Thursday, 25 June 2015

Canadian Senator and Pentecostal pastor Don Meredith is dumped from the Conservative caucus

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
I Timothy 3:2-3 (NIV)

Those who are tired of hearing about financial scandals involving members of the Canadian Senate might find it refreshing to find that the body of "sober second thought" now has a sex scandal to deal with. Maybe they should call the Canadian Senator "Randy Don," as opposed to his more famous namesake, the late American football quarterback and broadcaster "Dandy Don" Meredith.

As reported by Kevin Donovan of the Toronto Star, June 17, 2015:

A Canadian senator who is under investigation for workplace sexual harassment is facing a new allegation that he had a sexual relationship with a teenager during the past two years.

Don Meredith, 50, has been a senator since 2010 and is also a Pentecostal pastor with the Praise Centre in Toronto.

Soon after the allegations against Meredith were published on the Star website, the Prime Minister’s Office took swift action to oust him from Conservative circles.

“Senator Meredith is no longer a member of the Caucus,” spokesman Stephen Lecce said in an email.

According to the young woman, who is now 18, the relationship began soon after she turned 16. She met Meredith at a church event in Ottawa.

She said it began with sexually explicit chats over Skype and Viber in which Meredith asked her to remove her top and underwear. She said he then masturbated on camera.

The relationship progressed to physical intimacy, kissing and touching before the girl turned 18. Soon after she turned 18, the woman said, they had intercourse twice.

When the senator broke it off earlier this year, he told her in a text message that he did so because “God has spoken to me and am (sic) not happy with me ... I should be leading you not making you.”

The Star has conducted detailed interviews with the woman in person and over the telephone. The Star has also viewed text and email messages the two exchanged.

Meredith, reached by the Star on Tuesday, said he was too busy to answer questions.

“I’m just in a meeting right now; I can’t speak to you,” Meredith said. The senator hung up when the Star began asking questions.

Following the call, the Star sent two sets of written questions to Meredith. The Star left requests for comment on the issue of an alleged inappropriate relationship on Meredith’s cellphone, at his Toronto area church, and his Senate office in Ottawa. Meredith has yet to respond.

In Canada, the age of consent for sexual relations is 16. However, the age of consent is 18 if there is a relationship of authority, trust or dependency.

Meredith was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2010. He had run unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in the 2008 byelection in Toronto Centre. A landscaper by trade — his company is called Donscape Landscaping Services — Meredith had become prominent in Toronto for speaking out against youth violence.

Last week, CTV’s Robert Fife reported that Meredith is under investigation by the Senate for “allegations of workplace sexual harassment and bullying.” According to the CTV report, “four of Meredith’s former female employees and four other Senate staffers allege he made sexual advances, used sexual innuendo, and was often rude and vindictive.”

Senate Speaker Leo Housakos confirmed to media outlets that an investigation he called a “workplace assessment” is underway. The woman the Star interviewed did not work for the senator and has no connection to the workplace harassment allegations.

In an online biography at the Pentecostal Praise Centre in Vaughan, Meredith is described as having a strong commitment to religion and youth. He is also known for his comments on the importance of family values...

...Meredith met the young woman, who was then a girl, at a religious event. The woman is embarrassed and troubled by the relationship. Because of the nature of the allegations and her young age, the Star agreed to protect her anonymity...

...Why is the woman telling her story now?

Last week, CTV, followed by other media, including Canadian Press and CBC, revealed in a story that Meredith was under a Senate review due to a high turnover of staff at his office. CTV stated that the review began in February and that the senator was facing allegations of sexual harassment.

The woman the Star interviewed said she was concerned that the investigators would not believe what the former staff members were alleging and she wanted to add her voice to the story...

...The woman has provided text messages and emails that reveal a relationship dating back to March 2013...

...Following the reports on the sexual harassment investigation, Meredith, his wife and their daughter took to social media to counter any allegations that he has done anything wrong.

Their daughter, who is in her early 20s, tweeted on Tuesday night, “What kind of a person do you have to be to wake up in the morning and decide let me try and steal this person’s happiness?” She also tweeted, “There are way too many cruel individuals out there seeking to ruin people’s lives.”

Late last week, Meredith’s wife, Michelle, tweeted an image of the “Meredith Family crest,” and told her followers, “We stand united.” Another tweet said, “Let your haters be your motivators. Celebrating me.”

Meredith has sent two tweets to his followers, both on June 11, the day after the CTV report on the workplace sexual harassment allegations.

“A lion never loses sleep over the opinions of sheep,” says the first tweet, accompanied by a photo of a male lion.

The second is accompanied by a photo of a green-eyed eagle: “When a storm is coming, all other birds seek shelter. The Eagle alone avoids the storm by flying above it. So in the storms of life, may your heart soar like an eagle.”

Meredith has previously been criticized for improperly claiming he had a doctoral degree (he is no longer allowed to call himself “Dr. Meredith” on Senate correspondence), and for expensing to the Senate a Washington trip he and his wife took to attend the National Prayer Breakfast. Meredith repaid the funds.
According to Senator Meredith's biography at the Parliament of Canada website:

Ontario Senator Don Meredith is the fourth person of African descent, and the first ever Jamaican to serve in the Senate of Canada.

A businessman and community advocate, he is an ordained minister and volunteer pastor of Pentecostal Praise Centre Ministries in Vaughan, Ontario.

