Financial Times: Is Satan Out There in South Africa?

The Financial Times carries a report by Sarah Duguid on supposed Satanism in South Africa. As one would expect, Colonel Kobus Jonker and the Occult Related Crime Unit (ORCU) of the South African police loom large, although the reporter also spends time talking to sceptical academics. Here’s the profile of Jonker:

In 1981 Colonel Kobus Jonker joined a charismatic church and became a born-again Christian. At the time, he was a respected senior detective with the South African police.

This conversion had rather remarkable effects on his career:

A few months after his conversion, he investigated the case of a woman who was killed when she walked in front of a car late one night…It turned out that she was a witch…He interviewed a woman whose voice turned into a growl deeper than anything he had heard before…He describes watching as a pentagram inexplicably appeared in blood on a suspect’s arm. He tells how he thwarted a female assassin working for a Satanic coven who turned up at his office clutching a pistol inside her handbag. She left still clutching the gun, her hand seemingly paralysed by his prayers.

Jonker’s bosses remained steadfastly cynical; they rolled their eyes at his stories. But when he raided a house in 1991 and found a Bible bound in chains, the walls smeared with blood and a Chinese woman’s head in a cupboard, his commanding officers were finally persuaded to start the Occult Related Crime Unit (ORCU), with Colonel Jonker at its helm. Last year, the unit claims, it made 70 successful prosecutions under the 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act.

Sceptics are not allowed to join the unit. Says Jonker (now retired):

“The ordinary guy cannot investigate occult crimes. There are things you see and experiences you have as a result of the supernatural. You must be strong in faith to be in the occult unit…

Further details are available on the Unit’s website, which is part of the official South African Police Service web presence and bears a “gov.za” address:

“I believe the devil exists because I have seen things happen. I have seen a woman being attacked right in my presence by a demonic being, cuts just appearing on her arms and the triple sixes also manifesting on her arm while I was standing beside her. The two policemen who were there with me ran off when they saw that. I ran to the car to fetch my camera because I know my colleagues and ordinary people find it difficult to believe these things.”

Jonker has been on British TV a couple of times over the past few years. In 2000 he was profiled by the Channel 4 documentary series Witness. A rather sceptical review accords with my memories of that programme. The camera crew followed Jonker around for a bit, with underwhelming results:

A car hit-and-run victim was found with ‘Jesus Christ’ tattooed on her feet . Jonkers concludes that she was a Satanist; because ‘this was the woman’s way of trampling on Christ’s name’.  The intellectual rigor in Jonkers’ cases is reminiscent of a mediaeval witch-hunter. ‘A Cat disappears and ‘strange smells’ eminate from a room used by a suspect – Jonker deduces that she was therefore ‘enganged in some satanic practice.’ Jonker has a ‘museum’ of Satanic artefacts which include ‘human fat candles ‘(?) and , wait for it, Heavy Metal Posters’ (!). Jonker’s believes in all the crud about so-called backward-masking on pop-music. He says he ‘loved Satanists as god would wish him to’ and found plenty to put under the microscope. Anyone who reads Tarot Cards, frequents Health Shops or Listens to Heavy Metal Music is immediately suspect in his religious crusade against Satanism.  A woman who resents having her book on Astral Projection confiscated is immediately earmarked as a Satanist murderess.  One of his prime witnesses is a dysfunctional self-imolating woman who was brought up in a strict pentecostal family. She relates in graphic detail ten years of detailed abuse at the hands of a ‘satanic circle’ she says she joined when she was 15. She knows the chief satanists name but is prevented by some magical force from speaking it (a typical victim impostor confabulation) so her story cannot be checked. Jonker did not think to ask her to write it down instead. Jonkers appears enthusiastically clued in to everything except what is actually going on.

Pictures of Jonker’s collection are available here. The FT reporter has similar experiences in the company of Inspector Dievald Grobbler and police reservist F.H. Havinger at a Christian counselling centre:

…we are told that a coven has contacted one of its estranged members by spirit message and threatened to kill a baby if she doesn’t return. We climb into the car to find the coven. The police map out a radius where the ritual might be taking place. With headlights switched off, we comb a section of Johannesburg famous for its car hijackings. The area looks like a cheap film set: prostitutes blow kisses as we drive by, a man shuffles home from a late-night bar, dogs bark, neon lights flash. Eventually an erratic driver falls under suspicion and the officers pull him over. It turns out that he is drunk and prowling around looking for a prostitute. This is not a matter for the occult unit, so he avoids arrest.

Meanwhile, another call has come through. A survivor has been possessed by a demon and the volunteers at the centre have been unable to snap her out of it. We rush back, blue police light flashing.

