general congregation didn't know it. He spoke of killing animals and drinking the blood during ceremonies and of sex with children, saying, "It was orgies. You put one (meaning a child) in the middle and it was your turn to be with this one. Everybody got a turn. It was like, nobody missed out, including the women."
Lamonica said that roughly eight adults took part. In opening statements, his attorney says Lamonica was manipulated and coerced into his confessions. However, in his second confession, Lamonica says, "Nobody brain washed nobody." Monday afternoon, prosecutors called a handwriting expert and introduced 260 pages of explicit sexual writings, basically Lamonica's handwritten confession. Jurors finished their day by reading those writings.

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Member of small Sikh sect claims he was repeatedly sexually abused for years by priests

Winnipeg Free Press - Canada
August 28, 2008

Winnipeg man who kidnapped alleged molesters with sword spared jail

by James Turner

WINNIPEG - A member of a small Sikh sect who claims he was repeatedly sexually abused for years by priests at a Winnipeg temple has been spared jail time after kidnapping two of his alleged abusers while armed with a sword.

The 26-year-old, who pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible confinement and a single count of assault causing bodily harm, was sentenced Tuesday to a suspended sentence and a year of supervised probation for his crimes.

The incident dates back to December 2006, when the man entered the Gurdawara Nanaksar Sikh temple in an effort to confront the priests there for allegedly sexually abusing him for as many as seven years up until he was 15.

He was armed with a ceremonial sword, which he maintains he was carrying out of religious tradition, and not as a threatening weapon.

The man then forced the priests into a vehicle and drove them to his parents' home, where he hoped to have them admit to the alleged sexual abuse while his mother and sister listened.

The judge heard that the man asked one of the priests, "Do you remember how many times you did that to me?" - a question met with a sarcastic reply.

The man then lunged toward the priest, who had his finger caught in a bracelet, causing him to break it.

Police were called and the incident ended without further violence.

In the days that followed, police brought forward multiple sex-abuse-related charges against three of the temple's priests after the man made a formal statement to police.

Those charges are still before the courts, and a preliminary hearing is set for November.

Crown attorney Melinda Murray indicated the allegations have shocked and divided the Sikh community.

"It's clear to me there's been a division within the Sikh temple and the community. . . . There are sides being taken, a big discussion and it's become quite difficult for both sides."

Gurdawara Nanaksar is one of only 17 temples of its kind worldwide, and is associated with a specific Sikh Sect, Nanaksar Satsang Sabha.

There are about 300 members in Winnipeg.

Defence lawyer Kathy Bueti said her client claims to have been sexually assaulted at least 100 times by the priests on an almost daily basis, and asked the court to take his emotional state into account when sentencing the man.

"He dealt with that and didn't tell a soul. This was the first day he was going to tell another human being on earth what had happened," she said.

Provincial court Judge Catherine Carlson said while she noted the remorse shown by the man and his compliance with court orders since he was charged, she couldn't send the public a message that vigilante justice is condonable.

"The courts simply cannot sanction individuals - even individuals who themselves may be victims of horrendous crimes - taking the law in any way into their own hands and confronting their alleged perpetrators," Carlson said.

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Hosanna Church rites described as cultlike

The Advocate - Louisiana
August 29, 2008

by Debra Lemoine

AMITE — The Hosanna Church child-rape trial defendant is the former leader of a Christian cult with congregants who veered from mainstream charismatic teachings by focusing on prophetically inspired public confessions and by vomiting in order to cast out demons of sin, three defense witnesses testified Thursday.
Their testimony in the trial of Louis D. Lamonica offered insight into the decline of Hosanna Church from the spiritual center built by Lamonica’s father into a cult that witnesses said had lost touch with reality.
Lamonica’s attorney, Michael Thiel, has maintained that his client falsely confessed to child rape because he was being controlled by a woman claiming to have prophetic visions. The state’s case, presented by Assistant District Attorney Don Wall, includes accusations that children were molested as part of satanic cult rituals.
Lamonica, 49, of Hammond, faces four counts of aggravated rape of his two sons when they were age 11 or younger. He is the second of seven church members indicted in 2005 for their roles in an alleged child-sex ring to be tried in the 21st Judicial District Court.
Two young woman, Karen Bushey and DesireƩ Louque, testified Thursday that their membership in the Hosanna youth group was solely about worshipping God. They testified they never saw any satanic symbols or rituals at the church.
Even though they had been named as participants by some of the suspects and Lamonica’s sons, both women said they never had sex with Lamonica or other church members.
Instead, they described what they referred to as a Christian cult.
Once Lois Mowbray became Hosanna’s associate pastor, sermons ended and Sunday worship services varied from praising God for many hours to altar calls where Mowbray claimed God had told her of a sin that a congregant had to confess publicly, Bushey and Louque said.
“People would go up, start kneeling at the front praying,” Bushey, 24, of Tickfaw, testified. “The worship team would crowd around them and pray over them. This would make them start to throw up.”
Mowbray, 56, formerly of Ponchatoula, had been arrested by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office in May 2005 and booked with being an accessory after the fact to rape and failure to report a felony. She was never charged with the crimes by the District Attorney’s Office or a parish grand jury.
Toward the end of the church’s existence, strangers seeking to drop in on services were turned away at the doors, the women said. In fact, they, too, had no contact with others outside the church.
Bushey moved out of her parents’ home and into the residence of the youth pastor after her parents had an argument with Lamonica and told her to leave the church or get out of their home.
Six months later, Bushey said, she contacted her sister in order to visit her on her birthday. Before she knew it, Bushey said, she was dropped off at a park where her mother picked her up.
No one at the church talked to her again, she testified.
Louque’s break with the church came after she told her boyfriend, Christopher Labat, that she was tired of Labat’s practice of confessing every aspect of their personal relationship to Mowbray.
Labat, 27, of Hammond, is the former Tangipahoa Parish sheriff’s deputy who faces child-rape charges in this case.
Six months later, Louque, 23, of Hammond, said she hung out with Labat for a couple of hours. The next day, Labat, after confessing his visit to Mowbray, arrived at her place of employment and pulled her aside, she testified.
Labat then cut off the head of a rubber snake and handed the head to her, Louque tearfully related.
“He told me it was me,” Louque said.
Harvest Family Church Senior Pastor Bray Sibley testified he was concerned when Lamonica decided to become pastor of his late father’s church after Hosanna Church began to decline under the senior Lamonica’s successors.
Sibley leads a nondenominational church along Interstate 12 in Hammond with more than 3,000 members.
However, Sibley once ran a ministry near Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond that was a “seed” planted from Hosanna’s congregation and later became the Harvest Family Church. Previously, Sibley had been a youth pastor at Hosanna under Lamonica’s father.
Lamonica had participated in a church praise band but had no pastoral experience, Sibley testified. But Lamonica had a “fever dream” in which his dead father asked him to finish his work, Sibley said.
“I know it was frustrating to him watching his father’s church disappear,” Sibley said. “I knew he felt an obligation with this dream he had.”
At some point, the founding families left and Hosanna no longer was part of the Assemblies of God affiliation, two moves that worried Sibley because it reduced the accountability of the church leadership, Sibley testified.
The lack of the authority of the others and the accountability created an environment where a person with spiritual gifts could misuse them to control others, Sibley said.
“You need a church with accountability,” Sibley said. “You can’t have people become hyper spiritualized because they lose touch with reality.”
The trial is scheduled to resume today in state District Judge Zoey Waguespack’s courtroom.
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Prosecutor: Alleged molester leads 'cult'