A passionate champion of youth empowerment, in 2002, he co-founded the Greater Toronto Faith Alliance Centre where he continues to serve as volunteer Executive Director to engage, encourage and empower marginalized youth, adults and newcomers.

Senator Meredith introduced Bill S-213 that was passed to nationally recognize January 21 as Lincoln Alexander Day.

His commitment to youth leadership, led him to create a National Youth Strategy, and in 2014 he organized the first-ever Parliament Hill-based live-streamed on-line youth summit.

His work in Ottawa also includes sitting on the Fisheries and Scrutiny Committees; co-chairing the Canada-CARICOM Parliamentary Friendship Group; spearheading efforts to erect a national monument in honour of the military contributions of Black Canadians; and urging the Government of Canada and the international community to better respond to crisis-laden global hotspots.

He holds a Master’s degree from California State Christian University and a Honourary doctorate in Divinity from the Canadian Christian Clinical Counsellors’ Association. Senator Meredith has commissioned an Ambassador of Peace for the Universal Peace Federation and is also a recipient of various awards including: The Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award, The Vaughn African Canadian Association Award of Excellence, The University of Toronto Advancement Achievement Award and The 2015 AroniAward for Youth Organization - GTA Faith Alliance.

He is married to Michelle, an educator and youth advocate who has a passion for those identified as special needs and at-risk. They have two young adult children.
The website of the Pentecostal Praise Centre in Vaughan, Ontario provides the following biographical information on "Dr." Don Meredith:

Rev. Dr. Don Meredith is the founder and volunteer pastor of Pentecostal Praise Centre Ministries Inc., providing visionary leadership for the organization, as well as spiritual guidance to the membership and visiting guests.

Rev. Meredith was born in Jamaica and came to Canada when he was 12. He has a heart for people and desires nothing more than to see all people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and His glorious Kingdom. With a strong passion for Youth and their families, he wants empower them through education. He has dedicated his live to work with other Faith Leaders, Politicians, and Police to bring about change in how we Engage, Encourage and Empower our youth across Canada. He has earned the reputation of been an expert on these issues affecting Youth. His strong desire to empower the church to take their rightful place in society, allowing them to draw others to Christ. Rev. Meredith has gained the reputation of being one of Canada’s most dynamic servant-leaders, promoting spiritual change in Canada, by co-founding GTA Faith Alliance. His recognition as a prominent leader is the result of vision, focus, and the pursuit of Biblical excellence. He is a strong people person with a very positive attitude and compassion for people, has been noticed by world leaders including the Prime Minister of Canada, by appointing him as the fourth African Canadian to hold a seat in the Senate of Canada.

He is an alumnus of the prestigious California State Christian University, where he earned his Bachelor’s, and Masters Degree in Religious Studies. He was granted an Honorary Doctorate for his work with youth and been a voice of change.

Rev. Meredith, his wife Michelle, daughter Dominique, and son David currently reside in York Region.
If the About Us page at Pentecostal Praise Centre's site is any indication, the church's leadership consists of "Dr." Meredith, his wife Michelle, and his son David. Michelle Meredith is listed as "First Lady" and David Meredith as "Brother"--titles I haven't been able to find mentioned in the New Testament for positions of leadership in the church. In fact, this is the first time I've ever seen the title "First Lady" in connection with a church.

The perceptive reader will recognize terminology in "Dr." Meredith's biography such as "visionary leadership;" "bring about change;" "empower the church to take their rightful place in society;" "servant-leaders;" "vision, focus;" and "noticed by world leaders." He sounds like a good example of the cookie-cutter pastors who've imbibed the Kool-Aid of the Peter Drucker/Leadership Network/Willow Creek/Purpose Driven model of church growth and leadership, which increasingly goes in the direction of the "social gospel," a phrase usually used in connection with the mainline churches of the early 20th century--but increasingly characteristic of the "evangelical" churches of the early 21st century. Herescope is currently reposting some of the best and most important material on this topic--it really is must reading.

Whether the accusations against "Dr." Meredith are true or not, the tweets that he's posted, and that have been republished in the Toronto Star article, show that he's not now qualified for leadership in a church, according to the criteria laid down in I Timothy 3:2-3--he's no longer above reproach, and it's questionable how faithful he's been to his wife. I can't resist mentioning that "Dr." Meredith was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a man widely believed, especially by pastors--and, in my opinion, erroneously--to be an evangelical Christian. When it comes to appointing Senators or recruiting candidates to run for seats in the House of Commons, Mr. Harper seems to have quite an affinity for crooks and thugs.

Another aspect of the case of "Dr." Meredith that's mentioned in the Toronto Star article touches on something in evangelicalism that's always annoyed me, and that's the use of the title "Doctor" to refer to someone on the basis of degrees that are only honourary. This is an area in which the standards of the world are generally higher than in the church. It's not often in the world that people who have only honourary degrees refer to themselves as "Doctor" in everyday use or accept others referring to them as such, but I've seen this in evangelical circles for decades with people such as "Dr." Jerry Falwell, "Dr." Bill Bright, and "Dr." Billy Graham (I'm not, to put it mildly, an admirer of Rick Warren, but I have no objection to his using the title "Doctor," because he earned his degree). Even if "Dr." Meredith's honourary degree is legitimate, for him to use that as a title in everyday use is inappropriate, especially for someone in a position of Christian leadership. As the saying goes, it's like dancing in the mortuary--it's not illegal, but it's just not done--except of course, in evangelical circles, where it's done all the time.