Who cares about some drunk driver killing someone when Satanists are at work via “spirit message”? Despite the lack of any actual evidence for the many lurid stories told to her, Duguid gushes that

Jonker’s cool-headed, intelligent approach to his work led me, a semi-sceptic, to agree that there must be something “out there”

Duguid tries to convince us of this by contrasting Jonker with someone else, South Africa’s self-styled “top exorcist” James Lottering. Lottering, who resigned from the ORCU in 1997, was a member of the “notorious security police” under apartheid, and Duguid suggests that his views are “constructed by a mind that was seeking self-justification for a dislike of non-Christians and non-whites”. She attends Lottering as he performs an exorcism on someone who unwittingly drank a demon that a Muslim had put in her tea. Duguid also notes that Lottering attends the Word of Faith Church in Port Elizabeth. The church website is currently under construction, but I think we can assume a link with the wider Word of Faith Prosperity Gospel movement led for many years in South Africa by Ray McCauley. McCauley is a former body-builder and is a very popular televangelist, and his support for the  government in the 1980s is remembered by only a few ( See The New Crusaders by Paul Gifford).

The second time Jonker appeared on British TV was in relation to the mutilated body of a Nigerian child, found by the Thames in 2001. Given that Nigeria is only 3000 miles away from South Africa, the Afrikaner Jonker was clearly qualified to provide some expert opinion.

(FT article brought to my attention by The Anomalist)

At Church with Obama

Barack Obama’s supposedly earth-shattering revelation that some Democrats believe in “an awesome God” leads me to this April Chicago Sun Times piece on Obama’s interesting religious background:

Obama describes his father, after whom he is named, as “agnostic.” His paternal grandfather was a Muslim. His mother, he says, was a Christian…When he was 6 years old, after his parents divorced, Obama moved with his mother and her new husband — a non-practicing Muslim — to Indonesia, where he lived until he was 10 and attended a Roman Catholic school.

…Obama is unapologetic in saying he has a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” As a sign of that relationship, he says, he walked down the aisle of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in response to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s altar call one Sunday morning about 16 years ago…These days, he says, he attends the 11 a.m. Sunday service at Trinity in the Brainerd neighborhood every week — or at least as many weeks as he is able. His pastor, Wright, has become a close confidant.

However:

“Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion,” he says. “I am a big believer in the separation of church and state…I am a great admirer of our founding charter and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root in this country.

“I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God’s mandate. I don’t think it’s healthy for public figures to wear religion on their sleeve as a means to insulate themselves from criticism, or dialogue with people who disagree with them.”

Trinity United Church of Christ describes itself as “Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian”. Its mission statement notes that: “The fortunate who are among us combine forces with the less fortunate to become agents of change for God who is not pleased with America’s economic mal-distribution!” The church also adheres to “The Black Value System”, developed by an African-American Christian named Vallmer Jordan in 1981. I would like to find out more about this document, which, like Jordan himself, has very little web presence:

1. Commitment to God

2. Commitment to the Black Community

3. Commitment to the Black Family

4. Dedication to the Pursuit of Education

5. Dedication to the Pursuit of Excellence

6. Adherence to the Black Work Ethic

7. Commitment to Self-Discipline and Self-Respect

8. Disavowal of the Pursuit of “Middleclassness”

9. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing and acquired
skills available to the Black Community

10. Pledge to make the fruits of all developing acquired skills available for strengthening and supporting Black
institutions

11. Pledge allegiance to all Black leadership who espouse and embrace the Black Value System

12. Personal commitment to embracement of the Black Value System.

Jeremiah Wright has been the pastor since 1972. Profiles are available here and here, and an account of one of his services here. One of his congregants has helpfully made an Amazon list of his books.

Jews Against…erm, What was that Again?

One of Joseph Farah’s “favorite Christian cultural warriors”, Ted Baehr, has produced another essay for ASSIST, this time on the persecution of Christians. In just 300 words Baehr manages somehow to link (or at least, ramble around) Janet Jackson’s breast, child pornography, the Roman Empire, the crisis in the Sudan, Chechnya (given as, erm, an example of the persecution of Christians) and the recent news that Protestantism is in decline in the USA:

The number of atheists is increasing. Why? Christians have been intimidated.

However, help is at hand:

The First Amendment protects our speech too, though. If Muslims, atheists, and Darwinists are free to talk about their points of view, we should be, too. A new organization led by Don Feder, Jews Against Christian Anti-Defamation, is trying to stand for the right of Christians to express their deeply held beliefs.

“Jews Against Christian Anti-Defamation”? Eh? Does that mean that if someone defames a Christian, and the Christian responds (“anti-defamation”), then some Jews will object to that response? Well, that may be the conclusion of someone who just tries to work out what the tortuous name means by following logic.