Honolulu Advertiser - August 28, 2008

by Jim Dooley |Advertiser staff writer

A deputy prosecutor said accused child molester Manuel "Memo" Taboada is the head of a religious "cult," and a police detective said Taboada is being investigated in Oregon for conspiracy to assist "numerous adult men committing sex assaults against children."

Those allegations were leveled in Circuit Court yesterday during a hearing on Taboada's request for release from jail pending trial on charges that he molested the daughter of a member of his ministry for nearly nine years, beginning when the victim was 11 years old. (An indictment, however, stated the offenses began when the victim was 12, and lasted eight years.)

Honolulu police detective Elizabeth Merrill said two Portland, Ore., detectives told her Taboada, 56, is under investigation for "facilitating" sex assaults of minors by "numerous alleged suspects" who belonged to a religious group Taboada headed there in the 1990s.

No charges have been filed in that case and Taboada has not been accused of active participation in a sex crime, Merrill acknowledged under questioning by defense lawyer Michael Green.

But the Portland detectives have received allegations that "Mr. Taboada was not only aware of (the assaults) but facilitated them," Merrill said.

Taboada, a naturalized citizen originally from Peru, came to Hawai'i with religious followers in 1999, establishing a ministry called "Back to the Cross" in Kane'ohe.

Taboada was "grooming (the alleged victim) for leadership of the ministry" and shared living quarters with her on the top floor of a house the group owned on Waikalua Drive in Kane'ohe, according to Merrill.

At one point, he told her about "surgical procedures so that she could be impregnated with his sperm so that she could bear his child," Merrill said.

The detective said Taboada admitted sexually assaulting the victim to several people here, including one of his sons, four "elders" of his ministry and later to his entire congregation.

Green asked the detective if Taboada admitted just to kissing and hugging the alleged victim.

"He admitted he had done more than hugging and kissing," Merrill said.

Deputy Prosecutor Thalia Murphy asked if Taboada's followers asked him "to step down as cult leader."

Merrill said they did and that Taboada agreed with the request but never did step down.

Murphy said Taboada later "quoted Scripture to justify his unspeakable acts."

And he asked one of his sons to convince the alleged victim to recant her charges against him, according to Merrill.

Taboada's sister also asked the complainant to take back what she had said about him, according to Merrill.

Murphy said the victim has moved to the Mainland. Green said many members of Taboada's church have left the Islands, including four of his sons.

Taboada has been in custody since July 21, unable to post $2 million bail.

Green asked Circuit Judge Richard Pollack to grant Taboada supervised release pending trial in the case. Murphy objected to the motion, calling Taboada a danger to the community and a flight risk.

Pollack scheduled an additional hearing on the motion for tomorrow.

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253 FLDS children now dropped from YFZ custody battle

Deseret News, August 28, 2008

By Ben Winslow

In what is now becoming a daily occurrence as the nation's biggest child-custody case moves forward, Texas child welfare authorities have filed to "nonsuit" more children taken in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch.

Texas Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins confirmed 56 more children from the Utah-based polygamous sect were nonsuited in a San Angelo court on Thursday.

"The total number of individuals nonsuited is 253 (including the 26 disputed minors)," Crimmins told the Deseret News.

The decision to nonsuit ends court jurisdiction over the children, but it does not necessarily end CPS oversight. The reasons to nonsuit have ranged from no evidence of abuse to their parents taking adequate steps to protect them. Children also have turned 18 and are aging out of the system.

"The nonsuits are part of the process as we continue to work through the cases. The investigation continues, and those findings we have yet to announce," Crimmins said. "The lawsuits are in a different category. We're nonsuiting those as we work through them."

Hundreds of people were taken into state protective custody when child welfare workers and law enforcement went to the FLDS Church's ranch near Eldorado, Texas, on April 3. Authorities were responding to a call from someone claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old trapped in an abusive marriage to an older man. The call is under investigation as a hoax.

