Tuesday, July 31, 2012

British man pretending to be blind fails to see a ditch--and falls to his death

And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Matthew 15:14b

Sometimes it only takes one person to fall into a ditch, and he may be only pretending to be blind. As Paul Harvey would say, "Here's a strange..." As reported in the London Daily Telegraph, July 27, 2012:

Geoffrey Haywood, 65, walked with a white stick, used a talking watch and had carers to look after him.

But the inquest was told he could see perfectly well and if someone dropped money on a pavement he would be the first to pick it up.

Mr Haywood was been pretending to be blind when he went for a walk and fell into the ditch near his home.

A coroner described it as the most "extraordinary" case he has dealt with in more than 30 years.

Mr Haywood's brother Howard said: "Geoffrey had psychological blindness which started after the death of our mother.

"I would put a Christmas dinner in front of him and he would say: "Where's mine?".

"But if someone dropped money in front of him he would pick it up straight away.

"I believe he used it as a way of convincing people to take pity on him and help him.

"It became worse the more pressure that was on him, when he was lonely or if things weren't going his way."

The inquest in Newport, South Wales, heard doctors could find nothing wrong with Mr Haywood's sight even though he lived the life of a blind man.

A massive search was launched in March after Mr Haywood went missing from his home in Newport.

The hearing was told his body was found in a ditch just 150 yards from his front door.

Coroner David Bowen said: "Either he didn't see or didn't want to see the ditch, slipped and drowned.

"It's an extraordinary situation I've not come across before.

"I've been doing this more than 30 years and have never had a case as unique as this - someone convincing themselves they couldn't see."

Verdict: Accident.

Liverpool Care Pathway allows U.K. hospitals to starve and dehydrate patients in order to speed up death

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: Deuteronomy 30:19

Surely some future historian, surveying our times, will note sardonically that it took no more than three decades to transform a war crime into an act of compassion, thereby enabling the victors in the war against Nazism to mount their own humane holocaust, which in its range and in the number of its victims, may soon far surpass the Nazi one. It is significant that, whereas the Nazi holocaust has received lavish TV and film coverage, the humane one goes rolling along largely unnoticed by the media. Malcolm Muggeridge, Sanctity of Life, Chatelaine, December 1979, p. 138

A system of socialized medicine, is, of course, based on compassion, and would never let something so vulgar as a desire to save money enter into life-and-death decisions--or so the propagandists in countries such as Trudeaupia (formerly Canada) and the United Kingdom would have us believe. As reported by Stephen Adams of the London Daily Telegraph (which is one media outlet that's paying attention), July 8, 2012 (link to physicians' letter in original):

Tens of thousands of patients with terminal illnesses are placed on a “death pathway” to help end their lives every year. However, in a letter to The Daily Telegraph, six doctors warn that hospitals may be using the controversial scheme to reduce strain on hospital resources.

Supporters of the Liverpool Care Pathway, which allows medical staff to withhold fluid and drugs in a patient’s final days, claim it is the kindest way of letting them slip away. But the experts say in their letter that natural deaths are often freer of pain and distress.

Informed consent is not always being sought by doctors, who fail to ask patients about their wishes while they are still in control of their faculties, warn the six. This has led to an increase in patients carrying cards informing doctors that they do not wish to be put on the pathway in the last few days of their lives.

The six doctors are experts in elderly care and wrote the letter in conjunction with the Medical Ethics Alliance, a Christian medical organisation. They say that many members of the public have contacted them with examples of inappropriate use of the pathway, which is implemented in up to 29 per cent of hospital deaths.

They warn that there is no “scientific way of diagnosing imminent death.” They write: “It is essentially a prediction, and it is possible that other considerations may come into reaching such a decision, not excluding the availability of resources.”

The Liverpool Care Pathway, so called because it was developed at the Royal Liverpool Hospital in the 1990s, aims to ensure that patients who are close to death can die without being subjected to unnecessary interference by staff. In addition to the withdrawal of fluid and medication, patients can be placed on sedation until they die.

Dr Gillian Craig, a retired geriatrician and former vice-chairman of the Medical Ethics Alliance, is one of the six signatories to The Daily Telegraph letter.

“If you are cynical about it, as I am, you can see it as a cost-cutting measure, if you don’t want your beds to be filled with old people,” she said. She advised that those who did not want to be put on the pathway should carry cards made by Dr Rosalind Bearcroft, a consultant psychiatrist from Kent, and another signatory.

Last year The Daily Telegraph reported that the numbers being put on the pathway had doubled in just two years, with tens of thousands of patients now involved. But up to half of families are not being informed of clinicians’ decision to put a relative on the pathway, the report by the Royal College of Physicians found. Advocates point out that the Liverpool Care Pathway has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) and is backed by the Department of Health.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "People coming to the end of their lives should have a right to high quality, compassionate and dignified care.

"The Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) is not about saving money. It is an established and respected tool that is recommended by NICE and has overwhelming support from clinicians at home and abroad.

"The decision to use the pathway should involve patients and family members, and a patient's condition should be closely monitored. If, as sometimes happens, a patient improves, they are taken off the LCP and given whatever treatments best suit their new needs. To ensure the LCP is used properly, it is important that staff receive the appropriate training and support."
Fortunately, people are starting to catch on, and are signing "advance refusal" cards if they don't want to be put on the Liverpool Care Pathway. As reported by John Bingham of the Daily Telegraph, July 24, 2012 (link to physicians' letter in original):

Terminally ill patients are being issued with special cards warning doctors not to place them on a controversial “death pathway” amid fears the practice is becoming routine.

The “advance refusal” notices operate like an organ donor card, enabling people approaching the end of their life to make their wishes clear to while they still have capacity.

It comes amid a growing backlash against overuse of the “Liverpool Care Pathway” which allows medical staff to withhold fluid and drugs from a patient while they are heavily sedated, actively speeding their end.

Supporters of the technique say that it is the kindest way of letting people slip away rather than die in pain.

But leading doctors have voiced fears that hospitals are hastening the deaths of elderly patients to cut costs and free up bed space amid claims it has become a “standard” alternative to euthanasia.

The number of patients put on the pathway has risen sharply in recent years, and opponents estimate that it is now said to be associated with almost a third of hospital deaths – or 130,000 people.

Earlier this month a group of doctors wrote to The Daily Telegraph in conjunction with the Medical Ethics Alliance, a Christian medical organisation, arguing that the technique could be being abused to save costs.

They said that many members of the public had contacted them with examples of inappropriate use of the pathway, with some doctors failing to seek informed consent.

Now the anti-euthanasia charity Alert is distributing cards to patients themselves ensuring that they can opt not to be put on the pathway if they do not wish to.

Simple printed cards read: “Please do not give me the Liverpool Care Pathway treatment without my informed consent or that of a relative.”

The initiative is designed to work in a similar way to so-called “living wills” or advance directives which give patients a right to refuse treatment under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Elspeth Chowharay-Best, the honorary secretary of Alert, said the cards were being produced to answer “an urgent need”.

Among those who have requested a card is Leslie Burke, a former Lancaster postman who has suffered from cerebellar ataxia, a degenerative disease of the central nervous system with follows a path similar to multiple sclerosis, since 1982.

“All I want is to live my life from end to end and not have it ended prematurely under any circumstances,” he said.

In 2005 Mr Burke was defeated at the Court of Appeal after he had earlier successfully demanded that doctors continued to treat him with artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) once he lost the ability to communicate.

Lord Phillips, the head of the panel of judges, assured him at the time that “any doctor who deliberately brings that patient’s life to an end by discontinuing the supply of ANH will not merely be in breach of duty but guilty of murder”.

But Mr Burke, 52, said that he was no terrified that starving and dehydrating patients to death in the NHS was now “becoming the norm”.

One British baby snaps out of a coma after a cuddle from his mother--while another British baby in a coma is ordered by a judge to be left to die

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: Deuteronomy 30:19

It's so comforting to know that life-and-death decisions are in the hands of "experts." First, the good news story, as reported in the London Daily Telegraph, July 26, 2012:

Adam Cheshire was just a day old when he stopped breathing and started suffering violent seizures due to a brain infection.

He slipped into a coma and was placed on a life support machine while doctors battled to save him.

Parents Charlotte and Chris Cheshire from Telford, Shropshire, were told to say their goodbyes and to take a final photograph of their son.

Yet, Adam astounded medics when he started showing signs of life after a cuddle from his mother.

The 16-month-old boy's recovery has been described as a 'miracle' and now Adam has taken his first steps.

Mrs Cheshire, 34, said: "They were convinced he was going to die.

"His entire body started to shut down. He was blue and shaking with convulsions.

"For a number of days, I was only allowed to gently stroke Adam's leg or arm before they encouraged me to hold and cuddle him.