July 27, 2015 update: Another investigation is taking place into allegations against Senator Meredith, as reported by Jordan Press of Canadian Press, July 16, 2015:

OTTAWA -- A one-time Conservative senator is now facing two ethics probes for his conduct inside and outside the Senate -- the first senator to face such investigations since the upper chamber added more teeth to its ethics code last year.

Senate Speaker Leo Housakos said Thursday the Senate ethics officer has been asked to look into Sen. Don Meredith over the results of a workplace investigation that unearthed concerns about his conduct towards staff and his use of Senate resources.

Housakos said he and other top senators on the Senate's internal economy committee felt it was "imperative" the investigation results be referred to ethics officer Lyse Ricard.

The review announced Thursday is in addition to a separate investigation by the Senate's ethics officer after published allegations last month that he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl.

Depending on the outcome of the latest ethics review, Meredith could face penalties ranging from a forced public apology on the floor of the Senate -- which was the punishment for former Conservative Pierre Hugues Boisvenu when he was found last year to have violated the Senate's ethics code -- to suspension without pay, which is allowed under the new ethics rules.

The investigation report has not been made public, and the allegations it contains remain unproven. None of the staffers who took part, nor any whose stories are included in the report, wanted to file a formal complaint against Meredith, Senate sources said.

Sources told The Canadian Press that six former staffers who spoke with outside investigators made allegations of workplace harassment against Meredith, saying he was a bully, rude and unprofessional towards his staff.

Staffers who spoke with investigators also outlined that they had expressed concerns to Meredith over trips he took to New York and Washington, D.C., because the trips included enough personal business to question whether he should have expensed them to the Senate.

One of those trips, sources confirmed, was last year for Meredith and his wife to attend the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The annual event draws some 3,000 politicians and diplomats, including the U.S. president and federal MPs. Meredith later repaid the Senate for the trip.

Meredith didn't have any spending problems reported in the auditor general's June report into Senate spending. Ghislain Desjardins, a spokesman for auditor general Michael Ferguson, said the office wouldn't comment on the details of Meredith's audit.

The Senate first ordered the investigation into Meredith's office in February after top senators, including former Speaker Pierre Claude Nolin, witnessed what they felt was a troubling turnover of staff in Meredith's office. The upper chamber hired outside investigators to speak with former staffers and Senate human resources officials as well as Meredith himself.

Six staffers who left Meredith's office in the last four years and spoke with investigators are not identified in the report and only took part on the condition that their names be protected.

Two more staffers who left Meredith's office in the last four years declined to take part, but had their stories told second-hand to investigators by the six staffers who did speak, a Senate source with knowledge of the report told The Canadian Press Wednesday.

Meredith spoke with investigators in May and Senate sources said he denied the allegations against him.

The former Conservative senator who now sits as an independent has not returned multiple requests for comment left for him on his Senate cell phone, Senate email and at his Richmond Hill home...
March 10, 2017 update: As reported by Jordan Press of Canadian Press, March 9, 2017:

OTTAWA – The Senate ethics officer says a Toronto-area senator broke the chamber’s code of conduct when he used the “weight, prestige and notability of his office” to have a sexual relationship with a “vulnerable” teenager.

In a long-awaited report released Thursday, Lyse Ricard said Don Meredith didn’t uphold the “highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of senator” and acted in a way that could damage the Senate itself.

The report found Meredith used his Senate cell phone for explicit chats, tried to help the woman land an internship on Parliament Hill, said he would appoint her to a committee looking at building a memorial to the first black soldier to receive the Victoria Cross, and seeing if he could help with her mother’s permanent residency file.

“Senator Meredith brought into the relationship the power and influence of the office of senator, while Ms. M was a vulnerable teenager,” Ricard wrote in her, at times, blistering critique.

“That dynamic pervaded the entire relationship, from the time it was initiated through to when it became sexual.”

Ricard also said she believed Meredith had sex with the woman at least once before she turned 18, twice after she turned 18, and engaged in numerous sexually explicit chats with the woman. The report said Meredith acknowledged he had sexual relations at least once with the woman after she turned 18.

Meredith did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the report’s findings.

However in a letter attached to the report, Meredith, an ordained minister, told Ricard that he deeply regretted what happened, but that God, his wife, and his two children had forgiven him.

Meredith said he placed himself under the guidance of spiritual advisers, engaged in “continuous prayers of repentance” and sought the forgiveness of his family, went to counselling, started one-on-one ethical guidance to a former senator (who isn’t named in Meredith’s letter), completed a professional development course, and reviewed the ethics code.

“The lessons and habits that I have learned from these efforts will ensure that any breach of the code will never be repeated,” Meredith wrote.

However, Ricard said the measures weren’t enough and don’t remedy the harm his actions caused the Senate.

It will now be left to senators to decide what, if any, punishments Meredith will face.

Appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper, Meredith quit the Conservative caucus in June 2015 after the Toronto Star first reported on the relationship. Meredith now sits as an independent.

Ricard said the two met in at a Black History Month event at a church in Ottawa in February 2013 where Meredith, then 48 years old, was a speaker.

The two then started text messaging and speaking on the phone.

As for her age, the report says the woman told Meredith three weeks after meeting that she was 16, but Meredith told Ricard he could not recall when that happened. Ricard sided with the woman’s version of events.

The woman said the two started having sexually explicit chats online in April 2014. During these chats, Ricard wrote, Meredith progressed from admiring her taking her clothes off to masturbating; Meredith couldn’t recalled masturbating on camera, “but if he did, ‘it was an interaction.'”