On-site, authorities said they saw other signs of abuse that prompted a judge to order the removal of all of the children. They were placed in temporary shelters, then ordered to foster care. Two FLDS mothers gave birth, bringing the total to 465.

A pair of Texas courts ordered the children returned after ruling the state acted improperly and showed no evidence of imminent danger. The 26 "disputed minors" were people who CPS initially believed were children, but FLDS members insisted were adults.

Recently, a 14-year-old girl was returned to foster care after a judge ruled her mother, Barbara Jessop, could not adequately protect her from abuse. Authorities allege the girl was married at age 12 to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs in a ceremony presided over by her father, YFZ Ranch leader Merril Jessop.

"The foster parents I am with are nice & treat me well," the girl wrote in a letter to her mother recently posted on the FLDS Web site truthwillprevail.org. "Nothing is the same as home, but pretty soon I will be with you — which is the happiest place to be.

"May our Loving Heavenly Father hear our fervant prayers and comfort us. I know he is doing it and will allow us to be together once again."

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28 Aug 2008

Belleville Diocese to pay $5 million to a former Salem altar boy

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 28, 2008

Jury awards $5 million

by Nicholas J.C. Pister

BELLEVILLE — A St. Clair County jury on Wednesday evening ordered the Belleville Diocese to pay $5 million to a former Salem altar boy who claimed he was sexually abused by a priest decades ago.

The verdict is believed to be the largest jury award in a local priest-abuse case.

The jury found that the diocese conspired to hush sex abuse allegations and allowed the priest free rein in the diocese — even after, court records show, church officials knew he couldn't control his sexual urges toward young boys and girls.

According to unrefuted documents shown in court, the diocese moved the priest from parish to parish as claims of sexual misconduct came from nearly everywhere the priest went.

The Rev. Raymond Kownacki allegedly began sexually abusing the boy after being moved from another parish following allegations he raped a 16-year-old girl, who later became pregnant, and attempted to perform her abortion.

Sarah Wiesner, a juror from O'Fallon, Ill., said the actions of the diocese were "appalling" and added, "They kept placing Father Kownacki in the parishes."

The diocese earns about $3.5 million a year just on its investments, according to court documents. That prompted the former altar boy's attorneys to ask for $3.5 million in punitive damages — along with $2 million in compensatory damages.

The jury wound up awarding $2.6 million in punitive damages and $2.4 million in compensatory damages. The Belleville Diocese has insurance to cover such a judgment, but it was unclear what it might pay.

The verdict follows a long line of similar verdicts involving Catholic clergy around the country — but is the first such case in the Belleville Diocese. Often, such cases are settled quietly — out of court.

Some cases, like the one in Belleville, do come before a jury, however. In St. Louis, for example, a jury in 1999 awarded $1.2 million to an abuse victim from the St. Louis Archdiocese — but that verdict was later overturned by the Missouri Court of Appeals.

The Rev. Joseph Schwaegel, a former diocesan official in Belleville, testified at the trial that the allegations were hushed — and the victims were treated as "dirty laundry."

Complaints of sexual abuse against Kownacki dated to the late 1960s, court documents indicate, and came from Central America to nearly every corner of Southern Illinois. It took more than 20 years for Kownacki to be removed from active ministry, according to the internal memos shown to the jury.

Kownacki, 73, was removed from active ministry in 1995 but remains a priest and receives retirement benefits. He lives in a brick apartment building two blocks from Dupo High School and told a reporter on Wednesday that he had suffered a stroke recently, something corroborated by courtroom testimony.

A short man with thinning, dark hair, Kownacki handed the reporter a typed sheet through the door of his home that said: "I have had a stroke and I have trouble talking so that you can understand me. I also sometimes have trouble reading or writing."

Asked about the allegations made against him, he added, "I don't know what you're talking about."

He said he lives alone and complained again about his health. Pointing to his heart, he said: "It hurts. It hurts me."

Kownacki was removed by former Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory, who testified at trial that he had not seen several documents showing abuse allegations against Kownacki.

Wiesner, the one juror who spoke to reporters, said she believed Gregory's testimony.

A team of attorneys representing the diocese from the St. Louis law firm of Thompson Coburn left the courtroom after the verdict and declined to comment to reporters. They repeatedly argued that the statute of limitations had run out, and most of the officials involved in any conspiracy were dead.

Because the law firm wasn't talking, it wasn't clear whether the diocese would appeal.

Diocese officials could not be reached to comment.

Some jurors embraced the former altar boy as they left the courtroom. At least two of them shook his hand.

The former altar boy, now 47 and living in Champaign, Ill., fought back tears afterward and said he was glad the trial was over. "Today is a great day for victims," he said.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, attended the trial. He added, "I hope this man's heroism will inspire other victims to come forward."

The verdict also was a major victory for two Belleville lawyers, Steve Wigginton and Michael Weilmuenster. The two filed the suit six years ago.

"I asked jurors to punch the Belleville Diocese with a right hook," Wigginton said. "They delivered."

Rick Pierce of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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Halfway Home: FLDS Lost Boys Find Life Begins at The House Just Off Bluff

Salt Lake City Weekly - August 28, 2008

by John Pike

Anyone who’s spent much time here knows the simple two-story building with a white exterior and the gold-scripted “82” on the front door. Locals call it “the house just off Bluff.”

Located near the intersection of 700 South and Bluff Street, the house has a big picture window looking out on a busy street zoned for homes and businesses. There’s a small, concrete stoop in front and a driveway leading back to a detached wooden garage. A couple of bikes are parked there, but only one car. A full-size punching bag hangs from a corner of the garage. Two threadbare couches and a barbecue grill add a homey touch to the back yard.