In fact, however, I suspect the opposite is meant. Don Feder is a Frontpage columnist who describes himself thus:

I’m to the right of Sharon on Zionism, to the right of Pat Buchanan on immigration and Americanism, to the right of Mother Angelica on abortion, to the right of Chuck Heston on Second-Amendment rights, and generally make the legendary Atilla look like a limousine liberal.

A sanguinary cartoon of Feder as Ghengis Khan accompanies. Feder, who manages the extraordinary feat of hating Palestinians while not believing in their existence, also has an intense dislike of Abraham Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League: not because he objects to Foxman’s attempts to characterise critics of Israel as anti-Semites (Feder does a fair bit of that himself), but because Foxman has been hard on the Christian Right on issues such as The Passion. Feder, by contrast, takes the view that as friends to the most reactionary forces in Israeli politics, the Christian Right should enjoy the support of Jews and the Anti-Defamationists should shut up. Hence, I would conclude, the bizarre name of Feder’s organisation, which does not so far have a website. If it’s not too late, may I suggest “Jews Anti-Anti-Christian Anti-Defamation” as a less confusing title?

Dial-A-Devil

Yemi Akinsuyi of This Day (Lagos) reports on the “satanic phone numbers” scare in Nigeria. Rumour has it that answering certain numbers on your cell phone leads to vomiting blood and death. This Day reveals those responsible for the panic, with the most popular story

ascribed to Mr. Segun Adisa in his programme, Labe Orun on Murhi International Television (M-ITV) last Sunday while warning viewers on the effect of receiving such calls.

Adisa said those, who do not believe the existence of the numbers, were at the risk of dying soonest…[He said] “I pity those, who do not believe that there are phone numbers that could kill instantly. I cannot say much about the evil now, but there is evil hanging on those that do not believe and see it as mere fabrication. Many have gone through these phone numbers, but we that are alive should be careful”.

Also to blame is

a pastor of the Oshodi, a Lagos suburb branch of the famous Christ Embassy Church, who last Sunday narratted his experience of a satanic call in the city in the open church…

Warning members of the branch against receiving strange calls, which, he said, now sniff life out of people, the pastor told the congregation that he was in a gathering, where a woman received a call and started vormiting blood. He said all of them, who were around the scene, were subsequently picked up by the police and taken to Alausa Police Station, where they were made to make statements on all they knew about the incident before they were let off.

However, the police deny any such thing happened, leaving us with the shocking inference that a pastor has made something up! Further, actually calling the supposed “Satanic numbers” connects to ordinary people who are none too pleased.

The Christ Embassy (formerly “Believers’ Love World”) is one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, and is led by a faith healer named Chris Oyakhilome.

Perhaps those about to throw away their phones out of fear ought to have a word with Leo Igwe, Nigeria’s most prominent sceptic…

Michigan Judge: Pentecostal Rehab or go to Boot Camp

The New Standard (link thanks to The Revealer) reports on Michigan resident Joseph Hanas, who spent six months in prison and boot camp after refusing to complete a drug rehabilitation program. The program was run by the Inner City Christian Outreach Center, and Hanas claims that the Center was more interested in converting him to Pentecostalism from Catholicism than in helping his drug problem.

Further details are available on the website of the ACLU, which is assisting Hanas’ appeal to the Supreme Court. Their press release explains:

Unbeknownst to Hanas when he entered the program, one of the goals of Christian Outreach was to convert him from Catholicism to the Pentecostal faith. According to ACLU legal papers, Hanas was forced to read the bible for seven hours a day and was tested on Pentecostal principles. The staff also told him that Catholicism was a form of witchcraft and they confiscated both his rosary and Holy Communion prayer book…Hanas was told that in order to complete the program successfully he would have to declare he was “saved” and was threatened that if he didn’t do what the pastor told him to do, he would be “washed of the program and go to prison.”

The ACLU legal papers include corroborating statements from Hanas’ aunt and a Roman Catholic deacon:

when Mr. Hanas’ aunt called Christian Outreach to try to make arrangements for his deacon to visit him, the director of Christian Outreach, Pastor Rottier, told the aunt, that Mr. Hanas “gave up his right of freedom of religion when he was placed into this program.” (Id.). The deacon further said that he had spoken with Judge Ransom several times about this issue and that Judge Ransom knows that he “won’t have any other religious clergy in here.” (Id.).

Plus:

Perhaps the greatest irony is that the primary reason Mr. Hanas was sent to Christian Outreach—substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation—was not evident in Christian Outreach’s program. There were no drug counselors or psychologists in this program, only repeated and all-encompassing religious indoctrination.

Hanas asked the trial judge, Genesee Circuit Judge Robert M. Ransom, for transfer to a secular program, to which Ransom (see here for pic) responded by sending him to prison and boot camp. Why? One snippet in the New Standard story not in the ACLU papers notes that Judge Ransom is “also an Inner City Christian leader”, although I was unable to find any other reference for this.

