Saturday, 31 March 2018

Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi may face criminal charges after calling black people "monkeys"

As Archie Bunker said, everybody calls them something. As reported by Michael Bachner of the Times of Israel, March 29, 2018 (links in original):

The Israeli government is considering criminal action against the Sephardic chief rabbi after he likened black people to monkeys during his weekly sermon last weekend.

A Justice Ministry official said Thursday that the ministry has contacted relevant authorities to review the remarks by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and decide if they constitute incitement.

Yosef’s reported statement is “very serious” and could “justify various measures — administrative, disciplinary and even criminal — against the rabbi, if it turns out they constitute incitement to racism,” Avka Zana, head of a Justice Ministry unit that combats racism, said.

Ynet quoted the anti-racism unit as saying it was “examining various measures on the issue, and has requested relevant authorities to check and inspect the remarks, so they will be examined in depth and appropriate action taken.”

“The unit will continue following developments and will take all necessary measures to prevent the recurrence of racist remarks like this in the future by state officials and public servants,” the unit said.

In a video shared by the Ynet news site, Yosef was addressing Jewish legal aspects of the blessing made upon seeing fruit trees blossoming, during the current Hebrew month of Nissan, and, specifically, whether one should bless one tree or at least two.

In that context, he discussed another blessing mentioned in the same section of the Talmud, which is recited upon seeing an “unusual creature.” The Talmud states that the blessing should be recited when seeing “a black person, a very red or very white person.”

Yosef explained that the Talmud is not referring to an African-American, but a black person born to two white parents. When referring to African-Americans he used the word kushi, which is the word used by the Talmud but is a pejorative term in modern Hebrew. He then compared this black person to a monkey.

“You can’t make the blessing on every ‘kushi’ you see — in America you see one every five minutes, so you make it only on a person with a white father and mother,” the chief rabbi said.”How do would you know? Let’s say you know! So they had a monkey as a son, a son like this, so you say the blessing on him.”

In response, the rabbi’s office said that he was merely citing the Talmud, which states that the same blessing is recited upon seeing an elephant, a monkey or an ape.

The Anti-Defamation League slammed Yosef on Tuesday, calling his comment “utterly unacceptable.”

Racially charged comment made by Israeli Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, comparing people of color to "monkeys", is utterly unacceptable.

— ADL (@ADL_National) March 20, 2018

Yosef has been known to court controversy in his sermons.

In a sermon delivered in May last year, he appeared to suggest during his weekly sermon that secular woman behave like animals because they dress immodestly.

In March 2016, Yosef was forced to retract a comment that non-Jews should not live in Israel, calling it “theoretical.”

He said non-Jews could live in Israel only if they observe the seven Noahide Laws, which are prohibitions against idolatry, blaspheming God, murder, forbidden sexual relations, stealing, and eating limbs off a live animal, and which prescribe the establishment of a legal system.

Non-Jews, Yosef said, are in Israel only to serve Jews.

Israel has two chief rabbis. Yosef represents those with origins in the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle East, and David Lau represents Ashkenazi Jews, with origins in European lands of the Roman Empire.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Jordan inaugurates annual Christian-Islamic celebration of the Annunciation to Mary

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote an interesting book in which he predicted that Islam would be converted to Christianity "through a summoning of the Moslems to a veneration of the Mother of God." He reasoned thus:

The Koran...has many passages concerning the Blessed Virgin. First of all, the Koran believes in her Immaculate Conception and also in her Virgin Birth...Mary, then, is for the Moslems the true Sayyida, or Lady. The only possible serious rival to her in their creed would be Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed himself. But after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: "Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary."

Sheen goes on to say how remarkable it was that "our Lady" had the foresight to appear in the Portuguese village of Fatima (named after Muhammad's daughter during the Muslim occupation) and thus become known as "Our Lady of Fatima."

Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast: The Roman Catholic Church and the Last Days (1994), p. 458, citing Fulton J. Sheen, "Mary and the Moslems," The World's First Love (1952)

There will come a day, John Paul believes, when the heart of Islam--already attuned to the figures of Christ and of Christ's Mother, Mary--will receive the illumination it needs. Malachi Martin, The Keys of This Blood: Pope John Paul II Versus Russia and the West for Control of the New World Order (1990), p. 285

Submitted for your approval, the following example of the fulfillment of Bishop Sheen's prediction; note that the emphasis of the celebration is not the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Virgin Mary. As reported by Fr. Rif'at Bader in the Turin newspaper La Stampa, March 22, 2018:

His Majesty King Abdullah II addressed the 71st United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2016. He said: “Jesus, whom we call ’Christ Messiah’, is named 25 times in the Qur’an. His mother Mary, called the ’best of all women in creation’, is named 35 times. And there is a chapter in the Qur’an called ‘Maryam’. The khawarej deliberately hide these truths about Islam in order to drive Muslims and non-Muslims apart. We cannot allow this to happen.”

From this premise and in light with the King’s address, which is based on the relevant congruent views of the Qur’an and the Holy Bible, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media (CCSM) in Jordan, in cooperation with the heads of the Churches in Jordan, has decided to hold an annual celebration marking the Annunciation to Blessed Virgin Mary as mentioned in the Holy Bible and the Qur’an, so that it would be a national feast celebrated in this grand homeland.

Lebanon, with its different religious affiliations, has been celebrating the Feast of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the national level over the past 12 years after its religious leaders realized that as a character, Virgin Mary brings people together, and that She is neither a source of controversy nor dispute as She maintains a special status in Islam. She also has prominent status in the Holy Bible in Her capacity as the Mother of Lord Jesus Christ. Since the event relevant to the Annunciation is mentioned in detail in both books, the leaderships and the people of good will considered the view to mark this feast as a national and social feast. This feast officially had been celebrated in Lebanon over the past 12 years. It acquired prime importance when it was announced eight years ago, and it culminated with the announcement that it would be marked as a national holiday eight years ago. Its slogan continues to be, “The Islamic Christian Gathering Around Virgin Mary”.

Jordan, with its archaeological sites and national unity, is more qualified than any other country to mark a new renaissance of Muslim-Christian harmony and brotherhood that can be added to the numerous initiative attributed to the wise Hashemite leadership, its people’s awareness, and the harmony between its Muslims and Christians. Jordan issued the Amman Message in 2004 and A Common Word in 2007 in light of the unstinting efforts of His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Ben Muhammad, the King’s advisor for religious and cultural affairs. Jordan also proposed launching the World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2010 which was adopted by the United Nations members. Jordan also called for convening the “The Challenges Facing Arab Christians Conference” in 2013 and hosted Christians forcibly displaced from Mosul in 2014.

Therefore, Jordan is the country of history, of civilization and of the Hashemites which contains sacred heritage and blessed water. It is the land Moses crossed, and where Elijah was born and from where he ascended to Heaven. It is the country of John the Baptist who baptized Lord Jesus Christ at the site known as Baptism Site. It is also the land crossed by Blessed Virgin Mary where she is remembered in Anjara. The Christian tradition states that she crossed this place with Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, a historic grotto was installed there in Her memory and known as Our Lady of the Mount.

There are also several other grottos in our country which are reminiscent of its holiness.

Thus, Jordan of today is the country of common living with its Muslim and Christian population. Since the establishment of the Emirate of Jordan in 1921, and a few years after the Great Arab Revolt, whose centennial was marked two years ago, the Christians and Muslims lived side by side, and contributed to the establishment of the Emirate of Jordan, which later became known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Consequently, it is not a novel event to have feasts marked by everybody for at a time when His Majesty King Abdullah II assumed his constitutional authorities in 2000, he announced that Christmas would be marked as “an official holiday for all citizens”. We call nowadays for celebrating the Feast of Annunciation so that its religious significance would serve as an incentive to enrich our national unity and social cohesion.

In view of this, the CCSM is holding the ceremony for the first time under the patronage of the Deputy Prime Minister Jamal Sarayrah on Wednesday, March 28. It will be attended by representatives of the General Ifta’a Department, of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs and of the Chief Justice. Present at the ceremony will be head and members of the “Lebanese National Committee for the Celebration of the Feast and Annunciation” and several shades of society who are keen to worship God and to be loyal to the country, its leadership and people.

The Feast of the Annunciation, whose events took place in the holy city of Nazareth, invites us from the side of the immortal river, the Jordan River, to pray for Jerusalem, the Holy City, in light of the injustice and aggression being perpetrated against its history and civilization. We also call on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities by implementing the relevant international resolutions, to preserve the historic Hashemite guardianship, and to give the Palestinian people their right to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Prince of Wales expresses solidarity with persecuted Christians

Whatever Prince Charles' own beliefs may be, his expression of support for persecuted Christians--even if they may be just "cultural Christians"--is more than Billy Graham ever did for the persecuted church. As reported by Abe Hawken of the London Daily Mail, March 30, 2018:

The Prince of Wales has recorded an Easter message of support for persecuted Christians around the world.

Charles says in the video, released on Good Friday, how he has been 'deeply moved' by the 'truly remarkable courage' and 'selfless capacity for forgiveness' of those he met who have suffered because of their religion.