This is a place for teenage boys—usually about a dozen at a time live at the house. Under city zoning rules, the house just off Bluff is defined as a homeless shelter. It’s a safe spot and if all goes well, a halfway point to somewhere better: School, work and eventually, healthy adult relationships. For the past eight years, beginning when the boys started fleeing from the FLDS border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., the news media has called them the “lost boys.” The boys themselves seem to understand the nickname is simply shorthand for a complex issue. But they dislike the name just the same.

They started showing up in St. George and other Washington County towns about the time their leader, Warren Jeffs, cracked down on the twin communities and severely limited sect members’ exposure to the outside world. In 2000, Jeffs, considered the living prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, ordered all children removed from public schools. He wanted them home-schooled. Over the next few years, a legal net began to tighten around Jeffs for his alleged part in arranging marriages of underage girls to much older men. Convicted last year on two counts of rape as an accomplice, Jeffs is serving 10 years to life in the Utah State Prison.

The popular media account of the lost boys goes like this: Jeffs and other older FLDS men turned them out of Hildale and Colorado City because they created competition for older men seeking much younger women. People who have worked with the boys say there is some truth in that. But, says Michelle Benward, a psychologist who spends many hours a week at the house off Bluff, there is much more to the boys’ backgrounds than the simple media spin.

“A lot of them are out [of the FLDS community] because they are simply going through normal teenage rebellion and the culture isn’t as accepting of it as the rest of society. Some leave on their own when they realize they can’t live the strict way their parents demand of them. There are different reasons for how they end up here.”

Whatever the reasons for their exodus, the boys are now an integral part of St. George culture, and they continue to move through the house. In the past year, Benward says, 114 boys have come through. They are moving into jobs—mostly in the construction industry—and attend public school. They are learning about the dating scene. One thing is for sure: The lost boys of the twin towns have found a world they could never have imagined had Warren Jeffs not fallen so far.

Finding school by accident
It’s just after noon on a midweek summer day, and there aren’t many people around the house. Most of the boys work construction. The house is also home to one dog, a stray Chihuahua named Pepe, which one of the residents brought to the house.

Dixie High School sits about 4,000 feet from the house. Two of the house’s current residents, Hyrum and Bruce (who fear repercussions from the FLDS community and asked their last names be withheld) say they happened upon the school one day when they were bored. Now enrolled at Dixie High School, they are trying to get the kind of education that was foreign in fundamentalist FLDS culture. They take biology and earth science, read the literary classics and hear wide-ranging lectures on history and civics. Hyrum is 17. He wants to graduate next spring with a high-school diploma.

Hyrum’s journey started in the area known, historically, as Short Creek—famous for a controversial raid in 1953, in which law enforcement agents rounded up and imprisoned the men and left women and children behind. “The Creek,” as the boys call it, later became the towns of Hildale and Colorado City. Hyrum fled to St. George about two years ago, then moved on to California, then to Salt Lake City and back again to St. George. Hyrum had been living out of a truck, Benward says, and found his way to the house through word-of-mouth among fellow lost boys.

“I call Hyrum a ‘connecter,’” says Benward, who works for a social service agency called New Frontiers for Families. “He brings people around, he makes friends easily. Most of the boys aren’t nearly as outgoing. Hyrum has made a lot of high school friends. They come over to hang out in the back yard, or shoot pool. Just do what kids like to do.”

Sitting inside the house one day shortly before the new school year starts, Hyrum announces he may be the first of his group at the house to graduate from high school—not simply get his GED, as many of the others have. “It’s either going to be me or my brother,” he says, adding, “My brother’s smarter than me. It kind of pisses me off.”

At first glance, nothing betrays Hyrum’s origins. He no longer wears the long-sleeved, button-down work shirt and closely cropped hair of FLDS men and boys. Hyrum wears a T-shirt and worn jeans, and his shaggy brown hair is parted on one side. His look would be forbidden in his hometown, yet his manners remain strictly the product of an authoritarian background. Hyrum is soft-spoken and responds with a “Yes, ma’am,” or “No, sir.” His friend Bruce wants to know what kind of language they can use during an interview with a reporter.

Hyrum says he had to learn how people lived outside what was once his home community. “When I got out, I really didn’t know anything. I didn’t have a lot of social skills, and I thought everyone was out to get me. But I’ve come a long way in two years. I started getting more social and going to parties, and I realized people weren’t so bad.”

Free lunch, school fees and college advice
Incarcerated FLDS leader Warren Jeffs has been blamed for turning his young followers out to fend for themselves, but some of them say they left on their own. Those who were forced to leave were accused by the sect of engaging in what are typical mainstream teenage behaviors—watching TV or movies, listening to CDs, talking to girls or breaking curfew. Estimates of their numbers have varied widely and due in part to FLDS secrecy, are tough to confirm. Most estimates, though, put the number of boys at about 400, and ranging in age from the mid-teens to mid-20s. A few girls have left, too.

In southern Utah, a bevy of legal advocates and social workers have intervened with the boys to help them earn their GEDs, find work and apply to Job Corps programs. Court-appointed guardians ad litem, who represent the minors in legal proceedings, often assist them in establishing emancipation from their parents.

What hasn’t been so well documented is that, despite the odds of essentially losing their families and having to adjust to a new culture, some of the teens are gaining a formal education. Hyrum takes life a day at a time. He clearly enjoys being in high school.

“I love [school], at least the social part. The work’s kinda hard, but I might as well do some while I’m there.” He adds that, for him, the transition hasn’t been all that bad, “My first day, I felt kind of sketchy, but I got to know people and after the first day, I even had a couple of friends.”

He tries to stay open to people’s questions about his life. “People at school know who I am,” Hyrum says. “I always answer their questions. During an interview with a television station, “I brought the camera crews to school with me and told people I was in the middle of a crack intervention. I really don’t care what people think about me. Well, some people I care about, but for the most part, no.”