"They told me skin-to-skin contact is very important. Your baby needs to know you are there.

"Adam is our miracle. He just refused to give up."

Adam was born at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital in Shropshire, weighing a healthy 7lb 3oz.

But the next day, Mrs Cheshire, noticed he was making a strange grunting noise and wouldn't feed.

Midwives immediately realised something was wrong and took Adam away for tests...

...His organs began to shut down and he was having constant seizures.

Doctors put Adam on a ventilator to breathe for him and kept him an induced coma.

The couple's health visitor was also put on stand-by to deal with bereaved parents...

...Three days later, Adam was diagnosed with Group B Strep Meningitis.

Pregnant women can transmit the disease to their newborns at birth.

Babies who survive can be left with speech, hearing, and vision problems as well as being permanently disabled.

Mrs Cheshire said: "A doctor came to see me to explain that while Adam was still alive and that they would do their best to treat him, that his life was very much in danger...

...Over the next week, his parents could only watch while their son fought for life.

They were warned that even if Adam lived, he could be brain damaged, epileptic, suffer cerebral palsy and a range of other disabilities.

But he refused to give up.

His breathing slowly improved and a few days later, doctors were able to take him off the ventilator.

On Mothering Sunday, Mrs Cheshire was finally able to hold her son for the first time since he had been ill and Adam opened his eyes for the first time.

Over the next few days, she spent up to twelve hours a day sitting in a rocking chair while Adam slept in her arms.

After being fed tiny amounts of milk through a tube for the first few weeks of his life, Adam began to breastfeed.

Skin-to-skin contact, also known as the 'kangaroo care' technique after the way kangaroos hold their young in a pouch next to their bodies, means the mother acts as a human incubator to keep babies warm, stimulated and fed.

Mrs Cheshire said: "It was incredibly traumatic to be separated from Adam. It felt fabulous to hold him in my arms.

"The moment he opened his eyes was incredible. I knew that if he was waking up, he would survive.

"In tiny, baby steps, Adam began to grow stronger.

"His seizures reduced and then stopped. His first MRI came back with some small spots of brightness which appeared to indicate brain damage, but it was too early to tell."

However, after three weeks in hospital, Adam, who has a hearing impairment, was well enough to go home to be with his parents and step-brother, George, ten.

A more recent MRI scan showed most of the brightness that indicated brain injury had disappeared.

Mrs Cheshire said: "It's been a continuing journey. We are so proud of him.

"Adam recently took his first steps unaided. It's another tick of the check list. Everything he does is incredibly amazing.

"We cannot fault the care we received at the hospital and the support we have been given. We would like to thank them all from the bottom of our hearts."

The couple are now backing the Group B Strep Support's petition asking for routine group B Streptococcus testing for pregnant women on the NHS.

Mrs Cheshire said: "Group B Strep is very common in the UK as one in four women in the UK are carriers. It can be quickly and easily detected with a swab test between 35-37 weeks of pregnancy..."

...For more information, contact Group B Step Support on 01444 416 176 or sign the petition at www.gbss.org.uk/epetition
Now the bad news story, as reported by Martin Beckford in the Daily Telegraph, July 31, 2012:

A judge has ruled that a severely brain-damaged baby boy can be allowed to die even though his devoutly religious parents wanted him to be kept on a life-support system.

Mr Justice Hedley said the one-year-old was comatose after a “catastrophic accident” and it was “unrealistic” to think his condition would ever improve.

He acknowledged that the baby’s mother and father believed “where there’s life there’s hope” and that their faith compelled them to resist switching off their son’s ventilator.

But while praising the parents’ dignity and moving evidence, the judge went on to say that the preservation of life by medics “cannot be everything”.

“No understanding of life is complete unless it has in it a place for death which comes to each and every human with unfailing inevitability. There is unsurprisingly deep in the human psyche a yearning that, when the end comes, it does so as a 'good death'.

“It is often easier to say what that is not rather than what it is but in this case the contrast is between a death in the arms and presence of parents and a death wired up to machinery and so isolated from all human contact in the course of futile treatment.”

Mr Justice Hedley concluded, having “pondered long and anxiously over this matter all too aware of the gravity of any such decision”, that it was in the baby’s best interests that he could be removed from supported breathing and instead given palliative care.

“My last words must be of profound sympathy to [the parents], whose loss and sorrow can I think only be grasped by those who also have passed through the valley of the shadow of death with their own children.”

In most cases where patients are not expected to recover from brain injuries or disabilities, relatives agree with doctors that life support can be switched off.

But when loved ones disagree, judges can be called upon to decide whether or not their wishes should override those of NHS trusts.

In one High Court case three years ago, the father of a severely disabled baby wanted everything possible done to keep his son alive while his estranged partner supported medics’ view that he had no quality of life. After six days of evidence, the father changed his mind and the baby was allowed to die peacefully.

But in another case, from 2006, a judge ruled that a terminally ill 18-month-old still derived some pleasure from being cared for by his family, and was given the right to be kept alive.

The latest “tragic and difficult” case, decided in the High Court this week, involved the first and only child of a married couple who was born healthy in 2011 but in May suffered a “catastrophic accident” leaving him with irreversible and profound brain damage.

“No suggestion has ever been made that either parent was culpable (whatever the mother in particular may feel) and it is quite clear to me that this was nothing more nor less than a wholly unforeseeable disaster,” the judge said.

The baby, referred to only as X in the judgment, was given “exemplary care” at a children’s hospital, where he is being ventilated as he cannot breathe independently, but staff came to the view that his treatment had become “futile”.

His parents said their son should be given “every chance to improve” and they believed they had seen some signs of hope, while the “tenets of their faith” prevent them giving their consent to life support being withdrawn.

But Mr Justice Hedley quoted a consultant who said the baby “lacks awareness of his surroundings”, “remains comatose”, “shows no interaction or recognition to his parents or carers’ voice” and “doesn’t even shed tears or attempt to smile”.

“In my opinion Baby X no longer has the human instinct and desire to survive,” the doctor said.

The judge said that although the parents had the “instinctive yearning” to keep their son alive, the medical evidence was correct and there was no sign of improvement in his condition.

Following his ruling, the baby's doctors can decide when to withdraw ventilation.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A secular columnist accurately assesses Canada's declining liberal churches

Even secular journalists can see what has caused the decline of the mainline churches. Unfortunately, evangelicalism is heading in the same direction, for the same reasons. Margaret Wente of the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail assesses the decline of the United Church of Canada in her column of July 28, 2012:

Two weeks from now, the United Church of Canada will assemble in Ottawa for its 41st General Council, where it will debate church policy and elect a new moderator. The top item on its agenda is a resolution calling for a boycott of products from Israeli settlements. Fortunately, nobody cares what the United Church thinks about Israeli settlements, or anything else for that matter, because the United Church doesn’t matter any more.

For many years, the United Church was a pillar of Canadian society. Its leaders were respected public figures. It was – and remains – the biggest Protestant denomination in a country that, outside Quebec, has been largely shaped by centuries of Protestant tradition.

But today, the church is literally dying. The average age of its members is 65. They believe in many things, but they do not necessarily believe in God. Some congregations proudly describe themselves as “post-theistic,” which is a good thing because, as one church elder said, it shows the church is not “stuck in the past.” Besides, who needs God when you’ve got Israel to kick around?

The United Church is not alone. All the secular liberal churches are collapsing. In the United States, the Episcopalians – facing many issues similar to those of the United Church – have lost a quarter of their membership in the past decade. They’re at their lowest point since the 1930s. Not coincidentally, they spent their recent general meeting affirming the right of the transgendered to become priests. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it doesn’t top most people’s lists of pressing spiritual or even social issues.

Back in the 1960s, the liberal churches bet their future on becoming more open, more inclusive, more egalitarian and more progressive. They figured that was the way to reach out to a new generation of worshippers. It was a colossal flop.

“I’ve spent all my ministry in declining congregations,” says David Ewart, a recently retired United Church minister who lives in British Columbia. He is deeply discouraged about the future of his faith. “In my experience, when you put your primary focus on the world, there is a lessening of the importance of worship and turning to God.”

The United Church’s high-water mark was 1965, when membership reached nearly 1.1 million. Since then it has shrunk nearly 60 per cent. Congregations have shrunk too – but not the church’s infrastructure or the money needed to maintain it. Today, the church has too many buildings and too few people to pay for their upkeep. Yet its leadership seems remarkably unperturbed. “It’s considered wrong to be concerned about the numbers – too crass, materialistic and business-oriented,” says Mr. Ewart. The church’s leaders are like the last of the Marxist-Leninists: still convinced they’re right despite the fact that the rest of the world has moved on.