The prince, who will one day become head of the Church of England, said: 'My heart goes out to all who this day, whatever their beliefs, are being persecuted on religious grounds.'

He said of persecuted Christians during Easter: 'I want to assure them that they are not forgotten and that they are in our prayers.'

The prince said: 'Over the years, I have met many who have had to flee for their faith and for their life - or have somehow endured the terrifying consequences of remaining in their country - and I have been so deeply moved, and humbled, by their truly remarkable courage and by their selfless capacity for forgiveness, despite all that they have suffered.

'I have also heard that in the darkness there are small shafts of light, signs of resurrection and of hope that, slowly but surely, Christians who have had to flee from their homelands are beginning to return and to rebuild their shattered homes.'

The prince goes on to say of Judaism, Christianity and Islam: 'All three Abrahamic faiths have known and continue to know the bitterness of persecution when religion has fallen into the barbaric grip of those who distort and misrepresent faith.'

Clarence House said the prince's message was inspired by his recent meetings with Christian Church leaders from the Middle East including the Coptic Pope.

Through the charity Aid To The Church In Need, he met Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who has been overseeing the care of more than 100,000 Christians driven out of their homes on Iraq's Nineveh Plains, and Melkite Archbishop John Darwish of Zahle and Furzol, Lebanon, who is helping Syrian Christian refuges.

Aid To The Church In Need said that more than 3,200 Christian houses on the Nineveh Plains in Iraq have been restored out of some 12,000, and more than 37,000 Christians had returned home.

The prince's message also forms part of his ongoing dialogue with Church leaders in the UK, Clarence House said.

In recent years, Charles has met many Syrian and Iraqi Christians who have been forced to flee their homes following the rise of Islamic State, and heard the stories of Britons whose relatives in the two nations have been persecuted.

Aid To The Church In Need's report into human rights' violations against Christians around the world, has highlighted the genocide of Christians in the Middle East, and warns that the resulting exodus could threaten the continuing survival of the region's ancient churches.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Leader of New York self-help sex cult NXIVM arrested in Mexico

As long as stupid women continue to exist, cults like NXIVM (pronounced (nex--ee--um) will continue to exist. As reported by Brendan J. Lyons of the Albany Times-Union, March 26, 2018:

Keith Raniere, the co-founder of the NXIVM corporation, a secretive Colonie-based organization that an expert has called an "extreme cult," was arrested in Mexico this week by the FBI based on a federal criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of New York.

The complaint, filed recently in connection with an ongoing federal grand jury investigation being headed by the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, charges Raniere with multiple counts of sex trafficking and forced labor.

The federal complaint alleges that Raniere, known as "The Vanguard," took part in forming a secretive group within NXIVM in which women said they were coerced into joining a slave-master club and later branded with a design that included the initials of Raniere and Allison Mack, an actress and NXIVM associate who is identified in the complaint as an unnamed co-conspirator.

A warrant for Raniere's arrest was issued more than a month ago. Raniere was taken into custody this week after Mexican immigration officials helped U.S. authorities track him to a luxury, $10,000-a-week villa near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where he was staying with several women, federal officials said.

Raniere flew to Mexico last November after U.S. authorities began interviewing "witnesses and victims" associated with NXIVM and the secret club, authorities said.

But finding Raniere had been difficult, they said, because he "began using end-to-end encrypted email and stopped using his phone."

"The defendant was uncooperative when immigration authorities arrived and after he was taken into custody, the women chased the car in which the defendant was being transported in their own car at high speed," prosecutors said in court papers.

Raniere, who co-founded NXIVM more than two decades ago, is being held in federal custody in Texas and is scheduled to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Fort Worth on Tuesday afternoon. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have asked a magistrate judge not to set bond and to order Raniere be returned to the Eastern District of New York.

The federal court filings cast Raniere as a manipulative figure who overstated his intelligence and systematically exploited women, including creating a secret slave-master sex club within NXIVM. An affidavit filed by an FBI agent said their investigation found that NXIVM has similarities to a pyramid scheme.

Federal prosecutors, in pressing their case to have Raniere held without bond, said he "has spent his life profiting from his pyramid schemes and has otherwise received financial backing from independently wealthy women."

A person briefed on the case said the federal complaint does not include all of the charges that are being examined by the U.S. attorney's office as part of its ongoing investigation. Raniere faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted on the sex trafficking charges, according to federal prosecutors.

In a letter to a U.S. magistrate judge on Monday, federal prosecutors said that Raniere "has access to vast resources, (and) poses a significant risk of flight. In addition, his long-standing history of systematically exploiting women through coercive practices for his own financial and sexual benefit demonstrates that, if released, he would pose a danger to the community."

Warning: The document below contains graphic depictions of alleged sexual activity.

Raniere, in statements previously posted on NXIVM's website, had characterized the slave-master group as a consenting, private "sorority" and he said that he and the corporation had no role in it.

But the federal complaint said that emails seized from Raniere's private messaging accounts "support the conclusion that Raniere created" the club, which was known as "Dominus Obsequious Sororium," which means "Master Over the Slave Women."

The women in the group, according to the federal complaint, were lured into the club by other female NXIVM members and required to provide "collateral" in order to join.

"Collateral consisted of material or information that the prospective slave would not want revealed because it would be ruinous to the prospective slave herself and/or someone close to her," states an FBI agent's affidavit filed as part of the complaint. "Collateral provided by prospective slaves included sexually explicit photographs; videos made to look candid in which the prospective slaves told damning stories ( true or untrue) about themselves, close friends and/or family members; and letters making damaging accusations (true or untrue) against friends and family members."

The participants were told the secret club was a "women-only" organization and some were not initially informed that Raniere was the highest member of the organization, the complaint states.

Sarah Edmonson of Vancouver is one of at least 20 women associated with NXIVM who were lured into the club and required them to consent to being branded in their pubic area.

Edmondson said she was never told that the unusual-looking brand was a design that included the initials of Raniere, NXIVM's co-founder, and Mack, a NXIVM associate. In a complaint filed with the New York state Health Department last year, Edmonson identified Mack as having "started" the secret women's group with Raniere.

Edmondson had been associated with NXIVM for 12 years and left the organization in June after she learned the brand that she received contained the initials of Mack and Raniere.

The federal criminal complaint filed against Raniere said the slaves understood that if they left the club, publicly spoke about it, or failed in their obligations, their collateral could be released.

"Some of the masters gave their slaves assignments that either directly or implicitly required them to have sex with Raniere, which they then did," the complaint states. "Other assignments appeared designed to groom slaves sexually for Raniere."

Federal authorities said Raniere does not hold bank accounts in his name, has no driver's license, and for more than a year has used a credit card account associated with a "dead lover" to make purchases.

"In the past year and a half, the defendant and the mother of his child have accessed hundreds of thousands of dollars from a bank account in the same dead lover's name, which contains over $8 million," prosecutors wrote.

Copies of some of the American Express credit card statements associated with that account, which belonged to Pamela Anne Cafritz, who died in November 2016, indicate there were numerous purchases made with that card after her death. The statements, shared with the Times Union last year, indicate the account was used to make purchases from iTunes and Amazon, as well as to make payments to a Saratoga Springs chiropractor.

In their filing that warns a federal magistrate about Raniere's risk of flight, prosecutors noted that Clare W. Bronfman, an heiress of the Seagram Co. business empire who has described herself as the operations director of NXIVM, financially backs Raniere and has paid for private jets — costing up to $65,000 per flight — that have transported him around the world.

"Bronfman also owns a private island in Fiji, which the defendant (Raniere) has visited, and both Bronfman and the defendant have contacts all around the world," prosecutors wrote.

Multiple people who have defected from NXIVM or publicly criticized Raniere have received letters purported to be from Mexican law enforcement officials warning them to "cease and desist" making statements about the organization. Federal prosecutors said that Raniere was behind those letters.

The complaint noted that Raniere was also known to prefer women who are exceptionally thin, and that a number of slaves were "required to adhere to extremely low-calorie diets and to document every food they ate."

The first public disclosures about the branding and the secret club within NXIVM were reported last June by, an online blog operated by Frank Parlato, who was formerly a publicist for NXIVM. The New York Times later published a story about the secret NXIVM club in October.

But reports about NXIVM's troubling practices are not new. In 2012, the Times Union published an award-winning series — Secrets of NXIVM — that raised questions about NXIVM's inner-workings and also Raniere's questionable dealings with women.

The Times Union reported in December that the Justice Department's ongoing investigation is also examining NXIVM's business dealings, including its practice of recruiting members from abroad. A federal grand jury empaneled in Brooklyn has been reviewing evidence in the case, according to people who testified before the panel.

Among those who provided testimony are women who claimed they were lured into the secret club that required them to consent to being branded.

NXIVM's supporters have insisted it is a self-help group focused on business improvement. NXIVM officials and associates have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and dispute any allegation that it is a cult. Recent efforts to reach NXIVM officials for comment have not been successful.