Guidance counselors help him with the minutia of school life—applying for need-based free lunch, fees, explaining attendance policies and the like. He’s no longer shy about expressing his needs. “I just ask, or I ask Michelle and she calls them and asks for it.”

Application of the federal McKinley-Vento Homeless Assistance Act has helped ease the way for the boys in public school. The law requires a free public education for all children in the United States—whether they have a permanent address or not. Under McKinley-Vento, school districts accept homeless youth who lack the requisite paperwork of children from permanent homes. And the boys at the house off Bluff qualify as homeless, says Washington County School District assistant superintendent Marshall Topham. Bob Greene, child services coordinator for the district, says about 27 former FLDS youths are currently receiving an education from the district. Of those, 17 are working toward a GED and 10 are trying to complete high school.

To supplement what the boys get in school, the house is stocked with adventure novels, school books and three computers. “I used to read a lot more, but now I mostly just do it in school. We have classes where we read books and stuff,” Hyrum says.

His education has big blanks. “The last real grade I was in was seventh,” he says. “When I came [to Dixie High], they put me in 10th. Hyrum wants to go to college, even if he doesn’t know yet what he wants to study. Again, normal teen stuff. “I didn’t really decide I was going to [apply to college] until I came here.” The next thing that comes out of his mouth is something of a surprise, “I dunno. I’ll probably fail, but it’s worth a shot.”

His friend Bruce shores him up—if the classes Hyrum takes in college don’t work out, he can always change his major, he says. Hyrum pauses briefly and says, “Yeah, I dunno. I still think I’ll fail.”

Order in the house
Ex-FLDS member Dan Fischer began The Diversity Foundation, an agency to aid the boys after they began the exodus from their communities. Since then, financial aid has come from various sources. Deseret Industries and Washington County Protestant churches have donated clothing and furnishings. Wells Fargo Bank accepts donations to an account set up for the boys. In April 2007, a lawsuit filed against Jeffs three years earlier by five lost boys resulted in a settlement of $50,000 over five years to help the outcast teens complete their education. The money comes from the United Effort Plan Trust, the FLDS Church’s financial arm.

The house residents have plenty of people to look after them and keep them on task. Mary Anne Holstrum supervises the house from about 6 a.m. to noon; she says that one of her morning jobs is making sure that the boys who have construction jobs leave for work on time. She has left a copy of Escape, the recent best-selling memoir by ex-FLDS wife Carolyn Jessop, on the living room table. There is a long wait list for the book at the St. George Public Library, Holstrum says.

The house runs communally. A job board in the main-floor kitchen shows that Tuesday is “deep clean” day. Holstrum apologizes for the work not getting done the day before. But, there’s no dust or dirt on the hardwood floors, only a few dishes in the sink and the windows and mirrors are spotless.

Originally a home for senior citizens, the house has eight bedrooms, two baths, a kitchenette in the basement and a pool table. The boys have helped with the renovations.

At midday, a couple of boys saunter into the kitchen to make themselves lunch. The house grows more lively throughout the afternoon. Benward, who lives more than 100 miles north in Panguitch, is a sort of house mother/social worker. She spends two days a week at the house and often stays overnight. On this day, Benward arrives with Matt Bauer who lives at the house and supervises it full time. A couple of boys walk into the kitchen and wolf down some fast food at the kitchen table. Benward walks from room to room, texting messages on her phone, with Pepe the dog following at her heels. Hyrum offers to drive Holstrum home in Benward’s car. It seems all teenager boys like to take advantage of an opportunity to drive.

A little smart, a little rebellious
Benward feels deeply protective of the teens at the home. She spends much of her time enrolling those under 18 in public school and helping connect them up with Medicaid for medical and dental care. The kids are bright but often delayed socially, she says. They tend to have difficulty making decisions when they first arrive, probably due to the strong authoritarian nature of the FLDS culture, she says. “I really think the ones that were a little bit smart and a little bit rebellious were the ones who left. If you see them here, they were probably too smart for the community they came from.”

Free of their strict upbringing, the boys enjoy the same things as most kids their age do. They like earning and spending their own money—and money management is taught at the house. The boys have normal questions about the opposite sex, and Benward is not timid about answering them.

“I’m completely honest with them about sexually transmitted diseases and try to answer their questions about sex honestly,” she says. The conservative community of St. George might find that candor objectionable, but Benward says, “I personally don’t care. These boys have been sheltered all their lives, and they need the facts. My reaction to anyone who objects is ‘Any time you want to come here and see what we’re doing, come on over.’”

There have been amusing conversations at the house about evolution and the existence of dinosaurs. FLDS culture teaches strict creationism. “I’ve asked [the boys] how they can believe in Jesus, or Santa Claus, when there’s no physical evidence for them, but why they can’t believe in dinosaurs when we do have physical evidence,” Benward says. Her comment provokes immediate discussion in the kitchen among a few of the boys. One says he believes in Santa Claus but not dinosaurs. Another believes that fossilized dinosaur bones found in the Utah desert were placed there by humans. And, in what seems to come out of left field, one boy says landings on the moon have been faked, too.

When living in Hildale and Colorado City, most of the boys were shuttled into construction and other trades. At the house off Bluff, “most of them want a high school diploma,” Benward says. “It’s become kind of a competition for them to see who can do things, like who gets the first GED. It’s been exciting to see them realize what that piece of paper can do for them.”

It’s hardly perfect at the house, and there have been problems along the way. Some do not adjust well, some have gotten into legal trouble and several have moved from the area. According to Benward’s accounting, about 30 of the boys she is familiar with have enrolled in college with the help of financial aid. “I think they’ll get their education and accomplish wonderful things,” she says.