Ricard wrote that in December 2014, a few days before the woman’s 18th birthday, the woman said she and Meredith were in her apartment when Meredith “gave her what he called a ‘teaser'”, something Meredith denied. The woman said Meredith “penetrated her with his penis for about maybe a minute,” which Meredith denied.

Meredith told Ricard he never penetrated the woman before 2015.

The relationship ended in May 2015 and the two haven’t had contact since.

Ricard said she found the woman to be a credible witness. The woman’s testimony was often directly supported by text messages and emails she had kept, as well as with Meredith’s Senate cell phone records, Ricard wrote.

Ricard said that Meredith denied certain interactions occurred, saying that the woman was lying about events that the documentary evidence suggested had actually occurred.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Elisabeth Elliot goes to be with the Lord

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalms 116:15

Elisabeth Elliot Gren, whose example of a godly life and biblically-based writings were an inspiration to many, including this blogger, has went to be with the Lord on June 15, 2015 at the age of 88. She died after a long period of dementia, and the difficulties that resulted from that are now over. She can rejoice that she's now in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and can become reacquainted with Jim Elliot and Addison Leitch, her first two husbands, who predeceased her by several decades.

I was privileged to hear Elisabeth Elliot speak in person at the Campus Crusade for Christ KC '83 Christmas Conference in Kansas City, Missouri on December 30, 1983. Pre-release copies of her book Passion and Purity were available there, and she spoke on the subject of that book. The title of her address was The Path of Endurance, and you can hear it here. Elisabeth Elliot's advice is worth following because she lived what she was talking about. I've read a few of her books, and the ones I particularly recommend are Passion and Purity (1984) and The Mark of a Man (1981). They can be be ordered from her site, if you can't find them elsewhere.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Part of ancient Jerusalem’s Lower Aqueduct is exposed during sewer construction

As reported by Israel Antiquities Authority, May 2015:

A section of Jerusalem’s Lower Aqueduct, which conveyed water to the city more than 2,000 years ago, was exposed in the Umm Tuba quarter (near Har Homa) during the construction of a sewer line in the neighborhood by the Gihon Company. This line is just part of an extensive project directed by Zohar Yinon, CEO of the Gihon Company Ltd, to install a modern sewer system for the benefit of the residents of Umm Tuba and Sur Bahar.

The Israel Antiquities Authority conducted an archaeological excavation there following the discovery of the aqueduct. According to Ya’akov Billig, the excavation director, “The Lower Aqueduct to Jerusalem, which the Hasmonean kings constructed more than two thousand years ago in order to provide water to Jerusalem, operated intermittently until about one hundred years ago. The aqueduct begins at the ‘En ‘Eitam spring, near Solomon’s Pools south of Bethlehem, and is approximately 21 kilometers long. Despite its length, it flows along a very gentle downward slope whereby the water level falls just one meter per kilometer of distance. At first, the water was conveyed inside an open channel and about 500 years ago, during the Ottoman period, a terra cotta pipe was installed inside the channel in order to better protect the water”.

The aqueduct’s route was built in open areas in the past, but with the expansion of Jerusalem in the modern era, it now runs through a number of neighborhoods: Umm Tuba, Sur Bahar, East Talpiot and Abu Tor. Since this is one of Jerusalem’s principal sources of water, the city’s rulers took care to preserve it for some two thousand years, until it was replaced about a century ago by a modern electrically operated system. Due to its historical and archaeological importance, the Israel Antiquities Authority is taking steps to prevent any damage to the aqueduct, and is working to expose sections of its remains, study them and make them accessible to the general public.

The Umm Tuba section of the aqueduct was documented, studied, and covered up again for the sake of future generations. Other sections of the long aqueduct have been conserved for the public in the Armon Ha-Natziv tunnels, on the Sherover promenade, around the Sultan's Pool and additional projects are planned whose themes include the Lower Aqueduct.

The Israel Antiquities Authority noted favorably the professional attitude and thorough efforts on the part of the Gihon Company regarding the excavation and discovery of antiquities.

3,000-year-old inscription with the name of King Saul's son is found in Israel

And Ner begat Kish; and Kish begat Saul; and Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchishua, and Abinadab, and Eshbaal. I Chronicles 9:39

Ish-bosheth Saul's son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. II Samuel 2:10

And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon.
And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him under the fifth rib: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.
For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night.
And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.
And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the Lord liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,
When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:
How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?
And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.
II Samuel 4:5-12

Eshbaal is referred to as Ish-bosheth in II Samuel. As reported by Israel Antiquities Authority, June 16, 2015:

A rare inscription from the time of King David was discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafain the Valley of Elah. A ceramic jar c. 3,000 years old that was broken into numerous sherds was discovered in 2012 in excavations carried out there by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Letters written in ancient Canaanite script could be discerned on several of the sherds, sparking the curiosity of researchers.

Intensive restoration work conducted in the laboratories of the Israel Antiquities Authority Artifacts Treatment Department, during which hundreds of pottery sherds were glued together to form a whole jar, solved the riddle – the jar was incised with the inscription: Eshbaʽal Ben Badaʽ. Dr. Mitka Golub and Dr. Haggai Misgav were among the team of researchers involved in deciphering the text.