Dating back years, people with connections to NXIVM have filed complaints with various law enforcement agencies, including the New York state Attorney General, the U.S. attorney's office in Albany, the New York State Police, the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI.

But law enforcement sources said the federal probe in Brooklyn was the first significant investigation involving either the organization or its leader, Raniere.

The federal court records unsealed Monday also disclose information about Raniere that raise questions about some of his assertions through the years, including boasting that he has one of the highest IQs in the world.

"Nxivm students are also taught that the defendant is the smartest and most ethical man in the world," federal prosecutors wrote in their letter seeking detention for Raniere. "He frequently cited having earned three degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but a review of his transcript shows that he graduated with a 2.26 GPA, having failed or barely passed many of the upper-level math and science classes he bragged about taking."

On Sunday, the Times Union reported that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office is investigating a nonprofit foundation associated with NXIVM that allegedly sponsored brain-activity and other human behavioral studies without any apparent oversight, according to court records.

The nonprofit Ethical Science Foundation was formed in 2007 by Bronfman, who owns a horse farm in Delanson and is listed in public records as the trustee and donor of the foundation.

A state Supreme Court justice recently signed an order directing Bronfman and Dr. Brandon B. Porter, who is involved with NXIVM and conducted the human studies, to turn over all documentation associated with the research, including any written communications, videos, conclusions, consent forms and the names and addresses of "individuals associated with Ethical Science Foundation who participated in any manner with the studies."
There are sure to be more news items to come such as the following, reported by Chris Spargo and Emily Crane in the London Daily Mail, March 29, 2018 (link in original):

A former television star was among those who chased down officers after they took away cult leader Keith Raniere in the Mexican resort village of Puerto Vallarta over the weekend.

Video that was first obtained by Art Voice shows Smallville actress Allison Mack in a state of disbelief as officials arrest Raniere, four months after he crossed the border following the launch of a federal probe.

The women can then be heard saying that they are going to get into a car and follow the officers.

A local authority tells that the women then engaged in a high-speed car chase with police.

The 57-year-old leader of the secretive New York-based group called NXIVM was taken into custody by Mexican authorities after he was found surrounded by a group of women at a $10,000-a-week luxury villa on Sunday.

Raniere was extradited to Fort Worth, Texas on Monday and charged with sex trafficking and forced labor conspiracy.

An individual with former ties to NXIVM tells that Mack was joined in the video by a group of women including actress Nicki Clyne and high-profile members Lauren Salzman and Loreta Garza.

The same source described Mack as Raniere's right-hand woman at NXIVM.

The actress only recently traveled down to Mexico however, with her social media showing her in the area for just the past month.

The group, which has been described by former members as a 'sex cult', claims to be a self-help organization that operates centers in US, Mexico, Canada and South America.

It emerged last year that the Dalai Lama was paid $1 million to speak to 3,000 NXIVM followers and place a khata - a traditional ceremonial Tibetan scarf - around Raniere's neck.

Raniere left the US last year after the New York Times reported that some women who joined a group in his organization had been branded with a symbol that included his initials.

The women told investigators they were subjected to 'master-slave' conditions that involved physical punishments for disobeying orders.

'As alleged in the complaint, Keith Raniere created a secret society of women whom he had sex with and branded with his initials, coercing them with the threat of releasing their highly personal information and taking their assets,' US attorney Richard P. Donoghue said.

The complaint says Raniere founded NXIVM about 20 years ago and held a series of purported self-help workshops.

Since NXIVM's creation, Raniere has maintained poly-amorous relationships with its members, according to the complaint.

Courses associated with the group costs thousands of dollars each and participants are encouraged to pay for additional classes and to recruit others in order to rise within the ranks of NXIVM.

According to the complaint, Raniere created a secret society within Nxivm called DOS in 2015, which loosely translated to 'Lord/Master of the Obedient Female Companions', or 'The Vow'.

DOS operated with levels of women slaves headed by masters and most were recruited from within NXIVM's ranks.

When new DOS slaves were recruited, they were required to provide collateral, which included highly damaging information about friends and family members, nude photographs and/or rights to the recruit's assets.

The complaint says DOS slaves feared that their collateral could be released by the group if they left.

Many DOS slaves were branded on their pelvic areas using a cauterizing pen with a symbol which, unbeknownst to them, incorporated Raniere's initials, according to the court documents.

During the branding ceremonies, slaves were required to be fully naked and a master would order one slave to film the branding while the others restrained the slave being branded.

Smallville actress Allison Mack was considering a high-ranking member of the cult and was believed to have been second in charge to Raniere.

Former Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg had previously met with prosecutors in New York to detail her daughter's experience in the group.

Oxenberg, through her lawyers at Lewis Baach Kaufmann Middlemiss, said she hoped Raniere's arrest would go as far as reuniting her with her daughter.

'I want to help all the young women affected by this cult. They are the victims of human trafficking, which is slavery,' she said.

'For months, I have worked to expose Keith Raniere and Nxivm and today's arrest vindicates my efforts.

'I want my daughter to know I love her and that I want her back in my life.'

If convicted, Raniere could be sentenced to life in prison.

'As alleged, Keith Raniere displayed a disgusting abuse of power in his efforts to denigrate and manipulate women he considered his sex slaves,' FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney said.

'He allegedly participated in horrifying acts of branding and burning them, with the cooperation of other women operating within this unorthodox pyramid scheme.

'These serious crimes against humanity are not only shocking, but disconcerting to say the least, and we are putting an end to this torture today.'
The perceptive reader will notice that the Dalai Lama, alleged to be a spiritual giant, accepted money from this cult.

Click on the links to see the articles:

Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded by Barry Meier, The New York Times, October 17, 2017

Attorney general probes nonprofit associated with NXIVM by Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times-Union, March 25, 2018

FBI raids NXIVM president's house as Raniere appears in federal court by Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times-Union, March 27, 2018

Special Report: NXIVM, a compendium of articles in the Albany Times-Union

NXIVM: What We Know About Alleged Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor by Laura Barcella in Rolling Stone, March 29, 2018

May 21, 2018 update: As reported by Bowen Xiao of The Epoch Times, May 9, 2018 (links in original):

NEW YORK—Dozens of children fell ill from a mysterious disease at a retreat hosted in New York by the notorious NXIVM cult, according to a report by the New York State Department of Health.

The 16-page report centers on Brandon Porter, NXIVM’s doctor, and accuses him of failing to report the outbreak of the disease. The document also accuses Porter of conducting a barrage of shocking human experiments, such as showing scenes of gruesome murder and decapitation to test subjects without their consent.

About “50 to 60 children” were present at the event attended by nearly 400 people—including Porter himself—at the Silver Bay YMCA recruitment office in New York, back in August 2016. During the conference, “many of the attendees and most of the children became ill with an undetermined infectious disease.” Attendees allegedly suffered from “flu-like symptoms, vomiting, and diarrhea.”

Porter, 44, had full knowledge that the illness at the conference was a communicable disease, but he failed to report the incident, the New York state Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) alleges in the document. Porter is also accused of failing to isolate individuals with the disease to an appropriate environment...

...Former spokesperson for NXIVM Frank Parlato, writing about the New York retreat on his blog, The Frank Report, said that none of the “higher-ups” of the society, including Raniere, got sick at the event—only the “students” did.

Parlato, who has been publishing information on the society’s inner workings since 2008 and who has been credited with assisting in Raniere’s arrest, wrote in the August 2017 post that when the students left the event, the leaders told them not to tell anyone what had happened there and, if asked, to say their symptoms were from the flu and not “food poisoning.”

He suggests that Raniere may have experimented with the food served at the event, using the students as test subjects “to learn some important lesson about human reaction.”

“It might have been a drug experimentation on Keith’s part,” Parlato wrote.

“Dr. Brandon Porter was there. Maybe somebody should ask him.”

Porter was charged for conducting illegal and highly perverse experiments for a “fright study” on human subjects. The OPMC accused Porter of showing subjects “an actual video of the horrific and brutal murders and dismemberment of four women by machetes.”

Between 2012 and 2017, the doctor also allegedly showed subjects other violent clips without their consent, including “a male African-American being viciously stomped by a Nazi; a conscious male being forced to eat a portion of his own brain matter; and a graphic gang rape.”

Porter is charged with moral unfitness, gross negligence, and gross incompetence. The OMPC has set a June 27 hearing for Porter to determine whether his medical license should be revoked. If those charges are proven, he could be facing criminal charges by the New York State Attorney General.

The Epoch Times reached out to the New York State Health Department for confirmation of the allegations, but a spokesperson said they were “prohibited” from “commenting on prior or pending Office of Professional Medical Conduct investigations beyond what is publicly available...”

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Dark matter continues to baffle astronomers

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

As reported by Seth Borenstein of Associated Press, March 28, 2018 (links in original):

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s a double cosmic conundrum: Lots of stuff that was already invisible has gone missing.

Astronomers have found a distant galaxy where there is no dark matter.

Dark matter is called “dark” because it can’t be seen. It is the mysterious and invisible skeleton of the universe that scientists figure makes up about 27 percent of the cosmos. Scientists only know dark matter exists because they can observe how it pushes and pulls things they can see, like stars.