Ransom runs a special Drug Court, so possibly Hanas’ experiences are not unique. However, according to The Flint Journal, Ransom has since had a rethink:

“As a result of all of this hullabaloo, we have decided not to continue to refer people to (Rottiers),” Ransom said. “It’s a local program, and we weren’t satisfied that there was enough accountability by a larger body.”

I could not find any website for the Inner City Christian Outreach Center, and “Pastor Rottier” (identified as “Richard Rottiers” in The Flint Journal) remains obscure.

(Flint Journal link via Christianity Today)

Did God Kill Franklin D Roosevelt?

…since 1945, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met with Hitler-supporting King ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia and promised that no U.S. decision regarding the Middle East would be made without first consulting the Arabs, neither has any nation been more closely linked to the Muslim nations in that region. I wonder if his death within weeks of making this decision was simply a coincidence.

So writes Michael D Evans (or Mike Evans) in The American Prophecies, a book that is currently riding high on the Amazon Religion and Spirituality bestseller lists (and as the book has not yet been released, one assumes this is from advance orders). The book is published by Warner Faith (part of AOL Time Warner) and carries endorsements from Benjamin Netanyahu, Charles Colson, Paul Crouch and Ehud Olmert.

Evans argues (as he has done ad nauseum in a number of previous books) that the USA has a role in Biblical prophecy, the role being to offer uncritical support for Israel. Plus Arabs are all Nazis and rejected by God. Time Warner is so proud that a lengthy extract is available on its website. Among highlights (and I had to restrain myself from going on for pages) are the following:

America has married two brothers, both descendants of ancient Abraham, who was told by God to get out of Ur of the Chaldees (modern-day Iraq)…One of these marriages was based on America’s guilt over its appeasement policies, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Jews during the Holocaust…The marriage to the other brother, Ishmael, was one of convenience…America now finds herself trying to accommodate an ancient Jew-hating older brother (Ishmael) who has refused to make peace with the younger (Isaac).

The Middle East conflict, then, is not so much about particular political circumstances as something in the essential nature of the Arabs, Ishmael.

While Middle Eastern oil flows to the West, we ship arms in their direction. In fact, the Middle East region is currently America’s number one client in the world for weapons of war. The U.S. has sold Saudi Arabia alone more than $200 billion in weapons since the 1980s.

Nice to see a Christian fundamentalist who agrees with Michael Moore. But hold the presses:

The terrorists’ war against America and Israel is rooted in this radical religious doctrine called Islamic fundamentalism.

Plugging his previous book, Evans states that:

I stated my belief that weapons of mass destruction were in Syria. I also stated that, compliments of the Syrian government and the Iraqi embassy in Damascus, money and key Iraqi leaders were being moved through Syria.

He’s written more on this for WorldNetDaily. Evans then turns to the subject of Palestinian refugees:

The truth is that the Arab world has fueled and fed the Palestinian refugee crisis… Why did the Arab League tell the Arabs to leave Palestine and fight Israel, then turn their backs on the very refugees they created? Why did they make up the myth that Israeli Arabs must have a state inside Israel, even though they never had such a thing in three thousand years of history?

Unfortunately for Evans, the Arab League never told Palestinians to leave, as was established years ago. And I was not aware of Israeli Arabs wanting their own state within Israel proper. Perhaps Evans means Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, who are apparently suffering from a “myth” that they are hard done by just because they live under military occupation.

Clinton-bashing follows (inevitably, “Neville Chamberlain”) and ruminations on 9/11, and more explicit racism:

The ancient Scriptures of the Bible have a great deal to say about the two spirits behind these brothers who are fighting it out through the nations of the earth. Ishmael was not the son of promise, but the son of a man trying to work the will of God in his own way. God had promised Abraham a son, but his wife, Sarah, was barren. At her request, Abraham took Hagar, her maidservant, and impregnated her. The result was the son Ishmael. Though a man of faith, Abraham acted in his own wisdom and lust, not God’s direction—he justified a foolish action through moral relativism, tradition, and human reasoning, trying to get God’s blessing on his own terms. It was not until some years later when the son of promise, Isaac, was born that Abraham fully realized the gravity of his mistake. Rejecting the “son of human reasoning,” God blessed and cut covenant with the “son of faith.” Ishmael went on to be the father of the Arab race, and Isaac a patriarch of the Hebrews.

So – the very existence of the Arabs is a mistake born of lust, and they have been rejected by God.