And there is always room at the house for those who simply need a family.

After several years, the house off of Bluff still mostly operates as a word-of-mouth community. Some who moved through the house and live on their own show up occasionally to help the younger boys. Sometimes, a new person in search of food, or a place to sleep, floats in for a while. Benward and supervisor Baur say all are welcome.

“Even if they come by just to shoot some pool or shoot the breeze, it keeps off them the street and out of trouble,” Benward says. At least for now, this is their family. They’ll move on from here and more will move in. “They have been transient, but their relationships aren’t transient, their relationships are forever.”

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Religious group refuses to immunize children, leading to mumps outbreak

Vancouver Sun - Canada
August 28, 2008

by Douglas Todd | columnist

There are far-reaching implications to a Chilliwack Christian group's refusal to have its members immunized against mumps, which has contributed to an outbreak of the viral disease in the Fraser Valley.
The unidentified Christian community's stand against immunizations raises controversial ethical questions about religious freedom and the obligation of an individual or community to both children and the larger society.
A small number of religious groups around the world oppose immunization. That, health officials say, has led in past decades in North America, Africa and Europe to unusual outbreaks of polio, measles and other infectious diseases.
In a related development in the U.S., a growing number of parents worried about possible health side-effects of immunizations are refusing them by claiming a religious exemption - including many who later admit their reasons were not religious.
"I don't think this issue is a small matter. It's best to look at it in its complexity," said Alister Browne, director of ethics and law at the University of B.C. medical school.
The ethical importance of a society protecting the health of children and others against infectious disease, Brown said, must be weighed against a person's right to religious freedom and the level of risk involved to others in refusing immunizations.
He said some infectious diseases are much more dangerous than others. Mumps, which for two-thirds of people is no more troublesome than a cold, can in rare cases lead to sterility, is a less serious infectious disease than, for instance, life-threatening polio, said Brown.
However, the medical ethicist said the relatively low health dangers associated with mumps (which many people over age 50 had as children) should not cause parents to ignore there is some valid moral pressure on them to agree to immunizations.
Even though it's theoretically possible for a tight-knit group of strongly religious adults to refuse vaccinations and not endanger anyone but themselves, Brown said "in the real world today" it's almost impossible to contain such an infectious virus.
Health officials have said the Fraser Valley mumps outbreak appeared to originate with two people from Alberta carrying the mumps to an unidentified Christian community near Chilliwack that has a low rate of vaccinations.
According to the Fraser Health Authority, there have been 116 confirmed cases of mumps and another 74 suspected cases since February. On average, the region has only 10 cases a year of the viral disease, which typically spreads through an exchange of saliva.
Cases have been reported as far west as Burnaby. Vancouver has had only four cases this year, a normal number with no known connection to the valley outbreak.
The Handbook of Religion and Health, edited by Dr. Harold Koenig, reports that in the past several decades there have been outbreaks of infectious diseases, including polio, measles and rubella, among several religious groups that shun immunizations. They have included Christian sects in Nigeria, Old Order Amish and Mennonite communities in the Eastern U.S. and Dutch Reformed churches in the Netherlands.
Despite arguments for religious freedom, Michael McDonald, professor in the Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics at UBC, believes adults in the Chilliwack community may be ethically required to accept vaccinations to both protect their children and members of the larger society.
The health and safety of others, particularly children, is a justified "limit to religious freedom," McDonald said Wednesday.
Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin of the Fraser Health Authority said she understands that the Chilliwack religious group, which she would not identify, interprets scripture to believe that agreeing to an immunization shows a lack of faith in God's ability to provide protection.
However, McDonald said adults in the Christian group will now have to do some "sober reflecting" as they face the reality that their community has not been spared from mumps.
Anti-vaccination beliefs in both Canada and the U.S. are not restricted to religious groups.
In the U.S., a growing number of secular parents are refusing mandatory vaccinations for their children out of fears of possible harmful side-effects, including allergies and even autism. (There have been many studies, none of which have found such a link.)
Many of those anxious parents are claiming a religious exemption to keep health officials from vaccinating their children, though some admit neither they nor even their spiritual communities have "deeply held" convictions on the matter.
Mainstream health officials say the parents' health fears are unfounded. And even though the number of parents in the U.S. who are formally applying to avoid vaccinations is growing, in most states they remain less than one per cent of the population.
The laws surrounding immunization are often murky, complex and change region by region, both in the U.S. and Canada. By and large in Canada, immunization against a variety of infectious diseases is not strictly mandatory.
At UBC, Browne said one of the main ethical weaknesses of parents choosing to opt out of society-wide vaccination programs is that their children end up benefiting from the fact the vast majority of parents do agree to immunizations.
Widespread vaccinations help a society develop what is called a "herd immunity" to an infectious disease such as mumps.
"In this way," Browne said, "the parents who refuse vaccinations get an ethical free ride. They get the benefits without taking any of the perceived risks."
To read Douglas Todd's blog, go to www.vancouversun.com/thesearch
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27 Aug 2008

Growing mumps outbreak linked to single case in religious group opposed to vaccination

Victoria Times-Colonist, Canada
August 27, 2008

by Glenda Luymes

CHILLIWACK -- A growing outbreak of the mumps has been traced to a single original case in a Chilliwack religious group that is opposed to vaccination.

It's believed visitors from Alberta brought the mumps to Chilliwack, infecting a "community with low immunization rates," the Fraser Health Authority said yesterday.

Since February, 190 people have been infected with the virus.

It has spread from Chilliwack to Abbotsford, Langley, Surrey and Burnaby. Now it's feared the virus will spread to Vancouver.

The outbreak has led to meningitis, deafness and concerns about sterility in a number of people.