It’s supposed to be everywhere.

But Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum and colleagues spied a vast, old galaxy with relatively few stars where what you see truly is what you get. The galaxy’s stars are speeding around with no apparent influence from dark matter, according to a study published in Wednesday’s journal Nature.

Instead of shaking the very foundations of physics, scientists say this absence of dark matter may help prove the existence of, wait for it, dark matter.

“Not sure what to make of it, but it is definitely intriguing,” wrote Case Western Reserve astronomer Stacy McGaugh, who was not part of the study, in an email. “This is a weird galaxy.”

Van Dokkum studies diffuse galaxies, ones that cover enormous areas but have relatively few stars. To look for them he and colleagues built their own makeshift telescope out of 48 telephoto lenses that he first tested by using a toy flashlight to shine a light on a paper clip. The bug-eyed telescope, called Dragonfly, peers into the sky from New Mexico.

Using Dragonfly, van Dokkum and colleagues found a large, sparse galaxy called NGC1052-DF2 in the northern constellation Cetus, also known as the whale. It’s as big as the Milky Way but with only one percent of its stars. Then they used larger telescopes on Hawaii and eventually the Hubble Space Telescope to study the galaxy.

Even though the galaxy is mostly empty, they found clusters of densely grouped stars. With measurements from the telescopes, van Dokkum and colleagues calculated how fast those clusters moved. If there were a normal amount of dark matter those clusters would be speeding around at about 67,000 mph (108,000 kilometers per hour). Instead, the clusters were moving at about 18,000 mph (28,000 kilometers per hour). That’s about how fast they would move if there were no dark matter at all, van Dokkum said.

The team also calculated the total mass of the galaxy and found the stars account for everything, with little or no room left for dark matter.

“I find this unlikely in all possible contexts,” said McGaugh, who is a proponent of a “modified gravity” theory that excludes the existence of dark matter altogether. “That doesn’t make it wrong, just really weird.”

How could this absence of dark matter help prove that it exists? By potentially disproving modified gravity theories that suggest gravity acts in a way that the cosmos makes sense without dark matter. But those alternative theories require stars in this galaxy to zip at least twice as fast as they were seen moving in this study.

Other outside scientists said the initial look at the calculations appear to be correct, though the results are confounding. A galaxy with so few stars should have more dark matter than others, not none.

“These are very strong scientists and so I take the results very seriously,” said Marc Kamionkowski, a physicist at Johns Hopkins University.

One outsider suggested that perhaps the “galaxy” van Dokkum studied is so diffuse that it may not really be a galaxy. Another suggested that the dark matter might just be outside of the area that van Dokkum measured.

Van Dokkum dismissed both possibilities. “It’s sort of non-negotiable. There’s nothing else, just the stars,” he said. The only way this can be explained is if dark matter exists in the universe, just not in that galaxy, he said.

There’s no good explanation for why and how this galaxy has no dark matter, van Dokkum said. He proposed four different possibilities — all unproven. His favorite: That the galaxy formed in the very early universe in a way astronomers have never seen or understood.

“It’s not so often you get a true surprise,” van Dokkum said.
Click on the link to see the original article Beguiling dark-matter signal persists 20 years on by Davide Castelvecchi in Nature, March 28, 2018.

"Freedom coins" from A.D. 66-67 Jewish revolt against Roman rule discovered in Temple Mount cave

‘Freedom Coins’ from the revolt of 67-70 CE / (Photo credit: Eilat Mazar/Hebrew University)

As reported by Jewish News International, March 26, 2018:
Bronze coins, the last remnants of a four-year Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire, were found near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. They were now discovered by Hebrew University archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar during renewed excavations at the Ophel, located below the Temple Mount’s southern wall.

These 1.5cm bronze coins were left behind by Jewish residents who hid in a large cave (21×42 ft.) for four years (66-70 C.E.) during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, up until the destruction of the Second Temple and the city of Jerusalem.

While several of the coins date to the early years of the revolt, the great majority are from its final year, otherwise known as “Year Four” (69-70 CE). Significantly, during that final year, the Hebrew inscription on the coins was changed from “For the Freedom of Zion” to “For the Redemption of Zion,” a shift that reflects the changing mood of the rebels during this period of horror and famine.

“A discovery like this—ancient coins bearing the words ‘Freedom’ and ‘Redemption’—found right before the Jewish Festival of Freedom, Passover, begins, is incredibly moving,” Dr. Mazar noted.

In addition to Hebrew inscriptions, the coins were decorated with Jewish symbols, such as four plant species mentioned in relation to the Sukkot holiday: palm, myrtle, citron and willow, and a picture of the goblet that was used in the Temple service.

Many broken pottery vessels, including jars and cooking pots, were also found in the cave. According to Mazar, it is remarkable that this cave was never discovered by subsequent residents of Jerusalem, nor used again after the Second Temple period. In this way the cave acts as a veritable time capsule of life in Jerusalem under the siege and during the four-year revolt against the Roman Empire.

These finds all date back to the time of the rebellion and were found in the Ophel Cave directly above a Hasmonean Period layer that was situated at the base of the cave. A more complete report of these findings will be published in the third volume of the Ophel excavations; the second is being published this week.

According to Mazar, the coins were well-preserved, probably because they were in use for such a short time. A similar number of “Year Four” coins were found near Robinson’s Arch, near the Western Wall, by Professor Benjamin Mazar, Eilat Mazar’s grandfather. He conducted the Temple Mount excavations right after Israel’s Six Day War, on behalf of Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology.

The Ophel excavations are situated within the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park, which is managed by the National Parks and Gardens Authority and the Eastern Jerusalem Development Company. Funding was generously provided by the Herbert W. Armstrong College of Edmond, Oklahoma, whose students participate in the digs.
It's interesting to note the mention of Herbert W. Armstrong College; this college is affiliated with the Philadelphia Church of God, which is one of numerous organizations that split off from the Worldwide Church of God after Mr. Armstrong died in 1986, and the WCG, under the direction of Joseph W. Tkach, moved in the direction of biblical Christianity, to the displeasure of those loyal to the teachings of Mr. Armstrong. One of the doctrines of Mr. Armstrong was a variation of British Israelism, which claims that the "lost" tribes of Israel became the people who formed the founding populations of the United Kingdom and United States. Mr. Armstrong's views were expressed in his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, which went through various editions from 1967 on, with revisions made every few years to excise predictions that had been proven false as a result of Mr. Armstrong's faulty exegesis. The Worldwide Church of God changed its name to Grace Communities International in 2009. The Philadelphia Church of God is one of the splinter organizations that claim to be holding to the teachings of Armstrongism, which comprise a false gospel of works. See my post 25 years ago: Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God, goes to the "wonderful World Tomorrow" (January 15, 2011).

Discoveries of rodent and pigeon bones provide insights into the condition of the Negev Desert in Israel 1,500 years ago

As reported by the University of Haifa, circa March 21, 2018:

Researchers have uncovered a large quantity of bones belonging to Tristram’s jird, a common rodent in Israel whose body length does not exceed 15 cm, providing the first biological evidence of the agriculture that flourished in the northern Negev region some 1,500 years ago. The bones were found near ancient fields tended by Byzantine farmers in the region, in an era when large parts of the Negev were colored green. “Today, Tristram’s jird is common in the Mediterranean areas of Israel. In recent years, with the expansion of agriculture in the Negev, its habitat has expanded to the south. Now we have found bones of this rodent dating back to the Byzantine period in areas that are currently arid and do not offer the habitat it requires. The findings show that Byzantine agriculture was so well-developed that it had an impact on species diversity in the Negev,” explained Prof. Gur Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa, who is heading a project that is researching the collapse of Byzantine cities of the Negev.

During the Byzantine period, which extended from the third to the seventh centuries CE, settlements were established throughout the Negev. The settlements were abandoned suddenly in the seventh century with the beginning of the Islamic period. Archeological evidence from the Negev, together with ancient historical texts, indicates the presence of extensive agriculture in the region during this period. Until now, however, no biological evidence had been found corroborating this rich agricultural past. The current archeozoological study is being conducted by research student Tal Fried, together with Dr. Lior Weissbrod, Dr. Yotam Tepper, and Prof. Guy Bar-Oz from the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa. The researchers have managed to uncover such evidence, in the form of rodent bones found in pigeon nesting compartments adjacent to agricultural fields. Their research findings have now been published in the Journal of the Royal Society of the British Academy of Sciences.

Based on modern data, the researchers know that the two commonest species of rodents in the Negev – the gerbil and Tristram’s jird – live in distinct areas according to climactic and topographical features. The gerbil is found in arid areas with less than 200 mm of precipitation a year that are dominated by sandy soil without cover of vegetation. Tristram’s jird, by contrast, is found in areas with more than 200 mm of precipitation a year where the soil is moist and covered with greenery. Naturally, agriculture is also concentrated mainly in the latter area.

