28 Feb 2011

Virginia school board vows to spend public money fighting costly law suit over Ten Commandments in schools



The Washington Post - February 17, 2011

Ten Commandments in school stirs fight in Va. district


By Kevin Sieff  |  Washington Post Staff Writer



PEARISBURG, VA. - Nearly 12 years ago, in the aftermath of the shootings at Columbine High School, officials quietly posted the Ten Commandments on the walls of Giles County public schools. It was a natural reaction, said residents of this rural county peppered with churches, to such an alarming moral breakdown.

There the commandments stayed, within nondescript frames that also featured the first page of the U.S. Constitution, stirring little controversy until December. That's when an anonymous complaint prompted the superintendent to order the removal of the displays. The decision sparked such passionate community backlash that the county school board voted to post them again in January.

Now the fight appears headed to the courts as residents of Giles County, along Virginia's rugged, pious southwestern spine, fight what they call mounting pressure from Washington and Richmond to secularize their public institutions. The district also runs a so-called "Bible Bus" so that students can get privately organized Christian instruction off site during the middle of the school day.

"The commandments have been a compass for our lives," said Jared Rader, principal of the county's Macy McClaugherty Elementary School. "It's something that the county feels strongly about, something we think our children should learn from."

The commandments are featured on 81/2-by-11-inch pieces of paper in six schools, generally hung on white cinder block near main entrances and hallways.

School officials say the displays should be legal because the commandments are a historical document, included as part of a monument to the principles - some of them relgious - on which the country was founded.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation disagree. They plan to file a lawsuit on behalf of two plaintiffs, who have asked the court to withhold their names for fear of retribution.

"The school board is ignoring a core principle our country was founded on. Apparently they've never heard of the First Amendment or the Bill of Rights," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which describes itself as a national organization of atheists and agnostics. "And they're using our schoolchildren as pawns."

The displays were the idea of a Giles County pastor, and they have generated objections on at least one other occasion. In 2004, Sarah McNair, Giles High School senior, sent letters to county politicians, calling the display of the commandments an infringement on her rights and a "serious issue that cannot be ignored."

Both Virginia's secretary of education and the superintendent of public instruction dismissed her concerns, said McNair, now 24, who moved from Fairfax to Giles County.

But when the issue flared again, in December, school officials consulted with legal counsel and decided to remove them. Yet when students learned that the commandments had been removed, they distributed hundreds of photocopies of the edict, pasting them on lockers around the school. Weeks later, the halls were still papered with makeshift scrolls, next to photos of football players and fliers advertising sketch comedy routines.

"This whole thing just makes me feel small," said Kearsley Dillon, 16, a sophomore who helped distribute the commandments. "I have my faith and that's the most important thing to me. But this is really discouraging. What can a 16-year-old do?"

The turning point was a raucous school board meeting attended by more than 100 Giles County residents. Hanging the commandments is "a right" and "a blessing" and "a moral obligation," residents said in the public forum.

"We are not Montgomery County, Maryland," resident Judy Lawson said in the crowded room. "We are not Northern Virginia."

By the end of the meeting, the school board had voted unanimously to restore the Ten Commandments. And the Board of Supervisors soon after decided to support the decision, agreeing to help fund the district's legal defense.

"We would rather fight the ACLU or whoever would come up than have one anonymous coward who would not even sign the letter come in and tell us how to run our schools," said Eric Gentry, chairman of the county's Board of Supervisors.

Public displays featuring the Ten Commandments have caused legal clashes for decades. The Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that a Kentucky policy requiring the commandments on the walls of public school classrooms violated the First Amendment. But in 2005, the court upheld the inclusion of the commandments as part of a monument which included 16 other historical documents on the Texas State Capitol grounds.

Scholars say that the 1980 case, Stone v. Graham, will likely preclude the school board from legally displaying the commandments on school grounds. "The school board is making a bet that the Supreme Court will overrule that decision," said Douglas Laycock, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Virginia School of Law. "For a little school board down in the mountains, it's an expensive endeavor."