And the number of cases is expected to jump dramatically as school resumes next week.

"It hasn't slowed down and we don't expect it will with school starting up again," Fraser Health Authority medical health officer Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin said yesterday.

"Schools can be factories for viruses."

She said Fraser Health is assembling a provincewide task force -- led by experts from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control -- to combat the outbreak.

"We're telling people to make sure their immunizations are up-to-date, and to be aware that the virus is spread through sharing saliva," said Brodkin.

Citing privacy reasons, she would not name the Chilliwack religious group in which the outbreak is believed to have originated.

The doctor said that of the 190 infected people, about half had not been immunized, while a quarter had received only a single dose of the mumps vaccine. The other quarter do not have accurate immunization records.

Mumps immunization began in Canada in 1969. Anyone born before that time is assumed to be immune to the virus through exposure to "wild mumps."

Mumps is a virus and cannot be treated by antibiotics.

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Man convicted over Shia flogging

BBC News - August 27, 2008

A devout Shia Muslim has been convicted of child cruelty after forcing two boys to beat themselves during a religious ceremony, in an unprecedented case.

The jury at Manchester Crown Court found 44-year-old Syed Mustafa Zaidi guilty of two counts of child cruelty.

The boys, aged 13 and 15, were forced to beat themselves with a zanjeer whip, with five curved blades.

Zaidi, of Station Road, Eccles, Salford, also flogged himself during the ceremony in January.

The court heard the boys admit that they had wanted to beat themselves, but not under duress, and not with the curved blade whip.

The teenagers said that they had flogged themselves with a smaller whip from the age of six in Pakistan.

The Ashura ceremony takes place during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar and commemorates the death of Husayn, a central figure in the Shia faith.

Zaidi admitted he had asked the boys if they wanted to beat themselves and allowed them to use the bladed whip.

He denied his actions were wrong, saying: "This is a part of our religion."

The 14-year-old boy, who was 13 at the time, said Zaidi told them both: "Start doing it, start doing it."

The child told the court: "We said 'we don't want to do it'."

He said he saw Zaidi flogging himself before washing blood from the whip and handing it to the 15-year-old boy.

'Emotional time'

He said Zaidi was "pulling him and pushing him", telling him to "keep doing it" and telling people "this is a sad moment and look he's not doing it".

The boy said Zaidi continued to pressure the older teenager to whip himself.

He said the 15-year-old boy "swung it once or twice and said 'I don't want to do it anymore'."

Zaidi told the court: "It was an emotional time and the children were happy, they asked for it. No one forced anyone.

"If I'd known this would be the result of breaking the law I would never have done it."

The boys both received multiple lacerations to their backs, mainly superficial, with several deeper cuts.

Supt Nadeem Butt, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "This man not only abused the vulnerability of these children but also went against the wishes of his own community, as well as knowingly breaking the law.

"The sensitivities this case raises - both legal and cultural - are significant."

Carol Jackson, of the Greater Manchester Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said the prosecution "was not an attack upon the practices or ceremonies of Shia Muslims".

"Indeed, the prosecution relied as part of its evidence upon the president of the local Shia community centre," Ms Jackson said.

"We are satisfied that, given the age of the children involved, the coercion employed by Syed Mustafa Zaidi, who did not accept that he was wrong, and the possibility of such an incident occurring again, the decision to prosecute by the Crown Prosecution Service was the correct one.

"This is a very unusual case and the first of its kind to be prosecuted by the CPS in England and Wales."

Zaidi will be sentenced on 24 September.

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More sex allegations at elite school

Sydney Morning Herald - August 27, 2008

by Georgina Robinson & Alex Tibbitts

Police are investigating claims that at least 13 students at a prestigious Catholic boys boarding college in Bathurst were habitually sexually abused by a priest during the 1970s and 1980s.

Superintendent Mike Goodwin, from Bathurst police, said a former student of St Stanislaus Catholic College had come forward with allegations in August last year, and police formed Strike Force Heador to investigate.

Five former students were immediately identified as victims and a further eight former students have been identified since then as possible victims.

Brian Joseph Spillane, 65, a former priest, was arrested over the case in May.

He faced Bathurst Local Court in July, charged with 33 separate offences. The charges included six counts of sexual intercourse with pupils aged 11, 12 and 13.

He is facing 18 counts alleging he engaged in acts of gross indecency with the pupils he allegedly solicited and incited to commit gross acts of indecency.

Other allegations against Spillane relate to male-to-male sexual intercourse with persons from 10 to 16 years of age under authority.

Superintendent Goodwin said investigations were continuing.

Police also believe there are other alleged victims who have yet to come forward, and are appealing for their help.

Last night St Stanislaus headmaster John Edwards said he had not been informed by authorities of any further investigation beyond the case already before the courts.

He believed he would have been informed by authorities if there was any investigation involving current students.

"I have not been informed of any subsequent allegations by a proper authority," he told the Herald last night.

"We view allegations of any sexual misconduct towards children with grave concern. We are concerned for the well being of any child - whether they now be adult or not - who may have been subject to abuse.

"We strongly support the process of thoroughly investigating allegations of sexual misconduct towards children."

Superintendent Goodwin appealed for anyone with information or concerns to come forward.

"During our inquiries we have obtained comprehensive statements from a number of people who have assisted with the investigation," he said.

"I can understand it would be very difficult to come forward and discuss such matters, but I would reassure anyone with information that a phone call to police would be dealt with in the strictest confidence."

A prestigious day and boarding school for boys, St Stanislaus was founded in 1867.

A priest who worked at the school in the 1970s was charged in 1994 over alleged sexual abuse of two students.

The priest was acquitted of all charges but the Vincentian order, which runs the school, made a cash payment of about $40,000 to one of the students.