As mentioned above, the rodent remains were found in excavations of several pigeon nest compartments in agricultural fields close to the rural settlements of Shivta and Saadon. The location of the compartments underscores the importance of pigeons to Byzantine agriculture in the region. The pigeons were raised so that their droppings could be used to fertilize the loess soil of the Negev, which has a low mineral content. However, the current important findings were not left by the pigeons themselves, but by the subsequent occupants of the nest compartments after the pigeons had gone. “In some of the pigeon nest compartments we excavated, we identified the layer dating back to the time when the compartments were destroyed and abandoned. Immediately above this layer, we began to find a large quantity of rodent bones,” recalls Dr. Yotam Tepper, who directed the excavation. “Since most of the bones bore signs of digestion, we immediately understood that these were remnants of food eaten by birds of prey – barn owls or other species – that took the place of the pigeons after the compartments were destroyed,” concluded Dr. Weissbrod and Tal Fried.

The inspection of the rodent bones revealed numerous gerbil bones, but also bones of Tristram’s jird. As noted above, the sites where the researchers found the bones are all in areas that now have an average of less than 200 mm precipitation a year; indeed, the average precipitation in Shivta is less than 100 mm a year. The soil in all these areas is dry and wind-blown, and accordingly the presence of Tristram’s jird is surprising. “Our finding shows that the Byzantine agriculture in the area was so well-developed that it completely changed the pattern of species distribution in the region,” the researchers explained. “During the period in question, areas that are arid today were greener and more fertile. The fact that we find the Tristram’s jird bones from the period after the fields were abandoned shows that the environmental change was so profound that even after the area was abandoned, it took some time for the environment to become arid once again. This is testimony to the impact of Byzantine agriculture, which continued to influence nature in the area long after it was abandoned.”

The researchers add that it is possible that the climate in these areas was wetter during this period than it is today, encouraging the development of impressive agriculture. Despite this, the farmers needed to use specialized technological means in order to store water, improve the fields, and create an agricultural habitat in the region. “This was the last period of agriculture in the Negev until the emergence of Zionism and the settlement of the Negev in accordance with Ben-Gurion’s vision. We are continuing to explore the remnants from this period, and we are curious and excited to understand the processes that led to the collapse of Byzantine society in the Negev. We still do not understand why the agricultural system they established ultimately failed. This subject is very relevant today, particularly in an era of climate change in which we need to adapt to changing environmental conditions that are leading to the expansion of deserts around the world,” Prof. Bar-Oz concluded.
And as reported by the University of Haifa, circa March 21, 2018:

Pigeons played an important role in turning the Byzantine Negev into a flourishing region 1,500 years ago. This is the conclusion of a new study held at the Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa that was published today in the prestigious journal PlosOne. The study, which concentrated on the ancient settlement of Shivta and Saadon, found archeological evidence showing that the Byzantines in the Negev raised pigeons not as a source of food, but in order to fertilize the loess soil and enhance its suitability for intensive agriculture. “Pigeon droppings are rich in phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen, which are vital for agricultural and are lacking in the loess soils of the Negev,” the researchers explained. “The pigeon bones we found are much smaller than those of pigeons bred for the meat industry. Together with the nesting materials we found in the compartments and their location in the middle of agricultural fields, the findings show that the pigeons were raised without significant intervention. The role of humans was mainly confined to providing protection for the birds.”

In recent years, extensive research has been undertaken in the Byzantine settlements of the Negev, led by Prof. Guy Bar-Oz of the University of Haifa. Among other goals, the researchers are interested in understanding how the Byzantines managed to maintain a broad-based agricultural system in the desert 1,500 years ago, and what led to the sudden abandonment and eventual collapse of these flourishing communities. In a study published several months ago, the research group presented important archeological evidence to the magnitude of agriculture in the Negev in this period, based on the bones of a rodent called Tristram’s jird, which lives only in wetter environments and is not found in desert areas. The current study, led by Dr. Nimrod Marom of the University of Haifa and Tel Hai College, in cooperation with Prof. Bar-Oz and Dr. Yotam Tepper of the Institute of Archeology at the University of Haifa and Dr. Baruch Rosen of the Volcani Center, focused on the study of the bones of pigeons from the compartments discovered in agricultural areas close to the Byzantine settlements.

The researchers explain that pigeon droppings are a well-known source of important minerals for agriculture, such as phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. Until recently, pigeons were used in many parts of the world to improve and fertilize soil. However, over the centuries pigeons have also been raised for other purposes, particularly for their meat. In order to determine the purpose of pigeon raising in the Negev, the researchers examined the bones found in the compartments, as well as the chemical composition of their droppings.

The large quantity of bones found in the excavations enabled the researchers to determine the average wingspan, body structure, and skull pattern of the pigeons from the Byzantine period. These were compared with data for various species of pigeons in the modern era. The comparative analysis was based in part of a comparison between the pigeons from the Negev and the pigeons collected and investigated by Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution. The bones of Darwin’s pigeons are today housed at the British National Museum. The most important finding reached by the researchers was that the pigeons from the Byzantine period were small, muscular, and “athletic,” and did not differ in their dimensions from wild pigeons. According to Dr. Marom, the smaller body size is not only clear evidence that they offered less meat. The smaller the birds, the more rapid their metabolism. To put it simply: smaller doves produce more droppings relative to the quantity of food they consume.

The chemical tests conducted at the laboratory showed that the droppings are indeed rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. “Together with this fact, the location of the pigeon compartments in an agricultural area remote from the settlements reinforces the hypothesis that the pigeons were raised in the compartments in order to produce high-quality fertilizer that accumulated on the floor of the compartments and was used to fertilize the fruit trees and vines in the vineyards and orchards. We also exposed rich botanical findings in the compartments themselves, including grape seeds, olives, peaches, and various kinds of wild plants – all remnants of the food eaten by the pigeons – as well as a large quantity of remnants of branches. All these findings provide further evidence that the Negev during the Byzantine period was green and flourishing,” the researchers concluded.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to deliver keynote address at 2018 commencement of Liberty University

Liberty University founder Rev. Jerry Fatwhale Falwell, Sr. must be rolling over in his grave at the thought of the increasingly liberal direction taken by his son Jerry, Jr. as his successor. Submitted for your approval, the following item, as reported by Liberty University News Service, February 22, 2018 (links in original):
Liberty University is proud to announce that former President Jimmy Carter will deliver the keynote address at Commencement on Saturday, May 19, 2018. It will be Liberty’s 45th Commencement and will include the College of Osteopathic Medicine's inaugural graduating class.

The university has previously hosted two other U.S. presidents for Commencement, both while still in office. George H. W. Bush spoke at the May 13, 1990, graduation. President Donald J. Trump spoke to the largest crowd ever assembled for an event in Lynchburg, Va.’s, history last year.

President Falwell said, "I did not meet President and Mrs. Carter until early last year. I was so impressed with the president’s warmth, kind demeanor, and humility. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to welcome President Carter to our Commencement stage. I have tremendous respect for him as a statesman and a true Christian. While Christians may disagree about what role government should play in serving those in need, the Liberty University community along with all Christians worldwide are united in the belief that we, as individuals, should provide food and shelter to the poor. President Carter, both during his time in office and since, has followed the teachings of Christ by serving the poor and loving his neighbors. I am thrilled that he will be sharing the story of his life of faith in action to our graduates and their families.”

Carter served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. Since leaving office, Carter has written 31 books and has been a key supporter and advocate for Habitat for Humanity. In 1982, Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, established The Carter Center, a non-profit organization focused on resolving conflict; advancing democracy and human rights; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care.

“I am pleased to speak at Liberty University’s Commencement,” Carter said. “I look forward to reaching out to this young generation of future leaders. I hope to inspire them as so many have inspired me throughout my life.”

About 18,000 graduates from across the nation will be receiving degrees from both residential and online programs. Liberty’s 2017 Commencement brought about 50,000 people to Williams Stadium, breaking all attendance records for events at Liberty and in Lynchburg.

Liberty consistently brings notable and popular speakers to campus who have made their mark in politics, business, entertainment, faith and more. Previous speakers include: President Donald J. Trump, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Mitt Romney, Secretary of HUD Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Steph Curry, Chuck Norris, Ben Stein, Shannon Bream, Mel Gibson, and Rashad Jennings.
The perceptive reader will notice the large number of non-Christians among those listed in the paragraph above; Jimmy Carter, with a long record of denial of clear scriptural truths, definitely deserves to be listed among them. Jerry Falwell, Jr. apparently wasn't paying attention to his father's activities, and apparently isn't aware of Mr. Carter's liberalism.

The announcement of Mr. Carter's appearance at Liberty University is attracting some criticism by pro-Israel advocates, as reported by Alex Traiman of Breaking Israel News, March 25, 2018 (bold, links in original):

Just days after U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to inaugurate America’s embassy to Israel in Jerusalem on May 14, a former president with a less than stellar record on supporting Israel will address commencement at Liberty University, America’s premier evangelical college.

The speech by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to future evangelical leaders is noteworthy due to his controversial accusations that Israel is an apartheid state, coupled with a longstanding feud between Carter and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty University’s founder and first president. The school is now run by Falwell’s son, Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr.