According to Professor Yosef Garfinkel of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University and Saar Ganor of the IAA, "This is the first time that the name Eshbaʽal has appeared on an ancient inscription in the country. Eshbaʽal Ben Shaul, who ruled over Israel at the same time as David, is known from the Bible. Eshbaʽal was murdered by assassins and decapitated and his head was brought to David in Hebron (II Samuel, Chaps. 3-4). It is interesting to note that the name Eshbaʽal appears in the Bible, and now also in the archaeological record, only during the reign of King David, in the first half of the tenth century BCE. This name was not used later in the First Temple period.The correlation between the biblical tradition and the archaeological finds indicates this was a common name only during that period. The name Bedaʽ is unique and does not occur in ancient inscriptions or in the biblical tradition."

According to the researchers, the fact that the name Eshbaʽal was incised on a jar suggests that he was an important person. He was apparently the owner of a large agricultural estate and the produce collected there was packed and transported in jars that bore his name. This is clear evidence of social stratification and the creation of an established economic class that occurred at the time of the formation of the Kingdom of Judah.

Garfinkel and Ganor add, "In II Samuel there was apparently reluctance to use the name Eshbaʽal, which was reminiscent of the Canaanite storm god Baʽal, and the original name was therefore changed to Ish-Bashat, but the original name of Eshbaʽal was preserved in the Book of Chronicles. Thus, for example, the name of the warlord Gideon Ben Joash was also changed from Jerrubaal to Jerubesheth."

Khirbet Qeiyafais identified with the biblical city Shaʽarayim. During several seasons of excavations directed by Prof. Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor, a fortified city, two gates, a palace and storerooms, dwellings and cultic rooms were exposed there. The city dates from the time of David, that is, the late eleventh and early tenth centuries BCE. Unique artifacts that were previously unknown were discovered at the site. For example, in 2008 the world’s earliest Hebrew inscription was uncovered there. Now, another inscription from the same period is being published from the site.

According to Garfinkel and Ganor,"Until about five years ago we knew of no inscriptions dating to the tenth century BCE from the Kingdom of Judah. In recent years four inscriptions have been published: two from Khirbet Qeiyafa, one from Jerusalem and one from Bet Shemesh. This completely changes our understanding of the distribution of writing in the Kingdom of Judah and it is now clear that writing was far more widespread than previously thought. It seems that the organization of the kingdom required a cadre of clerks and writers and their activity is also manifested in the appearance of inscriptions."

Monday, 15 June 2015

International Day of Yoga event in Vancouver is cancelled after protests

You tell me just how I can take this Yoga serious
When all it ever gives to me is a pain in my posterious.

--Yoga is as Yoga Does, as performed by Elvis Presley (with Elsa Lanchester) in the movie Easy Come, Easy Go (1967).

The definition of yoga--a Sanskrit word literally meaning yoking, from yunakti, he yokes--from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1965):
1 cap: a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation 2: a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being
I wasn't aware until a few hours ago that June 21 is International Day of Yoga; I find it interesting that this has been set by the United Nations for the first day of summer, which is also a day widely celebrated by pagans. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark invited yogis to participate in a celebration to be held in Vancouver, as reported by Brian Morton of the Vancouver Sun, June 5, 2015:

Premier Christy Clark on Friday invited yogis from around the province to roll out their mats and strike a pose on the Burrard Bridge for the International Day of Yoga on June 21.

Lululemon Athletica, YYoga and AltaGas are partnering with the province for the celebration, which organizers hope will be the largest International Day of Yoga event outside of India.

Yogis are invited to arrive at the bridge by 8 a.m. on June 21 for an 8:30 a.m. start. The bridge will be closed between 4 a.m. and 11 a.m. to vehicular traffic in both directions.

Instructors from the Vancouver yoga community will lead participants through an hour-long yoga session.

"India has given the world a great gift in yoga, with dedicated followers around the world," Clark said. "It's become part of the cultural fabric in B.C., and particularly so in the Lower Mainland. That's why we're inviting beginners and yogi masters alike from across the province to Vancouver — to come together to celebrate yoga in record numbers, and most importantly, have fun."

The official slogan of the event is "Om the Bridge," and people are encouraged to use the hashtag #Omthebridge leading up to the big day.

The cities of Vancouver and Surrey are also supporting the event.
And as reported by Mr. Morton in the Vancouver Sun, June 6, 2015:

Vancouver yogis take note: you’ll have two large yoga sessions to choose from for the inaugural International Day of Yoga June 21 — the Plaza of Nations and the Burrard Bridge.

Just don’t call it a competition.

“We believe at least 1,500 people (will be) at this event,” said Nirmala Raniga, organizer of the Plaza of Nations event, announced Tuesday.

“We want to set it up in such a way that people can register and show up and embrace the day because the schedule is a full day,” added Ramiga, whose session is presented by the International Day of Yoga, Vancouver Committee, and endorsed by the Consulate General of India.

On Friday, Premier Christy Clark also invited yogis to roll out their mats and strike a pose on the Burrard Bridge for the International Day of Yoga. Lululemon Athletica, YYoga and AltaGas are partnering with the province with the shared goal of hosting the largest celebration outside of India...

...Raniga said that she had originally booked her all-day session at Robson Square, but was subsequently told she could only have it for two hours, so she had to book the Plaza of Nations.

Asked if she believed the hours were cut back because of the province’s yoga session on Burrard Bridge, Raniga said she didn’t know.

“I was approached by the consul-general of India months ago asking if we could put an event together for yoga day. So we’ve been working very closely with the consulate on this,” she said.