Although court decisions have underscored the line between church and state, many residents - who are quick to call Giles a "Christian county" - have expressed a desire to fight back against federal and state intrusions.

The county's government buildings feature posters reading "In God We Trust" near their entrances. After the Supreme Court ruled that prayer in school was unconstitutional, the district introduced its weekly "Bible Bus," which facilitates religious classes for most of the county's elementary school students. That initiative is legal, according to local officials, because it's voluntary, and the bus is privately owned and operated.

Elsewhere in the nation, schools are trying to keep religion in public schools - prayers at high school football games and in classrooms, nativity scenes on school property. The Freedom from Religion Foundation every year receives about 300 formal complaints, many of them involving school districts, according to Gaylor.

Yet she called the Giles County case "one of the most egregious we've seen."

In Giles, residents say the Ten Commandments display enjoys nearly universal support among those who grew up in the county. They say only outsiders - such as legal organizations in Richmond and Wisconsin - would question such a core aspect of the culture.

Some consider Jonathan Jochem to be such an outsider. An ACLU member, he moved to Giles County from Chicago 11 years ago and quickly fell in love with the open spaces and the generous people. "They're good Christians in the best sense of the word," he said. "But their knowledge of the Constitution is distorted."

Jochem was shocked when he first heard about the county's Bible Bus, and bothered by the school board's refusal to remove the commandments from public schools. Like several other community members, he supports the ACLU's lawsuit.

But with the current controversy spurred by an anonymous complaint, and a lawsuit expected to be introduced with two anonymous plaintiffs, Giles County residents say they have little reason to believe that there is much of a local fracture.

The debate, said Shahn Wilburn, the pastor who first suggested displaying the Ten Commandments after Columbine, is "Giles County versus Washington. David versus Goliath."

"I know that story," he added. "And I know who won."


This article was found at:


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Secular News Daily  -  February 18, 2011

Commandments Clash: Va. County Has One Last Chance To Avoid A Lawsuit – And Should Take It


Rob Boston  | senior policy analyst at Americans United for Separation of Church and State



Public education officials in Giles County, Va., can’t say they weren’t warned.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote to school officials recently telling them to remove Ten Commandments displays from the schools. The officials were also advised by their own attorney to take down the religious posters.

At first, they did. But when members of the community complained, the school board voted to put the Ten Commandments back into the schools.

The ACLU and the FFRF have warned the officials one last time: They have plaintiffs and are ready to file a lawsuit.

Today’s Washington Post reports that the battle in Giles County began 12 years ago, when school officials decided to post the Ten Commandments in the schools. A high school senior complained in 2004, but local officials ignored her.

The new round of objections is much more serious. Both the ACLU and FFRF have sent warning letters to school officials, pointing out that the school system is in clear violation of a 1980 Supreme Court decision called Stone v. Graham. In that ruling, the high court struck down a Kentucky law that mandated posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools.

The court rightly pointed out that the Ten Commandments are a religious document. They are found in the Old Testament and are clearly designed to impart religious instruction. At least half of them deal strictly with matters of how one ought to practice religion.

When a public school system posts the Ten Commandments, it is taking sides in theological matters that are none of its business. Why should officials in the Giles County schools care if students decide to worship “false gods”? (Exactly which gods are these, anyway? Does the school system keep a list?)

Should school officials get worked up if students bow to graven images? (Does that include a Roman Catholic who venerates a statute of a saint?)

Is it the schools’ job to ensure that students honor the Sabbath? (By the way, which day is that – Friday, Saturday or Sunday?)

Other provisions in the commandments reflect commonsense rules that are found in every religious or ethical tradition. I would hope that officials in Giles County would teach students not to murder, lie and steal even if those things weren’t mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

Giles County school officials didn’t ask for my advice, but here it is anyway: Don’t let this matter go to court. You will lose. These are challenging times for the economy, and I’m sure your school system has better ways to spend taxpayer money than squandering it on a hopeless court battle.