“This invitation is a slap in the face to Reverend Jerry Falwell Sr. and to all the evangelical Christians who support Israel,” said Laurie Cardoza-Moore, host of the Focus on Israel television program on Daystar, and founder and president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, an organization that urges Christians “to stand with their Jewish brethren and all Israel against the rise of anti-Semitism.”

In a letter sent to Falwell Jr. urging the university to cancel the lecture, Cardoza-Moore wrote: “Over and over, [Carter] has proven himself to be anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, and is not worthy to speak to the distinguished graduates of Liberty University, or their families. What kind of message does this send our future Christian leaders?”

Declining support for Israel among millennials

“With recent polls indicating a plummet among young evangelicals, the last thing we need is someone like Jimmy Carter promoting anti-Israel rhetoric to students at a leading Christian university,” Cardoza-Moore told JNS. “His anti-Israel rhetoric would be more welcome in a university in Tehran. He is promoting an agenda vis-à-vis Israel that is anti-biblical.”

While polls have indicated that support for Israel remains high across the United States as a whole, it’s waning among certain key segments, including millennials. As a group, they tend to be less connected to faith and see Israel only through the lens of the Oslo peace process, which for 25 years has failed to bring a negotiated peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. Millennials think that because of the accords, Israelis were supposed to make peace and create a state for the Palestinians; it didn’t work out that way, and so they perceive Israel as occupier. Their parents remember Israel’s struggle just to survive—the wars of 1956, 1967 and 1973—and view Israel in a very different light.

The declining support among millennials is equally prevalent among evangelical Christians, a segment in American society whose adult members exhibit the greatest support for the Jewish state nationwide, raising concern for the support of Israel in years to come.

“Some recent surveys have shown what we have known for some time—namely, that many millennials are less supportive of Israel than prior generations. This is even true among some Christian millennials,” said Cindy Matthews, director of External Affairs of Covenant Journey, an experiential trip to Israel for Christian college students that teaches participants how to advocate for Israel.

“We have found that the millennial generation is less grounded in worldview and Christian faith. The more they move away from their Christian faith, the more they disconnect with Israel,” Matthews told JNS.

According to Cardoza-Moore, students at an evangelical Christian university should be fully connected to their faith and be receiving a fully pro-Israel education. “Why should Christian parents send their children to a Christian university when they can get the same anti-Israel rhetoric at universities like Berkeley?” posed Cardoza-Moore. “We are now seeing Christian colleges following the dangerous trends of secular universities.”

Cardoza-Moore suggests that support for Israel among evangelicals benefits Christians as much as Jews. “Yes, Israel needs the support of the evangelical community, but the Church needs it even more,” she said. “As scripture writes in the book of Genesis, ‘Those who bless you will be blessed, and those who curse you will be cursed.’”

Politics or poverty?

In a statement announcing Carter’s upcoming address, Falwell Jr. wrote: “While Christians may disagree about what role government should play in serving those in need, the Liberty University community, along with all Christians worldwide, are united in the belief that we, as individuals, should provide food and shelter to the poor.” He commended Carter for “serving the poor and loving his neighbors,” and said “I am thrilled that he will be sharing the story of his life of faith in action to our graduates and their families.”

According to Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews—an organization that works to promote understanding between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel, as well as provides humanitarian aid to Jews around the world—the invitation of Carter to Liberty University is “not as crazy as it may seem, or offensive.”

In addition to hosting Trump in 2017 and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush in 1991, Eckstein acknowledged that “they’ve invited former presidents, and given that Carter is a past president and identifiably evangelical, and his commitment to helping the poor which is the common ground of their evangelicalism, it’s a reasonable choice.”

“They are not choosing him because of his views on Israel, so I think it’s a non-issue regarding the impact on the next generation,” Eckstein told JNS. “Now if Carter makes outrageous anti-Israel comments in his speech—which I seriously doubt—then it would be an issue.”
The perceptive reader will also notice that Jerry Falwell, Jr. seems to regard people as Christians on the basis of their alleged good works, rather than on whether their doctrine is sound, despite the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ warned in Matthew 7:21-23 that there will be those who will call Him Lord and claim to have done many wonderful works in His name who were in fact the workers of iniquity. Mr. Carter may be "identifiably evangelical," but that may say more about the increasingly liberal direction of evangelicalism than it says about Mr. Carter. For example the "evangelical" Jimmy Carter has been outspoken in his rejection of the teaching in the epistles of Paul in regard to the matter of women being prohibited from leadership positions in the church. I suggest that the leaders of Liberty University should check out what people actually believe before acclaiming them as "Christians."

See my previous posts:

Libertine University (May 9, 2009)

Look who Liberty University's commencement speakers are for 2010 (April 24, 2010)

Adulterer and New Ager-turned Roman Catholic Newt Gingrich to speak at The Awakening 2011 conference at Liberty University in April (March 15, 2011)

Liberty University (and another "Christian" school) stage a work by Jesus Christ Superstar composer (March 24, 2011)

Liberty University has Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin as a guest speaker--after he's been exposed as a Jesuit (March 14, 2012)

Monday, 26 March 2018

Joint student pilgrimage helps cement ties between Roman Catholic Church and Church of God in Toledo

Though the relationship of the churches in this article seems to be that of equals, the road will inevitably lead to Rome. As reported by Nicki Gorny of the Toledo Blade, March 22, 2018:

Chattering schoolchildren trekked down Collingwood Boulevard on Thursday, waving palms in a first-of-its-kind pilgrimage between two of the most influential churches in the neighborhood.

Approximately 170 students from the K-8 Rosary Cathedral Catholic School began their route at Rosary Cathedral, adjacent to their school, where Catholic Bishop Daniel Thomas welcomed them with brief remarks at 10 a.m. Then they headed a few blocks down the boulevard for a brief and spirited service with Bishop Robert Culp at First Church of God.

Eighth-graders Tatiana Davis and Trinity Alexander were among the young pilgrims. They said en route to First Church that they were enjoying the pilgrimage, which organizers said is the latest collaboration between the increasingly close Catholic school and Protestant church.

“I think it’s cool we get to do new things with the church,” Tatiana said.

Rosary Cathedral Catholic School and First Church of God have grown particularly close this school year, said Sister Lynda Snyder, principal at the school, and Avery Cooper, youth pastor at the church. Church members read with the students in their library after school, for example, and in the fall organized a harvest-themed party in the cafeteria.

Representatives said both communities value the relationship.

“We’re in the same neighborhood and our churches are on the same street,” Bishop Thomas said. “Rosary Cathedral has this school for the children of the neighborhood, and First Church of God is very committed to assisting us in making an education which is based in Christ Jesus and based in virtue.”

This week’s pilgrimage came as a celebration both of this ecumenical relationship, between church and school, and of the Easter season, Bishop Culp said. Palm Sunday, signifying the beginning of Holy Week for Christians, is this weekend.

“This is such an important season in the life of the church,” Bishop Culp said. “We have common ground with our brothers and sisters here.”

Students seemed engaged during the brief service at First Church of God, which invited them to clap in time to praise songs and watch some of their classmates perform a step-dance routine. An alumnus of the school, Raymond Sanders, who is now in his junior year at Central Catholic High School, also shared a brief reflection.

Then the students were invited to lunch at the church.

Sister Lynda estimated that just 10 percent of the students at Rosary Cathedral Catholic School identify as Catholic. Pastor Cooper said that the families of some students attend First Church, which for many years, beginning in 1974, operated its own school.

Bishop Culp and others said they hope to repeat the pilgrimage with the students next year.

“It’s the first of what I hope will be a tradition for us in this season of the year,” Bishop Culp said.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada continues dialogue with Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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 6:14-17

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which claims to represent four million Evangelicals, continues its downward and Romeward ecumenical course, as reported by the EFC on January 22, 2018:

The national Roman Catholic–Evangelical Dialogue met for its semi-annual meeting on 13 December 2017 in Mississauga, Ont. Dialogue participants discussed questions relating to evangelization, vocation, and mission based on a variety of readings provided by both the Evangelical and Catholic participants.

A primary focus of the meeting was dialogue surrounding the roles of lay and clerical vocations in relation to mission. The readings recommended by both caucuses contributed significantly to the depth and richness of the conversation. Catholics and Evangelicals affirmed the fostering of vocations within the Church by living the message of Jesus Christ in their lives, both individually and as communities.

The Catholic–Evangelical Dialogue is jointly sponsored by The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Dialogue was officially launched in 2010, following recommendations from a working group that was established in 2008-2009.

The goal of the Dialogue is to seek mutual understanding and learning from one another, to dispel harmful stereotypes and to seek ways and means to foster Christian unity. Members of the Dialogue pray together and seek to gather together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit so as to witness to their common faith in Jesus Christ.

The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 8 May 2018, and will focus on reflections from both caucuses related to tradition, Scripture, salvation and the Church.