Clearly, changes in society have had an enormous impact on church attendance. Volunteerism and other civic institutions are also in decline. Busy two-career families have less discretionary time for everything, including church. Sundays are for chores and shopping now. As for Sunday school, parents would rather take the kids to sports.

But something else began changing in the 1960s, too. The liberal churches decided that traditional notions of worship were out of date, even embarrassing. They preferred to emphasize intellect, rationality and understanding. “When I went to seminary, we never talked about prayer,” says Mr. Ewart. “I had an intellectual relationship with Jesus. But love Jesus? Not so much.”

As the United Church found common cause with auto workers, it became widely known as the NDP at prayer. Social justice was its gospel. Spiritual fulfilment would be achieved through boycotts and recycling. Instead of Youth for Christ, it has a group called Youth for Eco-Justice. Mardi Tindal, the current moderator, recently undertook a spiritual outreach tour across Canada to urge “the healing of soul, community and creation” by reducing our carbon footprint. Which raises the obvious question: If you really, really care about the environment, why not just join Greenpeace?

According to opinion polls, people’s overall belief in God hasn’t declined. What’s declined is people’s participation in religion. With so little spiritual nourishment to offer, it’s no wonder the liberal churches have collapsed...

...Should anybody miss the church? Yes, says Mr. Ewart. The church gave families a way to participate together in a community larger than themselves, for a purpose greater than themselves. Most of us don’t have a way to do that any more. Our kids won’t even have it in their memory bank.

In the past few years, Mr. Ewart has spent time hanging out with evangelicals – people who actually talk about loving Jesus. He admires their personal, emotional connection to God. Lately, he has even started praying. Perhaps he could pray for the church in which he spent his life to stop its self-immolation. But it’s probably too late.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Woman of modest means gives her life's savings for a Buddhist scripture reading in New York

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12

I find it interesting and amusing that the clergy of Eastern religions, who supposedly eschew materialism, seem to charge a lot for their services (presumably, they're free to do so beacuse money doesn't mean anything to them). As reported by Sarah Maslin Nir of The New York Times, July 16, 2012:

Dayangji Sherpa lives with her 25-year-old daughter, Nima, in a one-bedroom apartment in Woodside, Queens, where they sleep in the same bed to save money. But on Sunday, they stood on a dais before an altar of glittering gold Buddhas while some of the highest-ranked Buddhist monks from around the region bowed their heads to the women and showered them with benedictions. It was the culmination of a rare ceremony where every single text of their Buddhist canon is read from morning until night by monks, who are fed, housed and paid by a sponsor until all 108 books are read.

It took more than a month. And it cost more than $50,000 — the elder Ms. Sherpa’s life savings.

Completing the Kangyur, the Tibetan-language version of the sacred Buddhist texts, is done as a form of prayer for peace for all sentient beings, several monks explained. For nearly 40 days, ending last week, about a dozen monks called from around the region read eight hours a day, aloud and simultaneously, seated cross-legged in a converted brick church in Elmhurst.

There had never been such a reading in New York, according to Urgen Sherpa, 41, a former general secretary of Sherpa Kyidug, which represents Sherpas in the United States, including an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 in New York. (Mr. Sherpa is not related to Ms. Sherpa: many Sherpas, who are an ethnic group from high in the Himalayas in eastern Nepal, use the surname.) Kangyur readings are rarely commissioned even in Nepal, Mr. Sherpa said, because of the high cost.

Ms. Sherpa, 54, a home health aide, estimates she paid about $111 per monk per day. It included twice-daily meals of Nepalese and Tibetan comfort food at Himalayan Yak restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue and an attendant to provide an endless supply of traditional salted butter tea. Other members of the community also made donations.

“People can do this, but nobody does it,” Ms. Sherpa said. “I’m not rich. I wanted a do a good thing.”

In a fur hat, her long braid laced with pink thread, Ms. Sherpa doled out envelopes of money to each monk on Sunday, her daughter following behind her. As trumpets sounded and cymbals clashed, she limped across the dais on her artificial leg: When she was 8, her leg was amputated after it was crushed by an avalanche while she tended yaks near Kunde, her village. At 22, her family disowned her when she eloped with a man from a lower caste. When she was five months pregnant with Nima, the couple split up; Ms. Sherpa raised her daughter alone, eventually immigrating to the United States about a decade ago.

Even in a religion that rejects materialism, her modest means made the ceremony noteworthy, said Sherry Ortner, an anthropology professor at the University of California Los Angeles and an author on Sherpa culture.

Ms. Sherpa’s father and grandfather, who owned a successful teahouse near the Mount Everest base camp, each sponsored such a reading in the past. Ms. Ortner said that in Tibet and Nepal, such events are typically paid for by the wealthy. That a person of lesser means is sponsoring the Kangyur in the United States suggests that in the diaspora those old hierarchies are shifting. “The status system is changed,” she said.

Spending her savings was an act of faith, said Mr. Sherpa of the community association. Buddhism rejects materialism as one of the Three Poisons that lead to suffering. “She is giving away some materials,” he said. “That means a destroying of one of the poisons: greed, attachment.”

Pema Sherpa, a nanny, makes $700 a week and has supported one of the monks for the past two years and will continue to do so indefinitely, providing him a room in her house and $600 a month. She explained Dayangji Sherpa’s generosity: “What do you need in life? You have food, shelter, what else do you want? This is karma.”

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mormons take offense at Bloomberg Businessweek cover story

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormons, has strongly criticized the cover and accompanying article of the July 18, 2012 issue of BloombergBusinessweek magazine. As reported by Joseph Walker in the Salt Lake City newspaper Deseret News on July 12, 2012:

The new Bloomberg Businessweek magazine cover on LDS Church finances drew broad-based criticism Thursday.

"The Businessweek cover is in such poor taste it is difficult to even find the words to comment on it," said Michael Purdy, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Sadly, the cover is a reflection of the bias and speculative nature of the article itself. It is narrow and incomplete, omitting, for instance, a good deal of information given on how church resources are used.

"The article misses the mark and the cover is obviously meant to be offensive to many, including millions of Latter-day Saints."

The magazine hits newsstands Friday, but the cover illustration was released Thursday. It caricatures a classic LDS painting of what to Mormons is a sacred visitation by John the Baptist to early LDS leaders Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The cover created instant and broad reaction across news, political, business and religious websites. The cover headline reads "Inside the Mormon Empire." The accompanying illustration portrays John the Baptist telling Smith and Cowdery to "build a shopping mall, own stock in Burger King, and open a Polynesian theme park in Hawaii that shall be largely exempt from the frustrations of tax," to which Joseph responds: "Hallelujah."

"As someone who has been watching the coverage of politics and faith and more specifically of 'the Mormon question' for the last year, I see this as a great step backward," said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute, a school dedicated to excellence and integrity in journalism. "I thought we were past ridiculing sacred images of other faiths, even radical Muslims, let alone our fellow Americans. I doubt the story is as out of whack as the cover, but on its own, the cover crosses way over the line between commentary and bigotry."

Faith leaders also criticized the cover.

"This cover ridicules respected spiritual leaders and the Mormon faith by distorting a picture of sacred value and respect and turning it into a caricature, said Richard Mouw, president of the Fuller Seminary, a graduate-level seminary for Evangelicals. To be clear, a journalistic examination and analysis regarding the financial practices of any group is always fair game. But if such mocking and distortion were focused on Evangelicals or Catholics, we would call foul. For the Mormon community--and all of us--this is out of bounds...

..."It would be nice if news outlets were more sensitive to religion," said Diane Winston, the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the USC Annenberg School for Communication. "It would also be nice if we had world peace."

Winston recently co-authored a survey report that found most Americans consider media coverage of religion too sensationalized.

“I would be more concerned about the (in)accuracy of the article,” Winston said, than about the cover illustration, adding that the article itself did a poor job of explaining Mormon theology. Many religions have worldviews that incorporate both economic and spiritual values, a fact the Businessweek article missed, she said...

...W. Paul Reeve, associate professor of history at the University of Utah whose research specialty is Mormon history, joked that the article "leaves the reader wondering if there is anything spiritual in Mormonism at all" because of its single-minded slant on LDS finances...

...In addition to what he considered a lack of spiritual insight in the Bloomberg Businessweek article, Reeve felt there was a lack of depth in the numbers, noting that while the story talks a lot about the international humanitarian expenditures of the church, it doesn't seem to take into account the significant amounts that are expended through local LDS welfare efforts.

"The story didn't seem to account for charitable contributions made each month on a local level," Reeve said. "Even in poor wards (congregations), you still get a pretty significant monthly contribution that is being disbursed on a local level."