And please do not be swayed by the dulcet promises of slick Religious Right legal groups that vow to defend you for free. Sure, their lawyers will work on their own dime, but when you lose the case your school district will be handed a big, fat bill for the attorneys’ fees of the ACLU and the FFRF. The Religious Right legal group won’t pick up the tab for that.

Finally, I’d like to advise the school board that it needs to get out of the religion business – and I really must insist on this. Just stop. What you are doing is wrong. Deciding what faith (if any) children should learn about is a job for parents, not school officials.

And don’t give me that line about how you’re only trying to improve young people’s ethical behavior. If that’s your goal, you can do it without posting a specific religious document. Personally, I think there are some interesting ethical statements in the Wiccan Rede, the Eightfold Path of Buddhism and even the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus. But I suspect you’re not likely to post those, are you?

It’s time for a separation of church and school in Giles County. The fact that these two are jumbled up is apparent in the words of Jared Rader, principal of Macy McClaugherty Elementary School, who told The Post, “The commandments have been a compass for our lives. It’s something that the county feels strongly about, something we think our children should learn from.”

Great. If everyone in the county is so big on the Ten Commandments, I’m sure parents are already teaching their kids about them in the places where it makes sense to do that – at home and at church.

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Texas school board members injected their personal religious beliefs into social studies curriculum



Secular News Daily - February 18, 2011

Slow Learners: Conservative Think Tank Flunks Texas Social Studies Standards


by Sandhya Bathija  | Communications Associate for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.



Texas should have seen this coming.

The Lone Star State has received a “D” for the bogus public school social studies curriculum that its State Board of Education (SBOE) adopted last year.

The icing on the cake is that this letter grade comes from a report issued by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank.

If you recall, Texas became the subject of national ridicule last March when the elected school board proposed curriculum downplaying Thomas Jefferson and the separation of church and state, while playing up Christian nation propaganda. The Religious Right bloc of the board quickly adopted these revisionist history standards, disregarding advice from historians and academics.

Reviewers at the Fordham Institute have now evaluated each state’s history standards in grades K-12, discovering 28 states deserve D or F grades. All of those state should be embarrassed, but Texas got singled out for special mention for using the public schools as a culture war battleground.

“The conservative majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has openly sought to use the state curriculum to promote its political priorities, molding the telling of the past to justify its current views and aims,” the report states. “Indeed, the SBOE majority displayed overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars, whom they derided as insidious activists for a liberal academic establishment.

“Members of the SBOE also showed themselves determined to inject their personal religious beliefs into history education,” the report continues. “‘Judeo-Christian (especially biblical law)’ and ‘Moses’ are, incredibly, listed as the principal political influences on America’s founders. The separation of church and state, a much-debated and crucial concept in the drafting of the state constitutions (1777–1781) and the federal Constitution (1787), is simply dismissed.”

The report claims this is “ideological manipulation” and that “the chief casualties are historical comprehension, and the good of the students themselves — which is always the case when education becomes an ideological weapon.”

It’s clear that whether you lean left or right, teaching revisionist history does no one any good, as Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said.

“This analysis adds to a growing chorus of criticism aimed at state board members who deliberately and arrogantly substituted their own political biases for facts and scholarship throughout the standards,” said Miller. “It’s hard to imagine a more damning indictment of the way the board has politicized and manipulated the education of Texas kids over the past several years.”

We hope this report resonates with the Texas SBOE, but that’s probably wishful thinking. Being a national laughing stock didn’t interrupt its ideological mission. A scolding by a conservative think tank probably won’t, either.

SBOE Chair Gail Lowe has already defended the curriculum and criticized the report for being based on “misinformation.”

While this board may not recognize its mistakes, Texas residents should. They need to keep up the heat and insist on standards that foster good history, not a misguided ideological agenda.