Backlog: World Wildlife Fund calls on leaders of various religions to unite to save African wildlife from poachers

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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 6:14-17

Christians are not to unite with unbelievers even in good causes--and I think saving endangered wildlife from poachers is a good cause. If Christians want to speak or act on this issue, they should do so as Christians, not as members of an inter-religious body. As reported by Jason Straziuso of Associated Press, September 21, 2012:

NAIROBI, Kenya — Standing before a pile of charred elephant ivory as dusk covered the surrounding savannah, Christian, Muslim and Hindu religious leaders grasped hands and prayed. Let religion, they asked, help "God's creatures" to survive.

Poachers are escalating their assault on Africa's elephants and rhinos, and conservationists warn that the animals cannot survive Asia's high-dollar demand for ivory tusks and rhino horn powder. Some wildlife agents, customs officials and government leaders are being paid off by what is viewed as a well-organized mafia moving animal parts from Africa to Asia, charge the conservationists.

Seeing a dire situation grow worse, the animal conservation group WWF is enlisting religious leaders to take up the cause in the hopes that religion can help save some of the world's most majestic animals.

"We are the ones who are driving God's creatures to extinction," said Martin Palmer, secretary-general of the Britain-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation.

Palmer spoke during Thursday evening's prayer at a site in Nairobi National Park where Kenyan officials burned hundreds of ivory tusks in 1989 to draw attention to the slaughter of elephants. Although the park has no elephants, it hosts 221 rhinos.

"We are the ones who can change the way Africa works," Palmer said.

Dekila Chungyalpa, the director of WWF's Sacred Earth program, argues that the killing of elephants, rhinos and Asian tigers — the three animals WWF is most concerned about — is a moral issue. She said that conservationists are not doing well enough getting the anti-poaching message across, and that new strategies — such as religion — must be tried.

"Faith leaders are the heart and backbone of local communities. They guide and direct the way we think, behave and live our lives," she said, adding later: "I think this is the missing piece in conservation strategies. ... WWF can yell us much as we want and no one will listen to us, but a religious leader can say 'This is not a part of our values. This is immoral.'"

Three dozen religious leaders from nine African countries toured Nairobi National Park on Thursday, where they saw rhinos, zebras, buffalo and ostriches all within site of the skyline of Kenya's capital city.

One of the safari vans held a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Buddhist, which spawned efforts to create some sort of wildlife-themed religious joke. During a more serious conversation, Hamza Mutunu, a Muslim leader from Tanzania, argued for the animals.

"The general message is that taking care of the wildlife is part and parcel with our religion," he said. "We have a duty from the Prophet Mohammed. ... Taking care of wildlife is within our religion."

Preetika Bhanderi, who is with the Hindu Council of Africa, said: "Hindu's backbone is non-violence toward everything that has life. That means animals, and people, of course."

Charles Odira, a Catholic priest from Kenya, said religious leaders can help spread the message effectively given the moral authority and standing they have in African communities.

"Just as when we talk about Jesus Christ, when we say (from the pulpit) that animals are part of God's community, an impact will be made," he said.

Odira acknowledged the uphill fight even religious leaders have. Poachers can earn hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a rhino horn or elephant tusk. That money represents far more than they could earn after years of labor in the typical village job.

Mutunu, though, said that religious leaders of all faiths came together in Loliondo, Tanzania last year to fight against poaching. He said the effort has yielded dividends.

The poaching numbers are grim. The number of rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa has risen from 13 in 2007 to 448 last year, WWF says. Last year saw more large-scale ivory seizures than any year in the last two decades, it said. Tens of thousands of elephants are being killed by poachers each year.

It's not known what kind of impact religious leaders may be able to make, but Mike Watson, the chief executive of the Kenya's Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, said he and other conservationists will take any help they can get. Lewa saw one of its rhinos killed by poachers last week. The park had never suffered a rhino poaching death before 2009; it's had five of its rhinos killed since then.

"We know for a fact that one of the demands for ivory is religious icons in the Far East, and if pressure can be brought to bear to reduce that demand both locally here in Kenya through assistance by religious leaders, and overseas, it can only be a good step," he said. "It might take generations. If religious leaders can some way speed that process up, all well and good, but all efforts need to be on the table."

Africa is the supply side of the poaching equation, but the demand comes from Asia. Chungyalpa said WWF is working with Buddhists in Southeast Asia to try to educate Asian consumers about ivory and rhino horn powder. Yao Ming, the oversized basketball star from China, visited Kenya last month to raise awareness and make a film called "The End of the Wild."

Chungyalpa compared the effort to enlist religious leaders in the anti-poaching fight to how religious pressure helped end the era of apartheid in South Africa.

"There has to be a rising up of moral outrage," she said. "This is the spirit we're after."

Backlog: Amish sect leader and followers receive prison sentences for beard- and hair-cutting attacks against other Amish

As reported by Erik Eckholm in The New York Times, September 20, 2012 (links in original):

Samuel Mullet Sr., the domineering leader of a renegade Amish sect, and 15 of his followers were convicted on Thursday in Cleveland of federal conspiracy and hate crimes for a series of bizarre beard- and hair-cutting attacks last fall that spread fear through the Amish of eastern Ohio.

The convictions of Mr. Mullet, along with several relatives and others from his settlement who carried out the assaults, could bring lengthy prison terms. The verdicts were a vindication for federal prosecutors, who made a risky decision to apply a 2009 federal hate-crimes law to the sect’s violent efforts to humiliate Amish rivals.

Defense lawyers in the case and an independent legal expert had argued that the government was overreaching by turning a personal vendetta within the Amish community, and related attacks, into a federal hate-crimes case. But the jury accepted the prosecutors’ description of the attacks as an effort to suppress the victims’ practice of religion, finding Mr. Mullet and the other defendants guilty on nearly all the charges they faced of conspiracy, hate crimes and obstruction of justice.

The victims “simply wanted to be left to practice their own religion in their own way in peace,” Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said in a news conference after the verdicts were announced. “The defendants invaded their homes, physically attacked these people and sheared them almost like animals,” Mr. Dettelbach said.

Mr. Mullet, 66, the founder of a community near Bergholz, Ohio, and 15 followers, including six women, were tried for their roles in five separate attacks last fall, involving assaults on nine people whom Mr. Mullet had described as enemies. The jury, which had no Amish members, heard three weeks of testimony and deliberated more than four days before reaching a verdict at midday on Thursday.

Although Mr. Mullet did not directly participate, prosecutors labeled him the mastermind of the assaults, in which groups of his followers invaded the homes of victims, threw them down and sheared their beards and hair. Among the traditional Amish, men’s long beards and women’s uncut hair are central to religious identity.

Prosecutors argued that the attacks were intended to humiliate those who questioned Mr. Mullet’s cultlike methods, which included forcing errant followers to sleep in chicken coops and pressing married women — including his own daughter-in-law — to accept his intimate sexual “counseling.”

Some of the victims had angered Mr. Mullet by refusing to honor his shunning decrees against his foes, calling them an improper use of his power as a bishop and accepting those he sought to banish into their own churches. Other victims had moved out of his settlement and attacked him as a cult leader.

The peculiar attacks first drew national attention last fall when several men from the Bergholz settlement were arrested on state kidnapping and burglary charges. The assaults, and then the public trial, were a searing experience for the region’s Amish, who normally lead placid and intensely private lives, without electricity or cars, and try to settle disputes peacefully without involving law enforcement.

The testimony included an elderly woman’s account of her terror as six of her children and their spouses made a surprise late-night visit, with the men holding down her sobbing husband as they hacked off his beard and hair and the women cut her waist-length hair to above the ears as she prayed aloud.

During the testimony, the 16 defendants, in traditional attire, and their lawyers sat around four tables that took up half the courtroom. In the gallery sat dozens of Amish supporters of the victims, including several of Mr. Mullet’s elderly siblings, who shook their heads as witnesses described his unorthodox methods. Also in the gallery was Mr. Mullet’s wife, who sat impassively as a woman who used to live in Bergholz spoke of how Mr. Mullet pressured her to come to his bed.

The stakes for the defendants were raised when federal prosecutors stepped in to charge Mr. Mullet and 15 others, including several of his children and other relatives, with federal conspiracy and hate-crime charges that carry potential sentences of several decades. Judge Dan Aaron Polster scheduled sentencing for Jan. 24.

The defendants did not deny their roles in the attacks, which were carried out with battery-powered clippers, scissors and razor-sharp shears that are designed to trim horse manes. Rather, the case turned on the motives for the attacks and whether it was appropriate to make them into a major federal case under a 2009 hate-crimes law.

To prove the most serious charges, the jurors had to be convinced that the defendants had caused “bodily injury,” which could mean “disfigurement,” and that the attacks were based mainly on religious differences. Lawyers for the defense argued that cutting hair was not disfigurement and that the attacks resulted from family and personal differences, including a bitter custody battle involving a daughter of Mr. Mullet’s, as well as disputes over the “true” Amish way.

During the trial, Edward G. Bryan, Mr. Mullet’s lawyer, said that his client might have known about the attacks but did not order them. According to testimony, Mr. Mullet stayed up late to greet attackers when they returned to the compound after one of the assaults, accepting a bag of shorn hair as well as disposable cameras used to record the victims’ humiliation. The prosecutors argued that his followers would not have acted without Mr. Mullet’s approval, citing what one of his sisters called the zombielike obedience of Bergholz residents.