Nor does the article reference the enormous financial outlays the LDS Church makes in building and maintaining nearly 20,000 meetinghouses and 138 temples currently in operation around the world; training and supporting a missionary force of more than 50,000 full-time missionaries; providing buildings, materials and teachers for more than 700,000 seminary and institute students around the world; creating and providing classroom instruction materials for church leaders and teachers; support of Boy Scouting and similar activities for young women; as well other administrative and ecclesiastical costs.

"There's a lot that seems to be left unsaid here," Reeve said.

Reeve felt it was clear that the reporter had a "point of view" she was trying to communicate through the story, but he said reporting on the finances of private organizations is difficult and said "when you're not transparent with your financial holdings it leaves the door open for people to nibble around with whatever information they're able to find."
Those who wish to read the BloombergBusinessweek article for themselves should go to How the Mormons Make Money.

Mormon and New Ager Stephen Covey dies at 79

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12

For those who missed it, Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989), died on July 16, 2012 at the age of 79. Mr. Covey was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, i.e., a Mormon, and a popular figure in the New Age Movement. Mr. Covey founded the Covey Leadership Center, which merged with Franklin Quest in 1997 to become FranklinCovey, a company whose materials have been used in the training of Nazarene pastors at Ambrose University College, as you can see from reading my post on the subject.

California jury awards $28 million to woman who claims to have been sexually abused as a child within Jehovah's Witnesses church

In case you missed this--as reported by Chris De Benedetti of the Oakland Tribune, June 15, 2012:

OAKLAND -- A jury has ordered the Jehovah's Witnesses to pay more than $20 million to a woman who accused the religion's national leaders of setting a policy of secrecy that led a Fremont congregation's elders to protect a convicted sex offender who she claims molested her in the 1990s.

An Alameda County Superior Court jury on Thursday awarded $21 million in punitive damages -- and another $7 million in compensatory damages the previous day -- to plaintiff Candace Conti, a San Joaquin County resident.

"It was the nation's largest verdict for a victim of sex abuse involving a religious institution," said Rick Simons, the plaintiff's Hayward-based attorney.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York -- the organization overseeing the Jehovah's Witnesses -- must pay Conti nearly $24 million, covering all of the punitive damages and 40 percent of the compensatory damages.

Jonathan Kendrick, the congregation member whom Conti accused of molesting her, has been ordered to pay 60 percent of compensatory damages.

Jim McCabe, an attorney for the congregation, said he was very disappointed with the verdict and plans appeal it.

"The Jehovah's Witnesses hate child abuse and believe it's a plague on humanity," McCabe said. "Jonathan Kendrick was not a leader or a pastor, he was just a rank-and-file member. This is a tragic case where a member of a religious group has brought liability on the group for actions he alone may have taken."

Conti, now 26, was repeatedly molested by Kendrick from 1995-96, when she was 9 and 10 years old and a member of the North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Simons said.

The lawsuit claims Watchtower formed a policy in 1989 that instructed the religion's elders to keep child sex abuse accusations secret. The North Fremont congregation elders followed that policy when Kendrick was convicted in 1994 of misdemeanor child molestation in Alameda County, Simons said.

"That abuse case had been reported to the elders," he said. "But they kept it secret and didn't do anything to stop him from molesting more kids."

Kendrick, a registered sex offender, was convicted in 2004 of molesting another girl in Contra Costa County, Simons said.

"That policy is still in place and it was a secret until, through the power of the court, it was put into evidence," he said. "That policy was what this case was all about."

Criminal charges have not been filed against Kendrick in the Conti case, but Simons said authorities are investigating. Sources confirmed the investigation but declined to comment further.

McCabe said there is a lot of dispute regarding the plaintiff's accusations.

"But if she was, in fact, abused then we feel horrible, and hope she can make a full recovery and lead a normal life," he said.

Kendrick, now 58, lives in Contra Costa County, according to the state sex offender registry.
And according to The Associated Press, June 17, 2012:

...Mr. Kendrick was never criminally charged in the case involving Ms. Conti, but he was also convicted in 2004 of lewd or lascivious acts with a child, records show.

Mr. Kendrick, 58, now lives in Oakley, Calif., according to the state’s sex offender registry. He was ordered to pay 60 percent of the judgment, but Mr. Simons said there would be no attempt to collect any money from Mr. Kendrick, in part because he would not be able to pay. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York — the organization overseeing the Jehovah’s Witnesses — would be responsible for 40 percent, Mr. Simons said.

Jim McCabe, a lawyer for the congregation, said he planned to appeal the jury’s decision.

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses hate child abuse and believe it’s a plague on humanity,” Mr. McCabe said. “Jonathan Kendrick was not a leader or a pastor. He was just a rank-and-file member. This is a tragic case where a member of a religious group has brought liability on the group for actions he alone may have taken.”
Wendy Gillis reported in The Toronto Star on July 2, 2012 that this case may spark similar suits in Canada:

...“They’re sure getting a bloody nose over this one,” said retired University of Lethbridge professor James Penton, himself a former Jehovah’s Witness and the author of three books on the denomination. “This will cause many people to have nothing to do with them, and many people within the movement to question what’s going on.”

Penton, 80, doesn’t think child abuse is any more common in Jehovah’s Witness congregations than in any other religion or group.

He also said many elders obey laws on informing authorities of suspected child abuse. (The Watchtower’s policy on child protection explicitly states elders should take this step.) But he said there’s substance to allegations that the Watchtower simultaneously encourages secrecy when dealing with child abuse matters.

“They keep sending out various messages to the local elders, telling them to keep this sub rosa … the terrible, nasty aspect to this whole thing is the coverup,” Penton said.

According to Simons, documents presented as evidence in the Conti lawsuit proved that elders had been encouraged by the Watchtower not to raise Kendrick’s abusive past. The lawsuit alleged that this silence allowed Kendrick to abuse Conti.

The Watchtower did not return a request for comment from the Star. But Jim McCabe, a lawyer for the organization, said in a statement following the Conti verdict that Jehovah’s Witnesses “respectfully disagree with the jury’s decision.”

“We are very sorry for whatever harm this young lady may have suffered. However, the organization is not responsible,” said McCabe, noting the lawsuit was based on “the alleged misdeeds of a member who held no position of leadership or authority.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses “abhor child abuse and strive to protect children from such acts,” he said. They also reject allegations that the church has a secrecy policy concerning child sex abuse.

Critics of the church believe there could be Canadian followers whose claims of sexual abuse were swept under the rug in the past who may now file their own suits, having seen Conti defeat the Watchtower and its lawyers in court.

Barbara Anderson, a former Jehovah’s Witness who worked at the Watchtower, runs a website called WatchtowerDocuments.com from her Tennessee home. She told the Star that since the Conti ruling, her 10,000-member discussion board, which includes many Canadians, has lit up with people telling their own stories of abuse and wanting to know how to pursue action.

William Bowen runs a similar website, and said he’s heard from people from around the world who say they were molested while attending a Jehovah’s Witness church.

Bowen was a practising Jehovah’s Witness and an elder within the church, but said he left after he was encouraged to keep a report of child sexual abuse within the congregation quiet.

“They told me to leave it in Jehovah’s hands, which meant to not do anything and allow (the accused congregation member) to (allegedly) continue to molest,” he said.

Conti’s lawyer Simons said he’s had calls from people around the world saying they went through a similar experience in their Jehovah’s Witness congregations.

All this publicity is precisely what Conti had hoped her suit would achieve. “Nothing was going to get accomplished if it was kept silent,” she said, defending her decision to go public with her story. “In my mind it’s a good start to obtaining a goal to protect children in the future.”

Here in Canada, Vicki Boer had hoped to shine a light on abuse within Jehovah’s Witness communities when she filed a civil suit against the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada and the elders of her congregation more than a decade ago over how her complaint of sexual abuse had been handled.

Boer told the court how in the 1980s, between the age of 12 and 16, she was abused by her father. They belonged to a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Shelburne, Ont. and when she told church elders, she was forced go over her allegations in detail in front of her father.

“It was the process that was damaging … them putting me in a room, making me sit in front of my father when I was explaining the abuse, when I went to them first because I was suffering,” she said from Fredericton, where she now lives.

The Jehovah Witnesses have a strict rule that the accused produce an independent witness of the alleged wrongdoing. As well, Watchtower policy states that when a Jehovah’s Witness is accused of abusing a child, elders must meet with both the accused and the accuser — individually and then together.

“If during that meeting the accused still denies the charges and there are no others who can substantiate them, the elders cannot take action within the congregation at that time,” says the Watchtower’s online child-protection statement. “Why not? As a Bible-based organization, we must adhere to what the Scriptures say, namely, ‘No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin …’ ”

According to former members, elders have told children and their families that if there are no witnesses to the alleged abuse then they should not speak about it as that would be slanderous. To do so can be grounds for “shunning” — whereby the outcast follower is cut off from friends, family, his or her former way of life.