Related articles on Secular News Daily:
Americans United, Allies Commend House Resolution On Texas School Board’s Biased Social Studies Standards
Humanists Decry New Texas Social Studies and History Curricula; Urge Other States to Reject Texas Textbooks
Texas Appoints Fundies to Rewrite Statewide Social Studies Curriculum
CFI Action Alert: Help Prevent Political Interference with Curriculum Standards
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rabble.ca - Canada February 18, 2011

Confronting the hidden legacy of residential schools

by Noreen Mae Ritsema


In an attempt to discuss the impact of residential schools on the families of survivors and strategies for the future, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is opening a national intergenerational conference next week in Winnipeg. It is the first intergenerational event on the issue that is First Nations-led.

Speakers and attendees are expected from across the country to attend workshops from Feb. 22 to 24 on the state of living for First Nations, looking at subjects including prison populations, school dropout rates, gang membership and substance addiction, and how these problems have the single thread of residential schools running through them. The importance of healing and the opportunities for justice are also to be discussed.

The fallout left by the schools has scarred generations of First Nations peoples, and Joanne Henry, executive director of the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools(CAIRS) in Whitehorse, Yukon, has witnessed this firsthand in her work with survivors.

"The legacy of the schools is over 50 years, we've got generations upon generations of residential school history that we have to heal from. Our parents weren't given the opportunity to learn how to be parents. Therefore, we weren't given the opportunity to learn how to be parents either," said Ms. Henry, in an interview with rabble.ca.

Dedicated to helping the healing incurred this type of historical trauma, Dr. Eduardo Duran, a clinical psychologist and author of The Soul Wound explains that he has found a clear relationship between residential schools and trauma. He is a keynote speaker at the conference.

"It is well known that the boarding school model was developed in order to extricate culture from Native people. The manner in which this was done was violent and thus traumatic... If trauma is not grieved and healed, this is passed on to the children and their children. This transmission can be through behavior patterns, spiritually and genetically."

Ms. Henry reports seeing increased addiction issues with the Indian Residential Schools Settlement because survivors have been recounting their school experiences more frequently in recent years.

"There is a lot of alcohol and drug addiction and it seems to have come out a lot more with the CEP [common experience payment] and more with the IAP [independent assessment process] where you actually talk about your experience in residential school," she said.

"I know one lady, in particular, she did not drink for over 30 years and when she did her IAP she started. So it has a devastating effect. It's not a simple thing to go through. For support afterwards, you can go for counseling, but to actually have a support system in place -- there is nothing like that."

Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, is another speaker at the conference. In conversation, he explains how addiction works. "Addiction is always a response to deep emotional pain, to trauma. It's an attempt to soothe the pain of trauma. The residential school traumatized not only individuals but several consecutive generations; in fact, it traumatized an entire people. When that happens, abuse becomes endemic and is passed on from one generation to the next. As abuse is passed on, so is addiction."

When facing an addiction, Dr. Maté, explains that the first action a person must take actually consists of three steps that must be taken together, a message he wants to discuss at the conference.

"Addicted people must have the courage to accept that they are addicted, that their lives are out of control and that their addiction has multiple negative consequences for themselves and for people close to them. But they also need to recognize at the same time that it's not their fault, it's nothing they chose deliberately but was their way of coping with stress and deep emotional pain," he said.

"And finally, they need to own the problem -- while it's not their fault, it is their responsibility. That is, no matter what the cause of the addiction, only the addicted human being can take responsibility for liberating themselves from its chains."

Western medicine has not widely acknowledged the role of historical trauma, such as the residential school legacy, in relation to illness, and healing from historical trauma has been slow.

Dr. Duran said that without understanding, there is no validation for the pain that people feel.

"In most Western diagnostic procedures the patient is pathologized and their historical context is ignored for the most part. What this tells the person is that they are sick and defective, which can then become a form of identity that takes over their lives."

This points to why The Hidden Legacy conference can have such a positive impact.

"There is strength in numbers, there is power is recognizing that one is not alone, in seeing that the problem is a historical one whose consequences need to be confronted by mutual support and by a common struggle to gain justice. And there is relief in hearing the experience of other people, in telling one's own story, and in learning from one another's strengths and successes," says Dr. Maté.