She noted that, unlike the Burrard Bridge session, the Plaza of Nations event is booked for the whole day. “They’re doing it on a bridge. We picked a venue that allows people to come out and be in yoga and not just do the practice of yoga, but really embrace the whole aspect of yoga. Also, we’ll have some discussion on lifestyle.”

Raniga doesn’t like to think of the two events as a competition. “I don’t take it in that way. I think it’s for everyone. If they want to go to the Burrard Bridge and hang out, that’s great for them. We invite everybody who wants to come out to our venue.

“I have also set one up (a session) in Victoria and a second event in Squamish. It’s meant to bring everybody together.”
However, the announcement of the event prompted protests, and a response from Premier Clark, as reported by Tiffany Crawford in the Vancouver Sun, June 12, 2015:

Some of the critics opposed to the closure of a major Vancouver bridge for International Yoga Day are "haters" of the practice, B.C. Premier Christy Clark says.

The premier announced last week that the Burrard Street Bridge would close for several hours on June 21 for the international event.

Criticism quickly followed in local media and social media - her plan even drew the ire of children's entertainer Raffi Cavoukian.

Clark has posted a photo on Twitter of her standing outside a Taoist Tai Chi office accompanied by text that says: "Hey, Yoga Haters - bet you can't wait for international Tai Chi day."

She has also told reporters that similar events are taking place in New York's Times Square, at the Washington Monument and across India.

Clark is questioning whether her critics would be complaining if the bridge were shut down for a ballhockey tournament or marathon. "There are thousands of people, many of them women, who find peace in their day by doing yoga, and I think it's a little puzzling to see so many people criticizing something that people do, that thousands of British Columbians do every day to find a little bit of peace in their lives," she said.

"I think that's something in a province, where we care about good health and well-being, that we should be celebrating."

But First Nations groups are planning to crash the yoga party.

The Om The Bridge event coincides with National Aboriginal Day, and groups unhappy with that are asking people to protest the event.

Several pages have been set up on social media calling for a peaceful disruption of the mass yoga class with signs, singing and drumming.

"Be an ally on National Aboriginal Day. Hold space for indigenous people, who continue to be systematically ignored, by crashing (Premier) Christy Clark's yoga party," one organizer wrote on Facebook.

Responding to questions about her tweet in Victoria, Clark said it was a joke.

"That was a bit of self deprecating humour," she said. "We are celebrating National Aboriginal Day, absolutely we are. We're also celebrating Father's Day in my household and we're also celebrating the United Nations day that was designated for International Yoga Day," she said. "Yoga is a huge part of people's lives here."
The protests have been effective, because the event has been cancelled, as reported by Ms. Crawford in the Vancouver Sun, June 13, 2015:

VANCOUVER - Vancouver’s Om the Bridge yoga event has been cancelled following a week of controversy and organizers say they will look for another venue.

Sponsors Lululemon, YYoga and Altagas announced Friday they were pulling out after backlash ensued over costs and the bridge closure among other issues.

Christy Clark also announced Friday she would not participate in the event, scheduled for June 21.

“Unfortunately, the focus of the proposed Burrard Street Bridge event has drifted towards politics, getting in the way of the spirit of community and inner reflection,” Clark said in a statement. “It was for that reason I decided not to participate.”

Jill Batie, a spokeswoman for Lululemon, confirmed the yoga wear company had decided not to participate in the Om the Bridge event, scheduled for June 21 on Burrard Bridge.

“Downward dogs with a few thousand of our closest friends seemed like the perfect way to celebrate International Day of Yoga. Until it didn’t,” an emailed statement from Batie read.

“We’ve read your posts and the media reports, and heard the disappointment in the voices of our community frustrated by the location, cost and date. We had the best intentions. And so we’re taking a deep cleansing breath and over the next several days, we’ll be reimagining a celebration that honours the spirit and tradition of yoga and serves our communities in a more meaningful way. Because ultimately, yoga is about connecting us to ourselves, each other, our environment, and eventually, our truth. Look for more information on our social channels coming soon. Thanks for your understanding. Namaste.”

In a statement posted online, YYoga CEO Terry McBride said they have been listening to the community, and that they would be looking at other ways to celebrate International Day of Yoga.

“The importance of celebrating the tradition of yoga still rings true for us. We are working with our partners from the community to deliver something that serves them in a more meaningful way,” he said.

“Please stay tuned for something that will reflect the tradition of yoga, and the wishes of our community ... in a park.”

The move follows Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson saying he won’t take part in the event, option instead to celebrate National Aboriginal Day, and a tweet earlier Friday from Premier Clark saying she won’t participate.

Premier Clark’s office said it was always her plan to attend the yoga event, but she has since felt it has become too political to make a personal appearance. Clark’s office would not say what she intends to do instead, saying the premier’s schedule will be revealed closer to the actual day.

Since last Friday’s announcement there has been a significant backlash over the $150,000 cost to taxpayers, the bridge closure, the LNG sponsor and that it’s being held on the same day as National Aboriginal Day.

“On the face of it, I found Premier Clark’s idea to host an international yoga event on the Burrard Street Bridge to be completely flakey,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “But at the same time, I also felt it was a blatant political opportunism.”

Phillip said he was particularly concerned about Clark’s decision to promote International Yoga Day over national Aboriginal Day because of the recent release of a report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which called on Canadians to change their relationship with First Nations.

Opposition NDP Leader John Horgan said that while Clark has said she didn’t want to mix yoga and politics, she did just that.