Boer eventually won the high-profile case, heard in Toronto, but was then ordered to pay the legal costs for all parties.

The church eventually relented on making her cover its costs, but the judge’s decision was not the victory she had been after.

News of Conti’s favourable verdict left her “extremely happy,” Boer said. “I applaud her that she did it, too, because it takes an extreme amount of belief in yourself and what you’re doing. These (acts of abuse) just have to stop.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Canada's "Conservative" government honours a Communist

Canada's "Conservative" government, under allegedly "Christian" Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has seen fit to spend $2.5 million of taxpayers' money to honour Dr. Norman Bethune in his birthplace of Gravenhurst, Ontario. Dr. Bethune joined the Communist Party in 1935, went to Spain the following year to aid the Communist cause in the Spanish Civil War, and then used his medical skills to aid Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communists in their struggle to take over China. He died of an accidental blood infection in 1939. I doubt that Dr. Bethune would be regarded as a hero if he had used his medical skills to aid the cause of Nazism, but Communists continue to get a pass as "idealists." The movement in which Dr. Bethune served is one that has murdered more Christians than the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis.

The undeserved honour for Norman Bethune has the support of Canada's allegedly Christian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. As reported by Jessica Murphy of The Toronto Sun, July 11, 2012:

OTTAWA - The Prime Minister's Office is standing behind a $2.5 million taxpayer-funded tourist trap dedicated to Canadian Maoist supporter Norman Bethune.

Andrew MacDougall, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's spokesman, said Wednesday that Parks Canada locations - like where the new visitors centre at the Bethune Memorial House National Historic Site is located - "cover the full spectrum of political actors (and) political thought from Canada's past."

He added that tourism dollars spent at such sites are an important part of Canada's "fragile economic recovery."

The memorial house in Gravenhurst, Ont., 170 kilometres north of Toronto - Bethune's birthplace - is a popular destination for Chinese business and government delegations, and draws some 1,000 visitors a day during high season...

...Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who breezed in to the centre's grand opening Wednesday in a bright orange rickshaw, told the crowd he wasn't celebrating Bethune's ardent Communist ideology but his other values.

"What I see in Dr. Bethune is his spirit of humanitarianism," he said.

Still, at least one Tory backbencher is frustrated tax dollars went to fund the new centre.

"I don't doubt there's a lot of people who get warm and fuzzy when they think of Norman Bethune," Rob Anders said. "They're probably left-leaning. But he doesn't warm the cockles of my heart."
The Toronto Sun summed up the situation well in an editorial titled No memorial for Mao's puppet on July 14, 2012:

If it is all about tourism and pork-barrelling, then perhaps Parks Canada should consider a museum for Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel, the infamous landed immigrant who was eventually deported from Canada for hate crimes.

Perhaps the Ontario town of Swastika, just outside Kirkland Lake, would benefit from such an odious tourist trap.

Forget that the town had its name long before the world ever heard of Hitler. Use it anyway. Exploit it.

If, as a PMO spokesman put it, it's all about Parks Canada covering "the full spectrum of political actors (and) political thought from Canada's past," then what's the difference between Ernst Zundel and Norman Bethune?

Zundel embraced Hitler; Bethune embraced Mao.

Mao is No.1 on the bloody tyrant hit parade, widely reported to be responsible for 60-million deaths; Stalin second with 20 million; and Hitler third with 12 million.

In other words, Mao wiped out what is representative of almost twice Canada's present population.

So he wins and, as his reward for being the devil's spawn, his Canadian-born apologist, Norman Bethune, gets a $2.5-million roadside tourist attraction in his birthplace of Gravenhurst, Ont.

And here we thought it got enough pork when Tony Clement, its MP, was dishing out the G20 lucre.

We are being cynical, of course, but surely you catch our drift about sugar-coating the facts on Bethune.

While born in Canada in 1890, he was a card-carrying commie from 1935 onward, taking his surgical skills to the battlefield of the Spanish Civil War before heading to China to becoming a willing puppet to Mao's propaganda machine as tens of millions were being murdered.

Queen's University's Bruce Gilley, an expert on China's politics, was fairly succinct in his assessment of Bethune.

"Bethune was someone we in our contemporary Western world would call a useful idiot," he said. "He more or less took leave of his moral compass and senses when he went to China and threw himself into the communist cause." And for this he gets a memorial museum?

Parks Canada, and the PMO, should admit their mistake and close it down now.

As for bringing the good folks of Swastika into the fray, we apologize unreservedly.

But the point had to be made.
Other columns worth reading on this subject are by Ezra Levant ("Canada's Shrine of Shame"); Charles Adler ("China's Useful Idiot"); and Peter Worthington ("End the Norman Bethune Buffoonery"). It's worth noting that while the "Conservative" government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper sees fit to honour a man who left the country to fight for Communism, a true Canadian hero named Ben Sivertz, who saved the lives of starving Canadians in the 1950s, is vilified and slandered as a racist criminal by the same government.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

British Columbia human rights gestapo rules that sodomy trumps religious freedom

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:24-32

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
Constitution Act, 1982; Part I; Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; Fundamental Freedoms

Another nail in the coffin of freedom in Trudeaupia (formerly Canada), as the "rights" not to have one's feelings hurt or be offended and to practice a sodomite lifestyle--which are nowhere found in the Constitution--are ruled to take precedence over the actual constitutional fundamental freedoms of conscience and religion (the first "fundamental freedoms" mentioned, in fact). My old friend Ezra Levant has written much on this (and experienced the jackboots firsthand); his book Shakedown (2009) is must reading. As reported by Lori Culbert of the Vancouver Sun, July 18, 2012:

A retired Grand Forks couple who would not allow two gay men to stay in their bed and breakfast has to pay the men more than $4,500, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has ruled.

Les and Susan Molnar, who owned the now-closed Riverbed Bed and Breakfast, held “sincere religious beliefs” opposing same-sex relationships when they cancelled reservations for Shaun Eadie and Brian Thomas in July 2009 after learning the couple was gay, tribunal member Enid Marion said in a decision this week.

The Molnars argued they had merely banned Eadie and Thomas from their home, where they conduct prayer meetings and feel responsible for the behaviour of any guests.

But Marion disagreed, finding the bed and breakfast room was separate from the Molnars’ personal living space and was operated more like a hotel or motel.

“Having entered into the commercial sphere, the Molnars, like other business people, were required to comply with the laws of the province ... that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Marion wrote.

Eadie and Thomas, who live in Vancouver, filed their complaint three years ago, but the case had been delayed for a variety of reasons.

The story began when Eadie phoned Susan Molnar to reserve a room with a single bed at the bed and breakfast.

Susan Molnar was concerned she had rented the room to a same-sex couple, so Les Molnar called Eadie back to ask if he and Thomas were gay.

Eadie affirmed they were, to which Molnar says he replied that staying at his house was “not going to work out.”

Eadie responded by saying “wow,” and hung up. He testified he found the exchange quite disturbing.

At the tribunal hearing, the Molnars, devout Christians who regularly attend church, argued they had a constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion, and that the cancellation of the reservation was justified on this basis.

“[Les Molnar] testified that it would have shamed him and his Lord if he had allowed [Eadie and Thomas] to share one bed,” Marion wrote.

But Marion disagreed with the constitutional argument, noting the bed and breakfast was not run by a church.

In the ruling, the Molnars were ordered to pay each of the complainants $1,500 for damages, $340 for travel expenses, and more than $400 for lost wages to attend the hearing in Kelowna.

The Molnars closed their bed and breakfast in September 2009, after renovating their house two years earlier to open the business.

The couple testified they had suffered harassment because of the controversy and were worried about future complaints.
As usual, it's a female bureaucrat making the outrageous decision. I can't recall one wise judgement ever being made in Canada by a female judge or human rights commissioner. Her reasoning, typical of Trudeaupian rights gestapos, is absurd and twisted: there's nothing in the Charter passage cited above that says that freedoms of conscience and religion may only be applied within the context or setting of a church.

One con man undermines an Edmonton church's prosperity gospel

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1

Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. Proverbs 23:5

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
I Timothy 6:9-10

Cal Switzer, goatherd pastor of Victory Christian Center in Edmonton for the last 30 years, is a typical graduate of the notorious Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa, an institution founded by Word of Faith heretic Kenneth Hagin (which may explain why Pastor Cal spells "center" the American way). It seems that Pastor Cal's prosperity gospel message has run into a roadblock lately. As reported by Brent Wittmeier of the Edmonton Journal, July 22, 2012:

EDMONTON - Positive messages abound at the bright and clean Victory Christian Center.