Joanne Henry also sees the strength in such a gathering. "Anything that deals with residential schools, if we're given the time and the courtesy to look into it and get learning tools from it, will help residential school survivors and be beneficial."

CAIRS, a community resource for residential school survivors in Whitehorse, can be reached at 1-867-667-2247.

Noreen Mae Ritsema is an intern with rabble.ca.


This article was found at:

http://rabble.ca/news/2011/02/confronting-hidden-legacy-residential-schools


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Canadian fundamentalist Christian universities promote religious extremism over knowledge



Maclean's - Canada February 15, 2011

Irredeemable


Redeemer University College, according to its published statements, promotes religion over knowledge.

By Todd Pettigrew  | Maclean's blogs


Frequent readers of this blog will know that I have, in the past, taken issue with religious universities like Trinity Western and Crandall, the sort of institutions that require fundamentalist faith statements of all their faculty and seek to foster religious extremism in their students. You will also know that the CAUT has been after such universities too and has created a black list of universities that require a faith or ideological test for faculty.

Redeemer University College is the latest institution to fall under CAUT’s stern gaze, and the Redeemer case provides a good opportunity to address some of the sloppy and tentative thinking — so it appears to me — that always swirls around this issue. As always, I want to make it clear, that it is the particular kind of religion practiced at these schools that bothers me — I fully acknowledge that there are other, better ways practiced by others.

First, the claim is often made that all universities have an ideology of some kind or another, so why is a Christian university any worse than a secular university? The sloppiness here comes from an inconsistent use of the word “ideology.” In its broadest sense, whereby ideology means any kind of system of ideas, it’s true, a priori, that all universities must have an ideology. In this sense, a university that says that it promotes knowledge and critical thinking because these things serve the greater good of humanity — well they have an ideology.

But that’s surely not what CAUT means when they are concerned about an ideological test for faculty. Because in a more narrow sense, ideology often means a particular and focused set of beliefs about how the world works and how it ought to be. To be sure, individuals or groups at particular universities may have strong ideological commitments, but that is not the same as the institution as a whole requiring a specific ideological view of all faculty. I am a committed atheist, but I would not want my university to require everyone to be an atheist. Academic disciplines may require a certain level of agreement on some basic issues, but typically these are matters of fact (a biologist needs to accept evolution).

But what about, say a Women’s Studies department? To work there you would have to be a feminist, right? I would say no: a Women’s Studies prof would have to accept that the place of women in society is an important issue — but no Women’s Studies department should insist that its members agree on specific details or policies about, say, child care. Show me a department in a public university where all members, as a matter of published policy, must sign a commitment to specific values and views, and I will speak out against them, too.

But even if other universities did have their own ideologies, it would still be misleading to say such a university was ideological in the same way that Redeemer is. Apart from religious zealots, even ideologues differ. Committed socialists can disagree about almost everything and still be socialists. Feminists can, and do, disagree about key issues like abortion. These disagreements are possible because these ideologies, whatever their strengths and weaknesses, are at least grounded in the real world and their arguments can be evaluated by the normal standards of reason.

But Christianity as practiced at Redeemer (though not everywhere, I concede) is not an ideology like that. As with TWU, Redeemer’s vision of Christianity is precise, and exclusionary. According to their stated principles, God created the world, revealed His will to humanity through the Bible, and was incarnated as Christ who is the only hope for the world. This is not just a university with a Christian leaning — this is a university with a very strict program of belief that no Muslim, Jew, or atheist could ever sign in good conscience, and that even many Christians would reject. Indeed, according to Redeemer, knowledge itself is “made possible only by means of a true faith in Jesus Christ, in whom are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (my emphasis). Am I the only one who sees the implication here? So extreme is this institution that it denies the validity of all the knowledge of non-Christians! I’m not making that up; it’s right there on the web site! The kind of religion espoused by Redeemer is not even ideology. It’s superstition.