A series of questions concludes the chapter, including:

Why did the State Department keep FBI agents from arresting three terrorists who were part of a Saudi entourage on its way to meet with President Bush in Crawford, Texas, seven and a half months after the attacks of September 11?…

Why is no one talking about the missing suitcase nuclear bombs from the former U.S.S.R., or the weapons of mass destruction Saddam moved out of Iraq through Syria before Operation Iraqi Freedom? Who has them, and what are they planning to do with them?…

Why is Hitler’s Mein Kampf a best-selling book throughout the Muslim world more than fifty years after Hitler’s death? And why is it used as a textbook in Muslim schools in the Middle East?…

Why, even after he had publicly condemned these mass executions, did Roosevelt refuse to bomb the gas chambers in Auschwitz, when Allied planes were flying routine missions near them nearly every day in the last months of the war?…

Why is America spending billions of dollars to rebuild ancient Babylon, when 62 percent of the population are Shi’ites who would guarantee another Iran in time? The scriptures pronounce an end-time curse upon ancient Babylon more than upon any country in the world. Is America blessing what God has cursed?

Evans also name drops like crazy, and this is why he deserves a certain amount of attention:

“Mike, are you watching TV?” said Reuben Hecht, senior adviser to Israel’s prime minister, Menachem Begin. “Harel’s prophecy is coming to pass before our eyes.”

Reuben Hecht and I had enjoyed dinner with Isser Harel (founder of Mossad, and head of Israeli intelligence from 1947 to 1963) at his home a few months earlier…

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, I had lunch one afternoon with the governor of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed Khalid…My words antagonized Khalid…

…in 1981, I was willing to use what I knew about the Middle East to help President Reagan’s staff act with moral clarity concerning the issue of that region. In that role, I was asked to attend a high-level briefing with U.S. generals and admirals over the sale of AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia. I challenged the White House staff over the decision… Several months later, a small U.S. delegation and I were invited to have lunch with the president and his cabinet. Chuck Colson sat next to me.

…Dr. Yossef Bodansky [former director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare] and I spent considerable time in Jerusalem discussing…

I have an older book by Evans, which is full of pictures of him meeting Israeli politicians like Shimon Peres and Netanyahu. Mike Evans Ministries has a rather incompetent and uninformative website (one part has black writing on black that you need to highlight to see); he is also responsible for the Jerusalem Prayer Team. Apparently his own background is as a convert from Judaism to Pentecostalism. He is also one-time chair of the board of the Corrie Ten Boom Foundation and sometimes works as a regular journalist, appearing in USA Today and elsewhere as a “Middle East Analyst”.

Warner Faith operates out of Nashville, with Rolf Zettersten as its vice president and publisher. Zettersten formerly worked for Thomas Nelson, also of Nashville (Thomas Nelson took legal action over his alleged poaching of authors).

UPDATE (14 Oct): The New York Press has more on Evan’s book, including the following quotes:

[I]n 1981, I was willing to use what I knew about the Middle East to help President Reagan’s staff act with moral clarity… My arguments were mostly pragmatic, but I had so much intelligence that they let me speak. When I inserted a Scripture into my short speech, I was flagged with this question: ‘What does God know about foreign policy?’

I replied to the question, ‘He is foreign policy!’

…I remember standing up to Robert McFarland the national security adviser to Ronald Reagan. McFarland had said, ‘The status of Jerusalem must be determined by negotiations.’

I said, ‘Excuse me; I have the book on Jerusalem. God is not negotiating with you or anyone else.

And, rather bizarrely:

A brilliant and respected scholar whom I have known for decades told me: ‘If you look at a satellite image of the city of Jerusalem, you will see the tetragrammaton YHWH. It is clearly visible from the photo. What does the YHWH mean? It is the Hebrew for Yahweh—the (unspoken) name of God!”

More on Tony Blair’s Creationist Educator

Last week’s London Observer carried a lengthy article about Sir Peter Vardy, the Creationist businessman who is being handed state schools to run by Tony Blair (a policy I noted last month). In the piece, Vardy denies that an aim of his school is promote anti-evolutionism:

‘For some reason people seem to believe that Creation is for nutcases and Evolution is the only answer,’ he says. ‘Actually, it’s a difference of opinion. You can’t prove Evolution conclusively, and obviously I can’t prove Creation. But I’m not forcing anyone to believe that…’I believe God created the earth and that he created man in his own image. There are some way-out thinkers who believe that this happened 4,000 years ago, which is clearly wrong. But I don’t personally wake up in the middle of the night wondering how old the earth is. It says in the Bible that He made the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. For all I know a day could be 6,000 years, it could be 6 million years, it could be 6 billion years. I’m not that interested, to be honest. But when I look at the mind of man and the intricacies of everything I see around me, I can’t believe that started with a bit of slime. I just can’t see it. What I am not doing is forcing my beliefs on children in our schools, but I don’t expect the others to do it either.’

The “others” are Richard Dawkins and actual scientists. Evolution given as fact is “brainwashing”.