On Sunday morning, the screen inside the spacious white sanctuary at 11520 Ellerslie Rd. lights up with the church’s vision, paraphrased from the Gospel of Mark: “Build a dream with love … produce a harvest beyond your wildest dreams.”

Following praise songs and announcements about backpack giveaways and a kids’ slide at Capital Ex, pastor Calvin Switzer paused during his sermon to discuss “some reports that came out this week” that there have been financial wrongdoings against the church. Lawyers are making “supernatural progress” in efforts to recover millions of dollars owed to the church, Switzer said, reading a lawyer’s statement deploring the “wrongful and unconscionable” actions of Kevyn Frederick, a developer who owes the church $2.8 million, court documents say. The allegations in those documents have not been proven in court.

Switzer deemed the problems a possible stepping stone for greater outreach in the city.

“When the enemy comes in with a flood, God comes in with a bigger flood,” Switzer said. “As a church, we should go after what’s ours because this is a family, a spiritual family, and it’s God’s house.”

He was interrupted by Wally Glimm, a former member of the church, who stood up and yelled.

“I’ve got something to say,” Glimm shouted at Switzer, before ushers came and ejected him from the building. “You’re trying to blame it all on Frederick. You are the one to blame for all of this.”

Earlier this month, the eight-hectare chunk of prime south Edmonton real estate was put on the block by Toronto-based creditors. The church building, school, Bible college, daycare, and the land are expected to fetch $14 million, according to CBRE Ltd., the court-appointed broker.

Glimm isn’t the first to point to Switzer, who also acts as president of Victory Christian Center Inc., for financial obstacles facing his church.

Four years ago, Victory Christian Center sold its Ellerslie Road property in an $18-million cash- and land- swap with Frederick, court documents show.

The 41-year-old developer would later be known for his involvement with the troubled Bellavera Green condos in Leduc, where fire code violations and other problems led to an emergency evacuation order for 85 completed suites in February. After the property was placed into receivership the next month, Frederick was the subject of numerous law suits.

But in exchange for the Victory swap, Frederick gave the church a $2.8-million down payment, transferred over a $2.6-million Leduc County property, and promised an additional $12.6 million to be paid later. Although Frederick took ownership of the church land, he didn’t register a $12.6 million “take back” mortgage, a safeguard to default the land back to the church if he couldn’t make payments.

The next year, the church took out a $2-million mortgage on its new Leduc property to help Frederick buy out Gary Korzan, his partner in the Bellavera Green condos. Frederick told the church he planned to pay his debts from sales of Bellavera Green condos.

At no point were lawyers involved during those deals, court documents say.

Switzer owns 98 per cent of the common shares in Victory Christian Center Inc., reports an affidavit signed by Korzan this past April. The affidavit notes the organization had an agreement with Frederick to build a church on the Leduc County land.

“Switzer signed the mortgage renewal agreement in front of independent legal counsel and swore an affidavit that he had authority to bind the (church),” Korzan’s affidavit reads. “The (church) knew that they were pledging their property for the purpose of business dealings that they had with (Frederick).”

After being escorted outside on Sunday, Glimm talked about attending Victory church for about five years in the 1990s. His daughter was a principal at the Victory school, Glimm said, and donating money was encouraged as an integral part of receiving God’s blessing.

“When I was here, it was nothing but money, money, money, money,” Glimm said.

By his own estimates, Glimm donated $300,000 to $500,000 to the church while running a successful auction and realty business. When his business went badly, the church wouldn’t help him, he said. Glimm still believes in God, but wants to see the church shut down.

“I just hope that real truth and honesty prevail in this,” Glimm said. “(Switzer) did it himself, so why put the blame on somebody else? If he had taken five or six people in there, maybe they would have said, ‘hey, we don’t like this, no.’”

Switzer couldn’t be reached for comment.
Victory Christian Center, Inc. is registered as a charitable organization with Canada Revenue Agency. The information provided by VCC to CRA for the years 2000-2010 can be found here by following the links.

For an earlier article on VCC's financial troubles, see Victory church in land-sale battle from the July 20, 2012 edition of the Edmonton Journal.

Just one question, Chief: What part of Mark is that "Build a dream..." passage cited above "paraphrased" from? It doesn't resemble anything I've seen in Mark, or any other part of the Bible.

August 29, 2012 update: On August 11, 2012, the Edmonton Journal published a lengthy feature article by Mr. Wittmeier titled The rise and fall of the 'Miracle Church'.

November 19, 2012 update: Today's Edmonton Journal contains another article by Mr. Wittmeier titled Future of Victory Christian Center linked to pending hotel deal:

EDMONTON - Like the game of Monopoly, the future of Victory Christian Center might just rest on hotels, mortgages, and bankruptcies.

Two months have passed since the initial deadline for offers on the eight-hectare site — listed in July for $14 million — where the financially troubled south Edmonton church sits. And while CBRE Limited — the court-appointed real estate company looking after the sale — is still shopping 11520 Ellerslie Road, other court documents show the fiscal fate of the church itself may rest several kilometres north, at the 307-room Crowne Plaza Hotel at 10111 Bellamy Hill Road, best known for its revolving rooftop restaurant.

The connection between the two properties and Kevyn Frederick — a troubled developer and convicted fraudster currently in a maelstrom of lawsuits — is detailed in a June 22 decision by Court of Queen’s Justice Donald Lee granting a sealing order on financial details of the hotel’s pending sale and bidding process.

In Aug. 2008, Victory Christian Center signed its Ellerslie Road property over to Frederick’s numbered company, 1410973 Alberta Ltd. In the $18-million cash and land swap, the church received a $12-million “take-back” mortgage promising to return the land if Frederick defaulted, and made a deal for Leduc County land for a new facility Frederick would build. The church also signed a five-year lease with Frederick for $334,668 per year to remain on the land until April 2013, other documents show.

Frederick used the church land to register a $6-million mortgage with Ram Singh, a retired dentist. In Oct. 2010, he used Singh’s money — and the collateral of the church property — in the $47.8-million purchase of the Crowne Plaza Hotel from Chateau Lacombe Limited Partnership. To complete the deal, Frederick borrowed $32 million from Toronto-based Romspen Investment Corporation, and more than $11 million from Allied Hospitality Services Inc...

...Lee’s decision notes that appraisals conducted on the hotel have placed its value “well below” what is owed to Romspen and Alliance. And while a deal on the Crowne Plaza still hasn’t been completed, other court documents show it’s close. After two rounds of offers, CBRE received an unsolicited offer on Aug. 17 — details of which are known to Romspen, Alliance, Singh, and the church — “for a significantly higher price” than all previous bids. Originally expected to close Oct. 1, the final deadline has been extended several times, most recently on Nov. 7, when Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Julianna Topolniski granted an additional 90 days to close the deal.

By then, it all may be moot for Victory Christian Center. Despite the $14-million price tag on the Ellerslie Road property, a valuation report completed in February estimated the property’s value at $7.5 million, or just $6.6 million if the sale is forced. And after Romspen and Singh receive their due, little might be left over.
When I try to read stories about complicated financial deals, I begin to suffer from what a former professor of mine referred to as the MEGO syndrome (My Eyes Glaze Over), so those who are interested in all the details of these complex deals may want to read the full article. I find it interesting and amusing that the Court of Queen's Bench Justice who made the ruling was Donald Lee. Two pages earlier in the November 19, 2012 edition of the paper, Justice Lee is the subject of another article. Justice Lee has had two of his decisions quashed by the Alberta Court of Appeal because his judgments in these cases consisted largely of plagiarizing--cutting and pasting--the arguments of the lawyers.

May 28, 2013 update: As reported by Brent Wittmeier of the Edmonton Journal, May 25, 2013:

Victory Christian Center — a church, daycare and K-12 school — will have to vacate its south Edmonton site by end of July, according to a deal approved Friday in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

Justice Juliana Topolniski approved a cash offer of between $6.6 million and $7.1 million for the eight-hectare site at 11520 Ellerslie Road. Details of the transaction are under a sealing order until the deal closes June 28.

The church, which has occupied the site since 1989, lost its title five years ago during an ill-fated $18-million deal with mortgage fraudster Kevyn Frederick. The church receives nothing from the sale, which came in at about half of the $14-million price tag from its July 2012 judicial listing. Barring an appeal, Ram Singh, one of Frederick’s partners, will also lose claim to a $6-million mortgage agreement signed with Frederick.

“The market has spoken,” Topolniski said. “This is a difficult case for many: the congregation, the students at the school, children at the play school, Dr. Singh.”

The land was auctioned on behalf of creditors owed tens of millions by Frederick, whose finances collapsed in late 2011. Proceeds of the sale will go to Romspen Investment Corporation, a Toronto-based mortgage company that loaned Frederick $32 million to buy the Chateau Lacombe hotel in downtown Edmonton in Aug. 2010. That hotel recently sold under court order for $27.5 million, leaving Romspen roughly $8 million short of recouping its losses.