And Redeemer does not just stop at belief: they also seek to control faculty conduct, a point not stressed in any story I can recall. At Redeemer, faculty members are expressly discouraged from doing too much work on Sunday. More incredibly, Redeemer promises to punish faculty who swear, are gay, who enjoy pornography, and who have sex outside of marriage. Some have had the gall to call the investigation a witch hunt, but how can an institution like this ask others to mind their own moral business while it claims to have jurisdiction over whether Professor Virile’s girlfriend is staying the night? We all know who perfected the art of witch hunting.

Still, if that’s their thing, as Redeemer President Hurbert Krygsman suggests, why not leave them to it? They are not publicly funded and their members are not members of CAUT, so why does CAUT or anyone else care? Well, setting aside that Redeemer does get some public money, I care and CAUT cares because all academics have an interest in preserving the clear use of academic terms like “university” and “degree.” These terms have fairly well understood meanings in Canada and having a “university education” or holding a “university degree” should carry a certain weight and should say certain things about one’s education.

If the aim of the institution is to prepare students to be knowledgeable, curious, critical, and capable of ongoing learning, then we are talking about a university. But if the self-proclaimed task of the institution is to “equip young men and women to serve as witnesses to Christ’s victory in the various vocations they will take up in society” and that they take advantages of ”the opportunities for evangelism that their positions may afford, [...] by testifying to the transforming power of Christ inevery aspect of their professional or vocational conduct” (my emphasis), then you are not a university. You are a radical, fundamentalist indoctrination centre and you should call yourself that. Or Bible College. Whichever you prefer.


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Killer's capture reveals child abuse and wife beating in Jesus Group cult led by Australian millionaire



The Australian - February 19, 2011

Capture of wanted killer sheds light on life in polygamist cult


by Jarred Owens | The Australian



THE revelation that one of Australia's most wanted killers took sanctuary in an obscure polygamist cult in the Cairns hinterland has finally lifted the veil on the secretive sect, which former followers say has thrived for more than 30 years.

Headed by millionaire property owner Daniel Landy-Ariel, the Jesus People preach an orthodox Christian lifestyle in which adherents speak ancient Aramaic and some forms of violence against women and children are allegedly encouraged.

Guided by their spiritual father, the cult's 150 followers are crammed into urban properties in Sydney and Cairns, as well as three massive kibbutzes in remote areas of Queensland and NSW.

Police are now investigating the extent to which cult members may have sheltered convicted murderer Luke Andrew Hunter, 42, and whether or not they helped him obtain work with Queensland Health.

Hunter changed his name to Ashban Cadmiel, and there is no suggestion the cult was aware of his true identity.

Hunter is alleged to have escaped from Borallon Correctional Centre, near Ipswich, in 1996. He was serving a 21-year jail term after being found guilty in 1990 of the "cold-blooded assassination" of his lover's husband.

Like other cult members, Hunter took a biblical name and he worked as a groundskeeper at the Herberton hospital in far north Queensland from 1997 to this year. His arrest shed light on the reclusive group, with several former members coming forward to describe the culture of fear they say exists, especially for women, who say they are "sub-citizens".

Mr Landy-Ariel, 59, who admits taking two wives, has long shunned media attention. But in an affidavit, obtained exclusively by The Weekend Australian, the man known as "Reshan" (or "the head") last year gave an official history of his sect, its practices, and defended himself against allegations levelled against him.

"Any number of people ejected from or rejecting the community could use us as their pincushion," Mr Landy-Ariel said.

"Many who are asked to leave are bitter because they can't return or because they realise that they know they may be committing some sin . . . (the) ratio of people who have left and those asked to leave is probably 50-50."

But a former follower, who asked to be known as Jeremiah, said he had witnessed "some of the worst violence" during his nine-year stint. "I saw a chair smacked over a girl's back. I saw another girl who had a brick put to her head," he told The Weekend Australian.

"Women have to obey their husbands. If a wife were seen causing trouble -- as will inevitably happen at some time -- if he (the husband) was seen only to have mildly harsh words to her, he'd be seen as not carrying his weight in the community."