The article also discusses Vardy’s links with the Christian Institute. The Institute was founded by John Burn, who is headmaster at Vardy’s Emmanuel College in Gateshead. According to the Institute’s website:

The Bible is without error not only when it speaks of salvation, its own origins, values, and religious matters, but it is also without error when it speaks of history and the cosmos. Christians must, therefore, submit to its supreme authority, both individually and corporately, in every matter of belief and conduct.

The Observer also notes a 2000 article for the CI website by Emmanuel’s head of science, Stephen Layfield, in which he argues that science teachers should

note every occasion when an evolutionary/oldearth paradigm (millions or billions of years) is explicitly mentioned or implied by a text book, examination question or visitor and courteously point out the fallibility of the statement and, wherever possible, give the alternative (always better) Biblical explanation of the same data.

What the Observer does not tell us, however, is that this article was pulled from the Institute’s website when Dawkins brought it to public attention. The full text has been preserved on Andrew’s Brown website. Layfield’s anti-science (sorry, “anti-scientism”) diatribe includes the following:

if the Biblical record is to be trusted, we must acknowledge within our grand geophysical paradigm the historicity of a world-wide flood as outlined in Gen 6-10. If the Biblical narrative is secure and the listed genealogies (e.g. Gen 5; 1 Chro 1; Matt 1 & Lu 3) are substantially full, we must reckon that this global catastrophe took place in the relatively recent past. Its effects are everywhere abundantly apparent.

Teachers should

organise talks by specialist Scientists who are able to provide authoritative pronouncements in favour of the Biblical world-view whilst providing a fair but critical appraisal of naturalism.

Those who follow scientific method, in contrast, are following Satan:

Many who parade as competent scientists today are unwittingly asking the same question which Satan first uttered back in Genesis, ‘Did God really say…?'(3:1)

Layfield, however, knows better than to ask questions.

The main reason Blair has been so keen to hand over schools to Vardy is because his approach is said to improve grades and standards (and several pupils interviewed by The Observer seem happy enough with Emmanuel, and say that “it’s not like you have to take everything on board that they say in assembly”). Speaking in the House of Commons after visiting Vardy’s King’s Academy in Middlesborough, Blair said:

There is nothing more inspiring, particularly when one knew the old school that the King’s Academy replaced, than to see the brand new buildings, the total commitment of the teachers and staff, and the pupils there eager to learn. It is one of the best examples of modern social justice that I can think of.

However, the former deputy head of the “old school”, Coulby Newham, has responded in this week’s Observer:

Having read about Sir Peter Vardy (‘The Lesson Today’, OM, last week), I was sorry to see you repeat the Prime Minister’s jibe about the school that the King’s Academy in Middlesbrough replaced. I was deputy headteacher and would like to set the record straight.

Coulby Newham was a successful school. Its Ofsted [school inspection] reports of 1995 and 2000 revealed a well-managed school where most of the teaching was good, very good or excellent and pupils were happy and secure. All wore school uniform. Most importantly, in September 2002, HMI [Her Majesty’s Inspectors] reported that the school was even better than at its last inspection.

I believe that if the King’s Academy does not achieve its targets, Coulby Newham is being set up to take the blame.

Gordon Potter
Washington, Tyne and Wear

NB: Do not confuse the evangelical Peter Vardy (who attends the Bethany Christian Centre in Houghton-le-Spring) with Dr Peter Vardy, a Catholic theologian based at Heythrop College in London.

UPDATE (24 July): The BBC reports on how other parts of Vardy’s curriculum are subordinated to his religious vision, quoting from a document previously available on the Emmanuel College website:

“Religion and Art are linked together by a common goal: to serve the glory of God and celebrate the complex beauty of His creation,” it says.

Business and economics teaching should incude “the power of the media and of revisionist and relativist thinking which would seek to redefine Truth.”

A value system “rooted in Biblical Truth” would give students “a solid starting point upon which they need ‘lean not on their own understanding’ (Proverbs 3.5)”.

In history, “we are also able to present to students certain historical actions or philosophies held in the past which are consistent with Biblical Truth”.

“In this context, it becomes important to peruse why Hitler paused at the English Channel when an immediate invasion might have lead to a swift victory. Could it be that God was calling a halt to this march of evil?”…

Mathematics is “a disciplined thought-structure which is used to describe the numerical and spatial attributes of God’s Creation”.

On other religions, the curriculum document says personal faith is “just that” so students should not “put themselves into the shoes” of others.

And “the traditional family unit, heterosexual marriage, faithfulness, the positive option of celibacy/singleness, sexual purity and self-control shall all be presented in positive and sensitive light as God’s ideal, accepting that many people today fall short of it.”

The study of science is not an end in itself but “a glimpse into the rational and powerful hand of the Almighty”.