A last-minute offer nearly saw the church become a mosque. Less than an hour before the hearing, Topolniski received word that the Southwest Muslim Community Centre had submitted a new and higher offer. The group placed a $1-million deposit on the land, offering to pay $500,000 by December and the rest of the money next year.

Despite two counter-offers tendered in the early afternoon, Romspen rejected that deal, opting for the earlier cash bid.

June 16, 2013 update:
As reported by Brent Wittmeier in the Edmonton Journal, June 8, 2013:

Land once owned by Victory Christian Center could soon be replaced by a private seniors' care facility, Alberta Justice confirmed this week.

An offer for the eight-hectare site at 11520 Ellerslie Rd. - currently occupied by the church, its K-12 school and daycare - was approved in Court of Queen's Bench on May 24 and is expected to close June 28.

The offer was submitted by Assisted Care Services Inc., Alberta Justice spokeswoman Michelle Davio said this week. The Edmonton-based company was formed in 2006 by Lorenzo Clonfero, president and owner of Rosedale Developments, which operates a 58-suite, six-storey seniors' facility at 10053 111th St.

Details are sealed until the deal closes on June 28, but the price fell to roughly half of the $14-million asking price. Clonfero's offer was between the land's appraised $7.5-million market value and its $6.6-price tag under "distressed" conditions, court heard.

Clonfero's lawyer argued the buyer should remain anonymous under the sealing order. Justice Juliana Topolniski disagreed...

...Several offers were tabled in the 10 months before Clonfero's unconditional cash offer on May 3, according to an affidavit filed last month by Bradley Gingerich, senior vice-president of court-appointed commercial real estate firm CBRE Limited.

Real estate companies submitted bids in July and October that failed to meet conditions. On Oct. 31, the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination made an offer that didn't "meet the market value" of the land. In mid-December, a numbered company with the address of a south Edmonton law firm submitted a failed offer requiring interest-free financing for seven years.

More recent offers were submitted by a trio of Muslim organizations. The non-profit Muslim Association of Canada submitted a bid on Feb. 14 that didn't meet due diligence conditions. Later offers were jointly submitted by a pair of Mill Woods-based charities, the Southwest Muslim Community Centre and the Markaz Ul Islam Society, which were rejected for "uncertain" payment terms and a final closing date another 10 months away.

The group continued to submit last minute offers on May 24, the day courts were slated to approve Clonfero's offer.

Under the terms of the approved deal, programs affiliated with Victory Christian Center must vacate the site by the end of July.

Rosa Ritzmann, administrator of the private K-12 school operated out of modular classrooms on the land, wrote in an email that "plans are in place for the upcoming (school) year," though she wouldn't say where classes will be held. The school receives 70 per cent of its funding through the province - roughly $5,000 per student - and had 169 students last year.

Court action created disruptions for Victory Christian School officials. Eight teachers left last summer, six after the property went on the market, said Melanie Stevens, a former teacher at the school. Last August, Concordia High School spokeswoman Erin Stevenson said Victory representatives were shown a 15,000-sq.-foot facility at 830 Saddleback Road, then subject of a lease dispute that would cause the 90-yearold Lutheran school to permanently close its doors.

Victory Christian Center will receive nothing from the sale of its former land. Founding pastor and school president Cal Switzer signed away the title in August 2008 in an ill-fated $18-million cash-and-land swap.

Frederick still owed the church $12.3 million when he leveraged the land in 2010 to buy the Château Lacombe hotel in downtown Edmonton, securing a $32-million mortgage with Romspen Investment Corporation to buy the property for $48.7 million.
September 27, 2013 update:
As reported by Brent Wittmeier in the Edmonton Journal, July 31, 2013:

EDMONTON - Whenever Theresa Desjardins tells her toddler that it’s time for daycare, the 16-month-old races to find her shoes and coat.

For the past five months, Desjardins’ daughter has loved going to the attentive caregivers at the Victory Christian Center daycare. But while her daughter ate and slept well there, Desjardins worried.

Journal articles from a couple of months ago explained how tenants of the church at 11520 Ellerslie Road would be evicted by the end of July due to foreclosure of the property. But when Desjardins asked about it, the daycare director told her the stories weren’t true and that any moves were a long way off.

“She told me not to worry, it was business as usual, they’re not moving anywhere,” Desjardins said. “I was told that there’s always been a plan in place to move because they’re outgrowing their facility.”

Desjardins decided to keep her daughter where she was happy. Then on July 18, there were letters taped to children’s’ lockers informing parents care would end July 26. Officials hoped to be up and running soon at a new facility at an undisclosed location, the note said. When pressed for details, they wouldn’t tell parents when or where that would be.

“The director said to me that it was a complete shock, that this was coming out of nowhere, this was so unexpected,” Desjardins said. “I said, there’s a sold sign on your front lawn. How can this be unexpected?”

Victory Christian Center wouldn’t respond to questions or comment about whether it will vacate the site — home to church services, the daycare, and a private K-12 school — later this week. But court documents show the eight-hectare site sold for $6.6 million June 28 to Assisted Care Services Inc., a private seniors care facility developer. Private schools are required to inform Alberta Education of any changes to their location, but Victory hasn’t told the government about any changes, a government spokeswoman said in an email Tuesday. The school received approximately $800,000 from Alberta Education last year, roughly 60 per cent of the school’s budget. There were 150 students there last year, down from 169 the year before.

Nobody from Victory Christian School could be reached, but an administrator told the Journal in June that “plans are in place for the upcoming year,” but wouldn’t say where classes would be held...

...Other parents are just as upset about all the secrecy, Desjardins said. She feels especially bad for staff members, some of whom didn’t bother coming in during the final week of the daycare.

“A week’s notice is not enough time for families to make arrangements,” Desjardins said. “They’re a Christian facility. How could they do this to people? I’m not a religious person, but shouldn’t you be treating people better than this?”
As reported by Brent Wittmeier in the Edmonton Journal, September 5, 2013:

EDMONTON - A troubled south Edmonton church has moved services and its private K-12 school to a location on Saddleback Road.

Victory Christian School will open Monday at a new location at 810 Saddleback Road, an Alberta Education spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday. And while nobody at the church could be reached for comment, a receptionist confirmed church services have also been moved to the site.

The moves come just weeks after the closure of a $6.6-million deal that saw the eight-hectare Ellerslie Road site — home to the church, the school, a daycare and a Bible college — sold as part of foreclosure proceedings against convicted mortgage fraudster Kevyn Fredericks...

...Church services continued at 11520 Ellerslie Road into August. The daycare facility there closed temporarily on July 26, eight days after letters were taped to children’s’ lockers informing parents care would end. Parents say daycare services have yet to resume.

The church was at that site since 1989. The school was first incorporated in 1995 and became its own charity in June 2008, just two months before Switzer sold the property. Private schools are required to inform Alberta Education of any changes to their location, but Victory hadn’t told the government about any changes until last month.

The school received approximately $800,000 from Alberta Education last year, roughly 60 per cent of the school’s budget. There were 150 students there last year, down from 169 the year before.

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Christian" rock bands to perform at Roman Catholic-sponsored eXclaim! festival in Toledo

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. II Corinthians 6:17

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Ephesians 5:11

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
II John 9-11

On July 29, 2012, eXclaim!--advertised as "Toledo's Free Christian Music Festival"--will feature "Christian" bands Kutless and The City Harmonic, as well as Roman Catholic singer Josh Blakesley. It takes only a few minutes of searching to discover the purpose of eXclaim!; the following information speaks for itself. According to the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, Ohio:

Exclaim, Toledo’s largest outdoor Christian music festival, is returning for its third year!

The free, family-centered event will be held Sunday, July 29, from 2:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Monsignor Schmit CYO Athletic Complex, S. Holland-Sylvania Road. Last year 7,000 people attended and enjoyed the music of some of our country’s top Christian artists.

Popular Christian band Kutless headlines this year’s group of artists, which includes The City Harmonic and Josh Blakesley. Exclaim is sponsored by Medical Mutual and The Toledo Catholic Diocese. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be sold. Inflatables, children’s games, teen activities and information on Catholic ministries and area businesses will also be offered. The day will conclude with an outdoor Mass featuring priests from across the Diocese and music from Josh Blakesley.

If you go to the eXclaim! site, you find the following under "About Us:"

What is EXCLAIM?
Sunday, July 29, 2012
EXCLAIM! is a day that Christians of all ages can gather in a celebration of life, love, and faith. Through music, games, sports tournaments and prayer we will strengthen our faith and build thelocal Catholic community. Held at the Monsignor Schmit CYO Athletic Complex, the focal point of the event will be a main stage that showcases some of the best in contemporary Christian music.