“Where this event went sideways was that it was an expense of public dollars that seemed wasteful,” Horgan said. “Millionaires get tax breaks and the premier shuts down a road so she can have a yoga class. I think that offended people.”
I side with the protesters, but for a reason in addition to those mentioned above. My objection is to the Premier using her position as the province's highest official to promote and spend public money on a Hindu religious event. Such behaviour would probably be considered unacceptable and would result in a court case if it were a Christian event being promoted. I have no doubt that Ms. Clark is correct when she says that Yoga is "part of the cultural fabric of B.C." and a "huge part of people's lives here;" I take that as more evidence that the increasingly unrecognizable country that still officially goes by the name of Canada is a whited sepulchre full of dead men's bones (Matthew 23:27).

You can count this blogger among the "Yoga Haters." My opinion of Yoga was well expressed by Elvis Presley in the words quoted at the top of this post. Submitted for your approval, the following item in recognition of International Day of Yoga:

Friday, 12 June 2015

75 years ago: Liberal clergy gather for Interfaith Conference on Unemployment

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
II Corinthians 11:13-15

Ecumenism in the name of "social justice" is nothing new. As reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, April 11, 1940:


A national interfaith conference on unemployment will be convened in Washington June 4 to 6 under the direction of the industrial division of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America, the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference and the Social Justice Commission of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, it was announced here today by the Rev. James Myers, Monsignor John A. Ryan and Rabbi Edward L. Israel, leaders of the religious groups planning the conference.

"Unemployment," the clergymen declared, "is the basic problem before the nation and vitally affects all other problems of national well being. It must be approached and solved in a determined spirit of cooperation and national unity. It must not be allowed to become a political football but must be the common concern of all political parties, of all economic groups, of employers, organized labor, farmers, consumers and government."

The purpose of the proposed conference, the clergymen pointed out, is to "define impartially the issue and to lay upon the conscience of the nation the paramount necessity of its solution."

"The first thing which is needed," they said, "is a united will to abolish unemployment. The three faiths are glad to join in a united appeal to abolish unemployment."

Whatever findings the forthcoming conference may adopt will be the responsibility of the conference itself rather than of the convening organizations, the three social action leaders stated. "Such findings," they added, will in turn become recommendations to the various religious bodies for further study and action."

An interfaith committee of 30 to be appointed by the convening organizations will assist in the organization and operation of the conference, it was announced.
And as reported by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 5, 1940:


Dedicated to the solution of the unemployment problem as a basic factor in making democracy work, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant leaders convened in Washington today in the Interfaith Conference on Unemployment and heard outstanding leaders in Government and religion call for a “united will” to put men back to work.

Jewish groups represented were the Social Justice Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly of America and the Social Justice Commission of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbis Edward L. Israel, Baltimore, and Samuel H. Goldenson, New York, participated in the discussion.

American has nine million unemployed, it was estimated by Dr. Leonard Kuvin, of the National Industrial Conference Board. He estimated that business would have to be stepped up 45 per cent above present levels to absorb all the unemployed. He said it could be done under the present system, “which is the basis of tolerance, democracy, liberty and freedom.”

Arthur Dunn, president of the “Realists’ Group,” organized last September as a protest against the Neville Chamberlain type of “wishful thinking,” said of Hitler: “He is the world’s greatest industrialist–the premier manufacturer of death and the most successful butcher of all times.” He said that without “wishful thinkers” mass murder by Hitler could not have been.”

Dunn said: “The majority of those sponsoring the interfaith conference claim to be Christian. They call the United States a Christian country. And almost the last words of Christ were, ‘Go ye unto all nations.’ Christ was no isolationist and if we ever meet him face to face we will have a hard time explaining why, until our own hides were threatened, we fail to give any real help to our unfortunate brothers in other lands.”

Rabbi Goldenson called unemployment the supreme indictment of our intelligence and common sense and said unemployment was “not unrelated” to the tragedies in Europe. “For many the cause of war is certainly the circumstance that vast numbers of men during the last generation or so have been unable to find gainful occupation. The effect of unemployment has been to create in every country large armies of dissatisfied, troubled, discontented, disgruntled men and women. These unhappy persons have naturally become resentful of and rebellious against the status quo.”
The liberal clergy didn't have to wait long to get their way when it came to a "united will" to put men back to work, although perhaps it didn't happen in the way they were expecting. On June 10, 1940, Italian Foreign Minister Count Ciano informed the French and British ambassadors that as of the next day Italy would consider herself at war with both nations. Speaking at the graduation ceremonies of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt denounced Italy's entrance into the European war, declaring, "The hand that held the dagger has stuck it into the back of its neighbor." He called for "full speed ahead" in the U.S. defense effort.

On June 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate a $1.004-billion defense tax bill, which also authorized an increase in the national debt to $49 billion. The bill was approved by the Senate on June 19, and signed into law by President Roosevelt on June 25. On July 31, the House passed and sent to the Senate a $4,963,151,957 national defense appropriations bill for rearmament; the bill was approved by the Senate on August 29. The amount had increased to $5.251 billion by the time the Second Supplemental National Defense Appropriations Act was signed by President Roosevelt on September 9, 1940.