Theocrats in Maryland

Several bloggers (such as Jesus’ General) have picked up on a story from the Church of Critical Thinking about Margaret Sayre, 70-year old member of the tax-funded Anne Arundel County senior center in Maryland. The centre provides meals for the elderly, and after 9/11 a moment of silence before eating was introduced. However, this has since evolved into the saying of Christian prayers, and while Sayre has no problem with a generic message acceptable Jews or unbelievers like herself, she found the enforced Christian praying too much and so wrote to her representative in the Maryland House of Delegates, Don Dwyer. Dwyer, however, is a hard-core theocrat, and responded that:

If the atheist (sic) of Maryland want something different then I would suggest building an atheist Senior Center where you won’t have to hear any prayers but leave my people alone.

He added to the local newspaper, “What is the violation of church and state?… There is no separation of church and state in the Constitution that the atheists profess it to be.” He also triumphantly told a Virginia AU member who objected to his dismissal of Sayre:

Fortunately in Maryland our constitution under the Declaration of Rights article 36 still states that in order to serve in elected office you have to believe in God. Isn’t that great!!!

(The Church of Critical Thinking points out that this has not been the case since 1961 – but I suppose Dwyer is looking to the future, not the past)

But who is Don Dwyer? A strong supporter of Roy Moore (Dwyer himself has helpfully rounded up press coverage here), Dwyer was also in the news a while back for his distribution of an essay by his school-age nephew that argued that Islam is evil and the opposite of Christianity. I think the plan was that by using a child to spread his message of Islamophobia, Dwyer could accuse critics of going after a kid. Dwyer’s website (which features the essay) highlights some of his associations:

I attend Pasadena Evangelical Presbyterian Church…I served on the Board of Rockbridge Academy for three years…I was most recently the Director of the American College for Cultural Studies

Rockbridge is a Christian school that oddly makes a point of describing itself as “non-Roman Catholic”; the church is a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the same denomination as influential Texas businessman and theocrat James Leininger.

However, it is the last link that is the most interesting. The American College for Cultural studies was founded by Constitution Party Presidential nominee (and Pasadena based) Michael Peroutka as a “Biblical-Constitutionalist education program”. It is linked closely with Peroutka’s Institute on the Constitution, which tells us that

many Americans are surprised but delighted to learn that we were founded as a Constitutional Republic of Sovereign States with a central government of purposely limited powers based on Biblical principles. The recovery and application of these principles is necessary for the reclamation of the Republic.

IOTC begins with a basic course of study consisting of 12 video lectures featuring Dr. John Eidsmoe, professor of Constitutional Law at the Thomas Goode Jones School of Law at Faulkner University, along with other selected materials by speakers such as David Barton of Wallbuilders, Inc.

More on Barton in a moment. The IOTC has a newsletter, to which Dwyer contributes. In December 2003 his piece came after a long essay on Creationism, in which it was asserted that evolutionary science cannot be believed on moral grounds:

The concept of the special creation of mankind and all living things was the world view of our Founding Fathers. That mankind was created not evolved they knew to be an essential foundation of liberty. The idea of evolution was not new with Darwin. It had ancient roots. Our Founding Fathers knew of this idea. They clearly recognized that the source of true liberty is rooted in the truth that all men are created by Almighty God.

Apparently Pete DeRosa of Creation Expeditions had (like our friend Russ McGlenn from a few days ago) undertaken research in South Dakota that showed that dinosaurs lived on a young earth only a few thousand years ago – although rather than try and get a peer-reviewed paper out of his paradigm-shattering researches, an interview for a fundamentalist newsletter seems to be sufficient reward.

Dwyer’s own contribution is a rallying cry for Roy Moore, where he states that:

The time has come when true freedom loving Americans must take a stand and remain silent no longer. We can no longer sit idly by and watch our nation disappear before our very eyes. We must do what we can to educate ourselves, our children, our family and our friends. It is the education contained in our host lecture kit that gave me the knowledge and understanding as to what must be done in order to return us to a constitutional Republic one state at a time.

The “host lecture kit” that so influenced Dwyer is photographed below his article, and the name David Barton looms large on the course materials.

Barton is a one-time Vice Chair of the theocratic Republican Party of Texas. Barton’s main concern is with ensuring Texan children get to read Christian textbooks, as The Dark Window brought to our attention last month. A 1999 article in the Texas Observer by Nate Blakeslee provides a fuller profile:

In 1989, Barton self-published The Myth of Separation, a pseudo-historical, poorly argued polemic purporting to prove that the American tradition of separation of church and state is based on a historical fallacy resulting from a misreading of the writings of the founders. Barton followed his book with a popular video titled America’s Godly Heritage, which has been widely promoted by the Christian Coalition, James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, and the Eagle Forum. Barton’s video traces virtually every social problem in America – from declining S.A.T. scores to increasing alcoholism – to the Supreme Court’s anti-school prayer decisions of the early 1960s. (In his 1988 book America: To Pray or Not to Pray?, Barton claims that God himself gave him the idea for the project – specifically directing him to find the exact date school prayer was banned and chart that date against records of national S.A.T. scores.) Since 1991, Barton has made his living on the lecture circuit, touring the nation almost continuously while his suburban Fort Worth ministry continues to crank out a catalogue of “Christian recontructionist” publications…