Mr. Bryan said Thursday that Mr. Mullet planned to appeal, in part on the grounds that the federal law had been misapplied.
As reported by Trip Gabriel in The New York Times, February 8, 2013 (link in original):

The leader of a dissident Amish sect was sentenced on Friday to 15 years in prison for a series of bizarre beard- and hair-cutting attacks on other Ohio Amish that drew national attention.

Samuel Mullet Sr., 67, the leader, was sentenced in Federal District Court in Cleveland for coordinating assaults that prosecutors argued were motivated by religious intolerance. Fifteen of his followers, including six women, were given lesser sentences, ranging from one year and one day to seven years.

The breakaway Amish were convicted last year of multiple counts of conspiracy and hate crimes, which carry harsher punishment than simple assault.

Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence for Mr. Mullet. Defense lawyers claimed the government was blowing out of proportion personal vendettas that Mr. Mullet harbored against former followers and other critics, and thus did not deserve a long sentence.

But in passing sentence Judge Dan Aaron Polster told Mr. Mullet and his co-defendants that they were being punished for depriving victims of a constitutional right, religious freedom, whose fruits they enjoyed themselves as Amish through exemptions from jury service and other laws.

“Each of you has received the benefits of that First Amendment,” Judge Polster said...

...Prosecutors argued that because of the religious symbolism of the attacks, they were hate crimes. Mr. Mullet was convicted of coordinating four attacks on a total of eight victims, though by all accounts he did not directly participate.

Speaking in court Friday before the sentencing, his ankles in chains and a white beard reaching his chest, Mr. Mullet said he was being labeled a cult leader, which he denied. He asked to be given the punishment for all the defendants, who included four married couples. “Let these moms and dads go home to their families, raise their children, I’ll take the punishment for everybody,” Mr. Mullet said, according to WKYC-TV in Cleveland.

Although Mr. Mullet is an Amish bishop, his strict interpretation of his faith and an abrasive personality had caused individuals to leave his fold and other Amish leaders to isolate him. He presided over a settlement of about 18 families reached by a dirt track near the town of Bergholz.

The trial of the 16 defendants, including three of Mr. Mullet’s sons, unveiled a tiny sect in thrall to its leader, who in the name of purity abolished Sunday church services and punished men for ogling non-Amish women by confining them to chicken coops. Testimony also detailed how Mr. Mullet pressured married female followers to have sex with him, including a daughter-in-law.

Another defendant, Lester Miller, apologized before the sentencing to his parents, whom he and others, including his wife, Elizabeth Miller, had attacked. He asked the judge to spare his wife, “to put her sentence on me,” so she could care for their 11 children, according to WKYC-TV.

Many of the defendants also asked the judge to give them all or part of Mr. Mullet’s sentence and to lighten his burden.

Ms. Miller and four other women received the shortest sentence, a year and a day, and the sixth woman, Linda Schrock, was given two years.

Mr. Mullet’s lawyer, Edward G. Bryan, had argued that his client had not directly ordered the attacks and asked for a short sentence. All the defendants have two weeks to file appeals.

In handing Mr. Mullet 15 years, Judge Polster said he oversaw his flock with “an iron hand” and that he was “a danger to the community.”

Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, argued in a sentencing memo that Mr. Mullet was responsible for the crimes because he preached to followers that “Amish hypocrites” should be punished.

Mr. Dettelbach said in an interview that he was satisfied that all of the defendants were given prison time.

“In court today, sitting there and watching defendant after defendant after defendant stand and say they would yet again sacrifice years of their lives so Mr. Mullet would not have to be punished, proved the court judge was absolutely right in characterizing Mr. Mullet’s control over these people,” Mr. Dettelbach said. “Whether or not you call that a cult is none of my business.”

Throughout the ordeal, Mr. Mullet’s community of about 135 has stood by him, vowing to continue living in isolation from other Amish, whom they condemn for drinking, smoking and playing musical instruments.
As reported by Mr. Eckholm, August 27, 2014:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned the hate-crimes convictions of the leader of a breakaway Amish sect and his followers who sowed fear in the Amish of eastern Ohio in 2011 for a bizarre series of attacks in which they cut the hair and beards of rivals.

But the sect’s leader, Samuel Mullet Sr., who is serving a 15-year sentence, will not immediately be freed, and nor will eight followers who are still in prison with lesser sentences.

While their hate-crimes convictions were voided, the defendants remain under indictment for those crimes and could be retried. Federal prosecutors have weeks to decide whether to appeal Wednesday’s decision, call for a new trial or drop the case. The convictions of Mr. Mullet and his followers for the lesser crime of obstruction of justice remain in place.

In voiding the convictions, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled that the judge in the 2012 trial that convicted Mr. Mullet and 15 followers had given the jury an overly expansive definition of a hate crime. (Seven followers have completed their prison terms.)

At the urging of federal prosecutors, who were pressing for an unusual application of the 2009 federal hate-crimes law, the judge told the jury that the religion of the victims must be only one “significant factor” among others in motivating the assaults. But the appeals panel ruled that the judge should have told jurors that, for the attacks to be a hate crime, the religion of the victim must be the predominant motivating factor, and said the evidence did not support that conclusion.

“When all is said and done, considerable evidence supported the defendants’ theory that interpersonal and intrafamily disagreements, not the victims’ religious beliefs, sparked the attacks,” the appeals court ruled...

...“We’re very pleased with the ruling,” said Wendi L. Overmyer, a federal public defender from Akron who argued the appeal.

While “it only addresses one of many issues we raised,” she said, the rejection of the jury instructions was an important step. “Now, all the defendants will be given a chance to have the charges considered under the correct standard of law.”

Defense lawyers had sought a more sweeping repudiation of the government’s decision to invoke the federal hate-crimes statute, with its stringent penalties, in a dispute among feuding members of the same religion. But the circuit judges confined their decision to the jury instructions and what they called a lack of evidence that religion was the primary motivating factor.

One member of the three-judge panel dissented, arguing that the convictions should stand and that Mr. Mullet in particular had acted “because of the victims’ religious beliefs.”

The United States attorney in Cleveland, Steven M. Dettelbach, said in a statement that federal prosecutors were “reviewing the opinion and considering our options.”

If they decide to pursue a new trial, the defendants could apply to be released on bond, said Edward G. Bryan, a federal public defender in Cleveland who represents Mr. Mullet.

“I hope this decision today takes us one step closer to returning Mr. Mullet to his home and community,” Mr. Bryan said, “but we’re not out of the woods.”

Mr. Bryan said he had spoken by phone with Wilma Mullet, one of Mr. Mullet’s daughters, who remains in Bergholz and was not involved in the assaults. “She was happy but cautious,” he said, and promised to spread the word of Wednesday’s court decision among the community.
As reported by Mr. Eckholm, March 2, 2015:

A federal judge on Monday reduced the prison sentences for the leader of a breakaway Amish sect and seven followers who were convicted in a series of beard-cutting attacks on rival Amish in 2011.

But the judge, Dan Aaron Polster of Federal District Court in Cleveland, rejected the call by defense lawyers for the leader, Samuel Mullet Sr., and other defendants to be freed immediately, with their sentences reduced to the more than three years they have already served.

Monday’s resentencing became necessary after a federal appeals court voided the men’s convictions on the most serious charges, of violating federal hate crime laws, ruling that the jury had been given an overly broad definition of a religious hate crime.

Defense lawyers argued that the men had already more than paid the price for their remaining convictions, for obstructing justice. But federal prosecutors argued that the sentences should not be reduced because the defendants committed violent and premeditated attacks that terrorized the Amish of eastern Ohio.

Judge Polster, who gave out the sentences in 2013, seemed largely to agree with the prosecutors on Monday, reiterating that the attacks were intended to inflict religious humiliation.

Mr. Mullet’s sentence was scaled back to 10 years and 9 months, from 15 years. The seven-year sentences given to four other men were reduced to five years, while three other followers saw sentences cut to three years, seven months from five years.

Six women and two men were sentenced to one or two years each and have already been released.

Steven M. Dettelbach, the United States attorney in Cleveland, said, “We’re gratified that there are significant terms of incarceration for what we feel was repeated and violent conduct.”

But Mr. Mullet’s defense lawyers said the new sentences, particularly that for Mr. Mullet, who is 69, were clearly excessive and vowed to appeal...

...Whenever Mr. Mullet is freed he will return to a community “forever changed,” as his defense lawyers put it. In November his wife of 49 years, Martha Mullet, died from cardiac arrest. Mr. Mullet was not permitted to attend her funeral.

One of Mr. Mullet’s daughters, Linda Schrock, took her younger children and left the close-knit settlement after finishing her two-year prison term. Several young men also left, in part because of a shortage of unrelated young women to marry.

As to whether the Amish are actually Christians, I recommend the radio broadcasts of The Berean Call, with Tom McMahon interviewing Joe Keim: Part 1 (September 16, 2016); Part 2 (September 23, 2016).