On June 13, Mr. Roosevelt signed a $1.308-billion Navy appropriations bill, providing for construction of 22 warships. Two days later, he signed a bill expanding the United States Navy air corps by 10,000 planes and 16,000 aviators; on June 17, he asked Congress to appropriate $1.2 billion more for naval construction. On July 1, Mr. Roosevelt signed a bill providing for construction of 45 Navy vessels costing $550 million; two days later, he prepared legislation requesting $5 billion more for national defense. On July 20, Mr. Roosevelt signed the "Two-Ocean Navy" Act, calling for a buildup in naval forces to 35 battleships, 20 carriers, and 88 cruisers. On September 9, 1940, the same day that President Roosevelt signed the Second Supplemental National Defense Appropriations Act, the United States Navy Department announced contracts for the building of 201 ships, including 7 battleships. On September 18, President Roosevelt signed a bill authorizing over $23 million for the construction of drydocks in New York, Boston, and the Caribbean.

On June 18, 1940, President Roosevelt said that a bill for universal government service for all young men and women would soon be introduced. The buildup in America's defense effort required manpower; "universal government service" came into play just a year and a half later when Japanese forces attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, bringing the United States into World War II, and settling, at least for the duration of the war, the issue of unemployment in the U.S.A.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

30 years ago: The death of Karen Ann Quinlan

On June 11, 1985, Karen Ann Quinlan died of pneumonia at the age of 31. Miss Quinlan went into an irreversible coma and entered a persistent vegetative state shortly after consuming a combination of alcohol and Valium on April 15, 1975. She was taken to Newton Memorial Hospital in Morris Township, New Jersey, where she was fed through a tube and was aided in breathing by a ventilator, which were thought to be the only things keeping her alive.

Miss Quinlan's parents, who were devout Roman Catholics, wanted Karen returned to her "natural state," and petitioned to have the ventilator removed, objecting to what they saw as her life being prolonged by "extraordinary means." They thus petitioned the New Jersey Superior Court to have the ventilator removed; Newton Memorial Hospital joined the Quinlans in the action, fearing a charge of homicide if the ventilator were removed without legal justification. The Quinlans' petition was denied in November 1975, but an appeal was upheld in 1976 by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The case of Karen Ann Quinlan was widely, and incorrectly, believed to be a "right-to-die" case. In fact, Miss Quinlan met none of the criteria for death; she wasn't dead, and wasn't dying. Her parents didn't want her to die, but opposed the use of "extraordinary means" to keep her alive.

The ventilator was removed, and much to everyone's surprise, Miss Quinlan continued breathing on her own, and was fed through a tube until her death. The legal uncertainties surrounding the situation of Karen Ann Quinlan have been credited with spurring the creation of formal ethics committees in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices.

Karen Quinlan quickly became forgotten by the public and media after the court battle was over, and her death received slight coverage, in contrast to the court case surrounding her condition, which was a major news item in 1975. You have to be of a certain age to remember the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, and those who weren't paying close attention may be surprised to find that her death occurred in 1985, not in 1975 or 1976.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

80 years ago: The founding of Alcoholics Anonymous

On June 10, 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in Akron, Ohio by "Bill W." (Bill Wilson) and Dr. Bob Smith. AA's 12-step approach to dealing with drinking has been widely adopted by churches in dealing with various problems, and is widely, but erroneously, viewed as being compatible with Christianity. Go to My Word Like Fire and search under "AA" or "Alcoholics Anonymous" for excellent posts on this organization.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Chinese bureraucrats falsify data on forced abortions

The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is [its] inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty. U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy, Time, February 12, 1979

An odd aspect of China's abominable policy of restricting families to one child, as reported by Frank Fang and Matthew Robertson of The Epoch Times, June 2, 2015:

It’s a story as old as central planning itself: political leaders hand down quotas for underlings to meet, and those on the front lines inevitably end up faking data, committing fraud, and coming up with inventive ways of appearing to meet the demands.

Most recently in the Chinese county of Lanling, Shandong Province, this came in the form of abortion quotas: Officials involved in population control were told they needed to carry out a certain number of forced abortions—deeply tied up with China’s one-child policy—or else be fined. (Meeting the quota led to a reward of 1,500 yuan (nearly $250) and failure to meet it incurred a fine of 2,000 yuan.)

But what if there aren’t even enough women in the village with “illegal” pregnancies, required to carry out a coercive abortion?

This is where inventiveness comes in. The officials from Lanling County, and the villages in the county, figured out that they could simply outsource the work to brokers.

These middlemen would then purchase and bundle abortion certificates from other counties, and sell them to cadres in Lanling, who would hand them in to their superiors and be congratulated for an abortion well done.

The story was carried by Peng Pai, an online news website. Four village Party secretaries told the publication that they were each given an abortion quota of 0.4 percent—meaning that of 1,000 women in the area, 4 abortions needed to have been reported.

One party official had 1,500 in his village, making his quota 6. But there was only one woman in his village with an out-of-regulation pregnancy—her fetus was aborted, but he had to buy the other five abortion certificates from abortions that had already taken place at a community hospital elsewhere in the county.

“Originally, the abortion information from a single woman was about 2,000 yuan, but later it increased to 5,000 yuan, and finally over 10,000 yuan,” the Party official, given the pseudonym Mr. Xu, said. He decided the enterprise was absurd and attempted to resign, but was told he couldn’t do that until he met his quota.

The middleman obtained abortion certificates from women who actually got abortions willingly, and then prepared them by finding an unmarried man to sign a document certifying that he lived with the woman unmarried—prepared the papers, and gave it to the Party secretaries.

They were, of course, paid a commission from the bonus given the cadres.