An account of Barton’s dishonest (or incompetent) handling of Jefferson follows, and then this rather disturbing snippet:

Barton’s lecture-cum-sermon on Christian-American history is much in demand among the fringe groups of the far right. In 1991, he spoke at a retreat in Colorado sponsored by Pastor Pete Peters, whose Scriptures for America ministry is affiliated with the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement. (According to a report by Rob Boston in the journal Church and State, Peters’ congregation at one time included members of a neo-Nazi group called The Order, the same local neo-Nazi group implicated in the 1984 murder of Denver talk-radio host Alan Berg.)

 Looks like old ladies being forced to pray for their supper in Maryland is only the thin edge of very unpleasant wedge.

UPDATE (4 October): I’ve just noticed that Barton and Katherine Harris co-presented a talk at Giles’ conference entitled “God in Government”. Jeb Bush offered “Welcome & Godspeed”. It’s here on the agenda, albeit cached only.

UPDATE 2 (31 Jan 05): Much more on Barton in today’s World O’Crap.

Biting the Hand that Newsfeeds

Joseph Farah has launched a tirade against Reverend Moon:

preposterous…blasphemous theology…I know the Messiah. And Moon is no messiah.

This follows an uncredited WorldNetDaily piece from 14 June (in which Farah appears in third person), where the animus against Moon is so great that the author happily quotes liberal columnist Bill Berkowitz against the Unification leader (although without linking to Berkowitz’s column directly). In the more recent article, Farah brags that

my daily, nationally syndicated talk-radio show broke the news of Moon’s “crowning” achievement at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in March. Stories followed in Salon, the Washington Post and elsewhere.

He is, however, decent enough to admit that the event was “brought to my attention by free-lance journalist John Gorenfeld“, and an interview with Gorenfeld formed part of his 15 June radio show, but I would say that actually Gorenfeld himself “broke the news” on his own website. Even if we take the view that “breaking the news” means “becoming aware of John Gorenfeld”, Berkowitz was still two weeks ahead of Farah (and it was Gorenfeld’s Salon article of 21 June that turned the coronation into an international news story).

One aspect of Gorenfeld’s work that Farah passes over is his 2 June entry, where Gorenfeld reminded us of Farah’s 2000 comments on Moon. At that time, Farah called Moon’s critics bigots:

Last week, what’s left of UPI was purchased by News World Communications, Inc., the parent company of the Washington Times.

It was big news because UPI was once a big name in the media world and because News World Communications is run by… gasp!…foreigners. Not just foreigners, mind you, but rich Korean foreigners with unconventional religious practices. Worse yet, these foreigners are anti-communists and promote the traditional family as the cornerstone of a healthy society.

Those who are making the sideways comments about UPI’s new owners are, to cut to the chase, racists and bigots.

If UPI’s new owners were not Asians, were not conservatives and were not religious people, there would be no problem with this deal in the eyes of the critics.

Gorenfeld also pointed out Farah’s content-sharing with Moon’s Insight Magazine. Nice to see Farah now admit that at least one of his news sources is “preposterous”.

(My previous entry on Moon can be seen here)

Jesus IS Action

Ananova reports that Herobuilders.com, the firm that brought us action figures of George Bush, Tony Blair, Osama bin Laden and various other “heroes and villains”, has now turned to religion, with a talking action figure of Jesus Christ. From Herobuilders’ product description:

Talking Jesus Christ Action Figure

Play the sound clip from our Talking Jesus Christ

12″ action figure dressed as shown in image (staff & sandals not included). Talking Jesus Christ action figure recites the 10 commandments.

The choice of monologue dovetails nicely with Kurt Vonnegut’s observation back in May that while while there is a vociferous campaign to ensure the Ten Commandments are promoted in public spaces in the USA, the Beatitudes appear to be out of fashion:

I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

Clearly, Herobuilders knows its market.

Herobuilders is part of the Vicale Corporation (founded 1990), which in turn belongs to the BBC Design Goup. All three appear to be owned by Emil Vicale, a former designer for Habitat International now based in Danbury, CT. An interview with Vicale is available here.

The Jesus action figure comes just in time for Doug Giles, whose morbid horror of “Precious Moments” figurines seems to be driving him over the edge (scroll down).

(Ananova reference via the Religious News Blog; Vonnegut reference via Fiona and Dr Omed)