In his affidavit, Mr Landy-Ariel said domestic violence did occur in the sect, but "in comparison to Australia and world statistics . . . our statistics are very good".

Jeremiah, who said he never participated in violence, claimed the violence went unreported because of the closed communities. Several former adherents said followers were required to hand over their possessions, ATM cards and future income to Mr Landy-Ariel who, with his group leaders, decided how money was spent.

"They had some money from young apprentices but the bulk of the money came from Centrelink," said Madeline Hardess, who spent two years with the group last decade.

Asked why the followers gave their possessions to him, Mr Landy-Ariel wrote he was afforded that responsibility out of respect, which he earned through such exploits as a 41-day water-only fast he endured in 1996.

"The doctor told me I wouldn't live through it . . . I often joke with the brethren (concerning) how many brain cells I would have lost," he wrote. "Whether it is seen to have been silly or not, they know it was my life or theirs."

Mr Landy-Ariel wrote how he established the group on the streets of Cairns in the 1970s by running a Christian coffee shop before forming a kibbutz in Atherton. The sect, also known as the Jesus Group of north Queensland, believed in the total separation of church and state. The group is therefore not registered as a church and does not register its "marriages" with authorities.

Contraception is also banned in the community because Mr Landy-Ariel believes it encourages promiscuity. "(It is) an easy way for a girl to get married to whoever she wants. 'Oh, dear, I'm pregnant, the pill didn't work!' " Mr Landy-Ariel wrote. "We are a community not a sewer." He wrote that children in the community are home-schooled through a Christian college, since at mainstream schools "their moral standards were being badly affected".

The three kibbutzes are near Herberton in far north Queensland; Gympie, 160km north of Brisbane; and near Parkes, 360km west of Sydney. Mr Landy-Ariel and the Jesus People could not be reached for comment.

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26 Feb 2011

Rape charge dropped in plea deal for FLDS man who married 14 year old cousin, pleads guilty to lesser charges



Salt Lake Tribune - Utah February 18, 2011

FLDS member pleads guilty in sex case


By Makr Havnes & Lindsay Whitehurst  |  Salt Lake Tribune


St. George --  For former teenage bride Elissa Wall, Friday marked “the end of a long and difficult journey.”

About three years ago, polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs was convicted of rape as an accomplice for presiding over then-14-year-old Wall’s 2001 marriage to her 19-year-old cousin. On Friday, her former husband, Allen Steed, agreed to a plea deal that ended a felony rape case against him.

“Allen was a product of his environment,” said Wall, now 24 and a mother herself. “I hope the chain of systematic abuse can end and many can be spared.”

Steed, 29, pleaded guilty to solemnization of a prohibited marriage and pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual activity with a minor, both third-degree felonies.

Fifth District Judge G. Rand Beacham sentenced Steed to 30 days in jail beginning Monday for the first charge and three years of probation on the sexual activity charge, which will be stricken from his record if he successfully completes his probation.

Steed did not speak about the plea, but outside the St. George courthouse, his attorney, Jim Bradshaw, said he believed the resolution is fair.

“There comes a point in time when it is in the best interest of all parties involved to bring to resolution,” he said.

Wall grew up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, one of 22 children her father had with three wives, she wrote in her 2008 book, Stolen Innocence. [see Books page on this site] When her parents’ union deteriorated, her mother was “reassigned” in 1999 to Fred Jessop, the sect’s bishop. Wall was stunned and objected when Jessop told her she was to be married.

Wall wrote that she was miserable in the relationship, abused and raped by Steed. The marriage ended after she met her now-husband, Lamont Barlow, in 2003, and had an affair with him.

Prosecutors filed charges against Jeffs three years later. During Jeffs’ 2007 trial, Steed testified that Wall initiated the sexual contact, and their subsequent encounters were consensual. He was charged with rape the day after Jeffs was found guilty.