Bishop Michael Malone, who later employed the priest in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, said: "I understand the reason for that was that the Vincentians could have fought the matter in civil court and it would have been very costly with regard to legal costs to them even if they had won, unless costs were awarded against the alleged victim."

- with Dylan Welch

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Forty students allege sex assault

Sydney Morning Herald - August 27, 2008

by Alex Tibbitts

ABOUT 40 students have alleged they were sexually abused by staff at the prestigious St Stanislaus Catholic College in Bathurst.

It is understood NSW Police are investigating the allegations but police media would not confirm the service's involvement last night or comment on Channel Seven's report.

A case involving the alleged abuse of five former students in 1986 is in the courts pending a full brief from the Department of Public Prosecution.

The headmaster of the school, John Edwards, said he had not been informed by authorities of any further investigation beyond the case.

He believed he would have been informed by authorities if there was any investigation involving current students.

"I have not been informed of any subsequent allegations by a proper authority," he told the Herald last night.

"We view allegations of any sexual misconduct towards children with grave concern. We are concerned for the well being of any child - whether they now be adult or not - who may have been subject to abuse.

"We strongly support the process of thoroughly investigating allegations of sexual misconduct towards children."

A prestigious day and boarding school for boys, St Stanislaus was founded in 1867.

A priest who worked at the school in the 1970s was charged in 1994 over alleged sexual abuse of two students.

The priest was acquitted of all charges but the Vincentian order, which runs the school, made a cash payment of about $40,000 to one of the students.

Bishop Michael Malone, who later employed the priest in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, said: "I understand the reason for that was that the Vincentians could have fought the matter in civil court and it would have been very costly with regard to legal costs to them even if they had won, unless costs were awarded against the alleged victim."

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26 Aug 2008

Cult founder warned off after 'bizarre' audition ploy

Sydney Morning Herald - August 27, 2008

by Bellinda Kontominas

ALISON PELS thought she had finally escaped the grasp of the cult Kenja Communications when she left the group in February last year.
But six months later the then 20-year-old found herself the subject of a bizarre plot by Jan Hamilton and other members of the group, who disguised themselves with fake facial hair and wigs while posing as directors of a play.
Ms Hamilton co-founded Kenja with her late husband, Ken Dyers, who committed suicide last year amid allegations of multiple sex offences against children.
Ms Pels, who has given the Herald permission to name her, was among those who made allegations against him.
Ms Hamilton was yesterday ordered by a court not to stalk, harass or intimidate Ms Pels as part of a two-year apprehended violence order, made after Ms Hamilton and Kenja members had staged fake auditions for a performance of Chekhov's Three Sisters at the West Pymble Community Hall on October 17 last year.
Outside court Ms Pels, whose father and brother left Kenja but whose mother remains a member, said she had recognised two Kenja members in the audition room and became extremely distressed.
"My whole body had shut down, I was in absolute terror," she said.
"In my mind it wasn't just that they were trying to scare me, I thought that they were going to kill me."
Ms Pels's lawyer, Brett Longville, told the court that Ms Hamilton's actions were a "sinister" attempt to harass and intimidate Ms Pels for making the allegations against her late husband.
But Ms Hamilton's lawyer, Harland Koops, said Ms Pels was a "habitual liar", who had staged the audition process and her subsequent distress in an attempt to cause serious criminal charges to be laid upon Ms Hamilton.
He said Ms Hamilton and other Kenja members had been at her Surry Hills home on the night in question. He produced a video of the group purportedly taken on that night.
However the magistrate, Roger Clisdell, found that the video, which included a shot of a wall clock and close-up of a newspaper showing the date, was a "child-like" attempt at providing an alibi for those members.
He said the video as well as the "hoax audition" had the "bizarre hallmarks" of the Kenja group and he did not find any witnesses from the group, including Ms Pels's mother, Marty, to be reliable.

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

Dead Cult Leader's Wife Continues to Terrorize Abuse Survivor

Campaign to clear cult leader

Dyers followers left rudderless in a sceptical world

Ken Dyers: Tributes and accusations

Evil forces drove husband to suicide: widow

Cult leader buried

Sex cult's final outrage

Cult leader Dyers 'now a martyr'

Cult leader 'won't face justice'

Sordid shame of sex sect

Sex 'healing' cult suicide

Sydney cult leader found dead

Kenja leader found dead at Bundeena

Mumps outbreak linked to lack of immunization among fundamentalist Christians

CBC News - Canada
August 26, 2008

Mumps outbreak spreads into Metro Vancouver

An outbreak of the mumps in the Fraser Valley has prompted health officials to warn people to make sure they are immunized against the disease.

As thousands of children prepare to head back to school, the outbreak, which began in a religious community, has already spread westward into Metro Vancouver — as far as Burnaby.

There have been 116 confirmed cases of mumps and another 74 suspected cases since February, according to the Fraser Health Authority. On average, the region has only 10 cases a year.

Two people from Alberta carried the mumps to a religious community near Agassiz that has a low rate of vaccinations, said Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin of the Fraser Health Authority.

"My understanding is their interpretation of scripture is that to immunize would be to show a lack of faith in God's ability to protect them, and therefore they choose not to do that," said Brodkin.

Brodkin wouldn't identify the closely knit faith-based community but said the mumps outbreak since spread well beyond that group.

"The virus is kind of travelling underground and popping up every time it encounters somebody who is able to develop clinical mumps that we recognize," said Brodkin.

Meanwhile, experts from the Fraser Health Authority were meeting to decide whether additional efforts are needed to control the spread of the preventable disease, provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall told CBC News Tuesday morning.

As a precaution, Kendall said, people should ensure their immunizations are up to date and avoid sharing drinking gear, straws or cigarettes, because the disease can be transmitted through saliva exchange.

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