Throughout the day participants will be able to enjoy music on the main stage, play on inflatable games, participate in children's activities, compete in sports tournaments, browse booths from local Catholic ministries and area businesses and graba bite to eat. Picnic lunches are also welcome.

The culmination of the day's activities will be a celebration of the Eucharist. This Mass will include clergy from across the diocese, music from various parish programs and ministries performed by Catholics from all parts of the Toledo diocese.

EXCLAIM! is a celebration of the Catholic Church today.
OUR MISSION
One of the principal objectives of the Second Vatican Council was the restoration of unity of all Christians. "Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only." (Decree on Ecumenism, #1).

EXCLAIM! reaches the entire Christian Church. Participants are encouraged to bring friends and neighbors from all walks of life. Friends and family will come to see local performers. With a national name performing on the main stage, Christians of all denominations will come to eXclaim and see their favorite Christian musician right here in Toledo.

We will reach out to Catholics who no longer go to church. They will have opportunities to see how the Catholic Church is real, relevant, and alive. They will be able to obtain information from parishes where they live and reconnect with their Catholic roots.

Other Christian denominations will be invited to stay for Mass and witness the beauty of a Catholic liturgy.
The sponsors include:
St. Joan of Arc parish Toledo
St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Parish Toledo
St. Rose Parish Perrysburg
St. Joseph Parish Sylania
Historic St. Patrick Parish Toledo
Immaculate Conception Parish Toledo
Central Catholic High School
Blessed John XXIII Parish Perrysburg
Lourdes University
Knights of Columbus--Blessed John XXIII

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Portland, Oregon man strips naked to protest airport security--and wins his case in court

As reported by Aimee Green of the Portland newspaper The Oregonian, July 18, 2012:

Portland is buffing its image as Naked City USA with the latest nudity case to grab national headlines...

...a Multnomah County judge Wednesday acquitted 50-year-old John E. Brennan of an indecent exposure charge after he stripped naked at Portland International Airport.

Brennan's friends packed into the courtroom and erupted in applause and cheers upon hearing the verdict. As they filed into the hallway, they heartily embraced a smiling Brennan.

One friend stuck a sticky note on Brennan's chest. It read: "Sir Godiva" -- a reference to the legend of a noblewoman who rode naked on a horse through the streets of England to protest oppressive taxation.

Brennan famously shed all his clothes April 17 at an airport security checkpoint. It was 5:30 p.m. and gawkers didn't hesitate to take smart phone photos and offer them up to the media as Brennan stood for about five minutes before police arrived.

During a two-hour trial, Brennan testified that he undressed because he was fed up with what he sees as invasive Transportation Security Administration procedures -- including body scans and pat downs.

Prosecutors charged Brennan with violating a city ordinance that forbids people from exposing their genitalia in public and in the presence of the opposite sex.

The judge sided with the defense, which cited a 1985 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling stating that nudity laws don't apply in cases of protest.

"It is the speech itself that the state is seeking to punish, and that it cannot do," Circuit Judge David Rees said.

Once again, the news quickly spread far and wide: USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and CNN were among websites featuring the story in their feeds.

Brennan, a high-tech consultant, showed up to court wearing a baby-blue button-up shirt and chocolate-colored slacks. He testified that he was starting a business trip to San Jose, Calif., when he declined to step into one of the TSA's body scanners. Screeners then asked him to step through a metal detector and submit to a pat down.

The screener tested his gloves used in the pat down, and a machine indicated the presence of nitrates, presumably picked up from Brennan's clothes.

Brennan said it was then he knew he was in trouble -- not because he was part of any sinister plot to blow up a plane, but because he would have to wait a long time for TSA to sort out the mix-up and he could get to his gate.

Brennan then calmly disrobed -- a convenient way to show the TSA that he wasn't carrying any explosives, he said.

"I also was aware of the irony of taking off my clothes to protect my privacy," he said.

Brennan said he told authorities that he was doing so in protest, although a screener and a Port of Portland police officer testified it wasn't until police arrived that Brennan made that claim.

Brennan said he wanted to show the TSA "that I know my rights. That you have these machines that can see us naked. ... They're getting as close to seeing us naked as they can. And we are upping the ante."

Deputy District Attorney Joel Petersen argued that Brennan only spoke of a protest minutes later. Petersen urged the judge to recognize that distinction, "otherwise any other person who is ever naked will be able to state after the fact" that it was done in protest.

The city ordinance states that the crime is a misdemeanor. Prosecutors decided to downgrade Brennan's criminal charge to a violation, similar to a traffic ticket. If he had been convicted, he likely would have had to pay a fine.

In Portland, the verdict seems in keeping with the city's posture as a bastion of free expression.
Now that a legal precedent has been established, perhaps increasing numbers of Americans should strip as a means of protest. I suggest that the movement should be led by those with the ugliest bodies; the resulting revulsion might prompt authorities to be less intrusive.

Firewalking proves a little too hot for some people at a Tony Robbins event

I was surprised to hear that firewalking is still going on; I guess nobody told Tony Robbins that the 1980s are over. As reported by Eric Kurhi and Mark Gomez of the San Jose Mercury News, July 20, 2012 (updated July 22, 2012):

SAN JOSE -- ...At least 21 people were treated for burn injuries after taking part in the crowning event of the first day of a Tony Robbins function downtown, including at least three who went to the hospital, a San Jose fire captain said.

The people who suffered various second- and third-degree burn injuries were among more than 6,000 who attended the motivational speaker's event at the San Jose Convention Center called "Unleash the Power Within."

After the event, which ended about 11 p.m., the crowd walked across the street to the park, where 12 lanes of hot coals measuring 10 feet long and 2½-feet wide rested on the grass.

Jonathan Correll, 25, decided to check out what was going on when "I heard wails of pain, screams of agony." He said one young woman appeared to be in so much pain "it was horrific."

"It was people seriously hurting, like they were being tortured," he said. "First one person, then a couple minutes later another one, and there was just a line of people walking on that fire. It was just bizarre, man."

Correll, a San Jose City College student, said he saw between 10 and 15 people being treated. He said he videotaped the scene for about 5 minutes before an event staffer told him to put the camera away.

But on a break from day two of the four-day event Friday night, others who walked on the coals said it was nothing short of life-changing.

Henry Guasch, 19, of Mountain View, said that after crossing the coals while chanting his mantra of "Cool moss," he felt powerful.

"Overcoming something like that, it's a breakthrough," he said, adding that he did slow his pace in the middle of the field and got a minor burn.

Guasch and Andrew Brenner, another fire walker, both said that the keys to not getting singed are faith and concentration.

"I did it before, didn't get into the right state and got burned," Brenner said. "I knew I wasn't at my peak state. I didn't take it as serious."

He said his feet blistered after the walk about eight months ago at another Robbins event, but he didn't need medical attention...

...David Willey, a physics instructor at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in Pennsylvania, has published a text and video on the physics of firewalking and stated that it "does not need a particular state of mind."

"Rather, it is the short time of contact and the low thermal capacity and conductivity of the coals that is important," he wrote. He added that ash that builds up on coals can provide further insulation...

...A statement released Friday from Robbins Research International, said, "We have been safely providing this experience for more than three decades, and always under the supervision of medical personnel ... We continue to work with local fire and emergency personnel to ensure this event is always done in the safest way possible."

On the Tony Robbins website, he promotes "The Firewalk Experience," a process where people walk across coals between 1,200 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

90 years ago: League of Nations supports Zionism

For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God.
For thus saith the Lord; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.
Jeremiah 31:6-10

On July 24, 1922, all 51 members of the League of Nations recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” The League also issued a Mandate validating France’s occupation of Syria and Lebanon.

The Palestine Mandate was a rewritten version of the Balfour Declaration. On November 2, 1917, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour had issued the Declaration, which read:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

The League of Nations Mandate entrusting Palestine to British control had recently been submitted to the British parliament for approval. On June 21, 1922, a non-binding motion in the House of Lords declaring that the Palestine Mandate (embodying the policy of the Balfour Declaration) was unacceptable passed by a vote of 60-29. On July 4, the House of Commons took up the debate, with Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill delivering a persuasive speech on behalf of the government’s policy supporting the Balfour Declaration. The House voted 292-35 in favour of the government’s Palestine policy, in effect accepting the Palestine Mandate from the League of Nations.

For a quick overview, see the Wikipedia entry on the British Mandate for Palestine. For further reading, I recommend A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin (1989).

The move by the League of Nations in 1922 stands in striking contrast to the many anti-Israel resolutions that have been passed by the United Nations in recent years.