Cases of solemnization of a prohibited marriage are rare, said Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap. “This is the first time we’ve ever prosecuted it,” he said. Adopted in 2001, the charge generally applies to people who perform illegal marriages of minors. Because Steed participated in the crime, he can also be charged, Belnap said.

Belnap said the plea agreement with Steed was the “right thing to do,” and exhibits a fair balance between “mercy and justice.” The plea, he said, recognizes the control Jeffs had over Steed. “Sometimes Justice has to remove her blindfold to distinguish between the unfortunate and the vicious,” he said, repeating a favorite quote.

Jeffs’ conviction, meanwhile, was overturned in July. The Utah Supreme Court ruled the jury should have been instructed that Jeffs knew when he performed the marriage that a rape would happen and told to focus on his role as a religious leader. Jeffs, 55, has been extradited to Texas, where he is awaiting trial on bigamy and sexual assault charges. Belnap said he wants to see how those charges play out before deciding whether to retry Jeffs.

Walls’ civil suit against Jeffs, the FLDS church and the sect’s communal land trust is ongoing.

“The best decision has been made,” Wall said. “I can walk away now, but with a lifelong burden of scars.”


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Daily Mail - UK February 18, 2011

Polygamist follower of Warren Jeffs gets just 30 days jail for marrying his 14-year-old cousin

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER



A follower of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs will serve only 30 days in jail for marrying his 14-year-old cousin.

Allen Glade Steed had a rape charge dropped in exchange for pleading guilty in Utah to participating in an illegal marriage and unlawful sexual intercourse.

Jeffs conducted the 'spiritual marriage' of Steed, then 19-years-old, to his teen cousin Elissa Wall in 2001in a seedy motel in the remote Nevada desert.



Married in a motel: Allen Glade Steed and Elissa wall who was just 14 when she went through a marriage ceremony to a man she says she 'despised'



Teen bride: Elissa Wall was told to obey the church and her husband but felt it 'wasn't right' to be married at 14

Each charge at Salt Lake City's Fifth District Court carried a penalty of up to five years in prison. But Steed, 29, will serve three years of probation and pay two $5,000 fines.

Facing charges: Polygamy cult leader Warren Jeffs who has been extradited to Texas

Steed's plea in abeyance to the charge of unlawful sex with a minor, means the charge will eventually be dismissed if he complies with all the terms of his probation.

A lawyer for Wall, who remarried and is now a 24-year-old mother-of-two, said she was satisfied with the reduced charges.

In her book Stolen Innocence, she told how 55-year-old Jeffs forced her to marry and ordered her to obey the church and her new husband.

The couple were members of his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

She recalled: 'Deep down inside, I knew it wasn't right. I didn't want to be married at 14.'

During a meeting in the church hall, she learned her husband-to-be was her cousin whom she said she despised.

She added: 'I remember he walked over and I got this really sick feeling in my stomach. Something in me just rose up and I really resisted.'

For years, Wall said she kept quiet and endured the sexual assaults. She was unable to turn to her mother, sisters or anyone else for help, as no one would dare defy Jeffs' will.

The couple were finally granted a church divorce - known as a release - in 2004, after she became pregnant with another man's child.

Steed remains a member of the church and has not remarried.

Jeffs was sentenced to two consecutive prison terms of five years to life in prison on two counts of accomplice to rape for presiding over the marriage.

His conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in July of 2010 on the grounds that a jury instruction focused the jury on Jeffs' relationship with Wall rather than Steed's relationship with the girl.



Happy: Elissa Wall today with her husband Lamont Bartow, a former follower of Warren Jeffs' church, and their two children


Cult castle: The Yearning for Zion compound in Texas owned by Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

The trial court made a mistake in refusing to instruct the jury that Jeffs could not be found guilty as an accomplice to rape unless Jeffs specifically intended for Steed to have non-consensual sex with Wall.

Jeffs has since been extradited to Texas to face various charges.

A 2008 raid, over 400 children and teenagers were taken into care from his Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas, amid widespread allegations of child abuse at the sect.


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