Knights of Malta: Roman Catholic vs Ecumenical Order Legal Dispute Update

Georgetown law professor Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log (“false advertising and more”) has been following the legal dispute between the Roman Catholic Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) and a rival “Ecumenical Order” based in Florida. SMOM, which enjoys a reputation considerable standing, took its ecumenical rival to a district court in Florida 2011 on trademark grounds – only to lose the case and to find itself accused of trademark fraud. Members of the Ecumenical Order include the neo-Pentecostal evangelist Rick Joyner (“Deputy Member of the Supreme Council) and Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin (“Chancellor”).

Tushnet summarised an opinion given in September. The appeal court rejected the fraud accusation on the following grounds:

Fraud means knowingly false, material representations of fact with an intent to deceive the [Patent and Trademark Office]; it must be shown by clear and convincing evidence.  The court of appeals narrowed its focus to the intent of the individual declarant, which isn’t actually required by the concept of subjective intent—other areas of the law have managed to determine the intent of a corporation—but made fraud impossible here, since the declarant didn’t know about the Ecumenical Order at all.

The appeal court also took a dim view of the original judge’s failure to conceal his general distaste:

As to the parties, the district court “struggle[d] with the parties’ characterizing themselves” as charities given the “unimpressive” amount of money they raised for charitable purposes; the court thought that members of both were “more interested in dressing up in costumes, conferring titles on each other and playing in a ‘weird world of princes and knights’ than in performing charitable acts.” Also, the judge opined that it was “tragic” that all Dr. Vann had done in her life was study the Knights of Malta and their records.  While deeming these remarks “wholly inappropriate” and “offensive,” reassignment was not justified because they didn’t show actual bias in favor of or against one of the parties over the other.

However,  Theresa M. Vann, who was the expert witness for the Roman Catholic order, has scholarly credentials; the Ecumenical Order, by contrast, was represented by its Grand Master, a businessman named Nicholas Papanicolaou. Papanicolaou believes that the  “Ecumenical Order” is a legitimate expression of the Knights of Malta both because of events in 1798 (when there was a Russian interlude), and because of the context of the Order’s origins in the eleventh century. Somewhat to my surprise, Papanicolaou emailed me with his views last year, and I discussed the historical claims here.

There has now been a follow-up; Tushnet again reports:

 …This time, the court of appeals found that the district court abused its discretion in considering Papanicolaou’s testimony, but that the error was harmless.

It was abuse of discretion to permit a lay witness to testify about historical matters.  But the district court made two discrete factual determinations, each of which independently supported its holding: first, that the two organizations shared a history until 1798, and second, that the Florida Priory expressly associated itself with the Ecumenical Order, a non-Catholic organization that couldn’t cause any confusion.

Papanicolaou has close links with some high-profile Christian Right figures, and Rick Joyner and Gen William “Jerry” Boykin are both members of the Ecumenical Order.

A new complication is that there is also now more than one Ecumenical Order – a number of European members “have dissociated themselves from the leadership / grand master-ship of Chev. Nicholas Papanicolaou for grave reasons already explained in detail to him by correspondence, after due warnings and requests for his resignation”.

Perhaps the reason was Papanicolaou’s association with Christian Right figures, and his use of anti-Islam scaremongering for fundraising purposes; here’s an extract from a letter he co-signed with Boykin in 2010:

Read Sura 18:21 and you will know WHY Muslims insist on building a mosque over Ground Zero… Your DONATION to the KNIGHTS will directly go to our global effort to… heighten the awareness of the grave danger that is confronting us and the United States Constitution…against Sharia Law.

One can understand why SMOM might want to do all it can to ensure that nobody confuses this kind of thing with its own statements.

Novel Promotes Gospel of Barnabas Conspiracy Theory

Glenn Beck’s “End-Times Prophet” Joel Richardson has commended a novel by a certain Luke Montgomery, entitled A Deceit to Die For. From the author’s website:

When history professor Ian O’Brien purchases an old collection of letters and books, he unknowingly steps into the world of a shadowy organization. His family is soon caught up in a web of intrigue and deceit spun out of a 16th century Muslim conspiracy that somebody still wants to keep secret… Meticulously researched and drawing on historical facts, Luke Montgomery’s fast-paced, thought-provoking thriller exposes the dark history behind the cultural and religious challenges we face today.

The author also discusses the alleged conspiracy on his blog, promising us that

…the more-than-400-year-old conspiracy is alive and well.

The story revolves around the Gospel of Barnabas, a really-existing medieval forgery which promotes the Islamic version of the life of Jesus, and which includes a supposed prediction of Muhammed. Textual evidence proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the book, which exists in Spanish and Italian, was composed between the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries, and the author was probably a European Christian convert to Islam (assuming he wasn’t just a troll). The text has sometimes been cited as genuine by Islamic polemicists (particularly following references by western Orientalists in the eighteenth century); Montgomery’s claim of a “400-year-old conspiracy” refers to a new forgery of the manuscript which showed up in Turkey earlier this year, provoking excitement that included a ludicrous claim in Iranian media that the book would bring about the “collapse” of Christianity.

Montgomery has also discussed the Gospel of Barnabas on WorldNetDaily, in conversation with the absurd Bob Unrah:

[Montgomery] said the story of the Barnabas Gospel “gets trotted out” every so often by Muslims who want to stir passions by claiming Christians are trying to conceal the truth.

Montgomery said his research indicated the first modern references to the Barnabas Gospel were made in 1634 by Muslims fighting the Roman Catholic Church’s power in Spain.

This theory was discussed in a general way in a 2002 Harvard Theological Review article by Jan Joosten (available here). He writes:

During the last twenty-five years or so, the hypothesis that the Gospel of Barnabas was created by a Morisco [i.e. a formally ex-Muslim Roman Catholic convert in Spain or Portugal] around the year 1600 in Spain has been gaining support. The Spanish context would explain the peculiar mixing of Islamic and Christian elements as well as some other particularities. Moreover, an explicit reference to the Gospel of Barnabas occurs in a Morisco manuscript dating from 1634. This hypothesis is attractive, but there are several reasons to remain cautious.

Joosten argues that the Italian manuscript appears to have priority over the Spanish version, based on gospel quotations and allusions to Dante’s Inferno that have been abbreviated in the Spanish text. Further, the connections to Dante, and a reference to a hundred-year jubilee, make a fourteenth-century context more likely.

But what of Montgomery’s claim of a “conspiracy”? Someone created a bogus text; some other people living in later periods have promoted it, either opportunistically or in the genuine belief that it supports their religious beliefs. I fail to see why we need to posit a “conspiracy” in order to make sense of things. Montgomery himself writes:

…In one respect, Muslims are no different from people anywhere. They are predisposed to believe any report that confirms what they already believe and will do no research to verify the authenticity of the claims being made.

Maybe the question for us today is what have we believed without conducting proper intellectual due diligence?

That’s actually a good question for anyone taken in by Joel Richardson’s crank claim that the Bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ; yet Montgomery proudly displays Richardson’s endorsement.

Journalists Discover Debate Over Birthplace of Jesus

A piece by Sheera Frenkel in the Times quotes archaeologist Aviram Oshri on the birthplace of Jesus (available via syndication at the Australian):

Archaeologists have long believed that Mary may have given birth to Jesus in Bethlehem of the Galilee, a hillside village far away in northern Israel.

“I think the genuine site of the Nativity is here, rather than the well-known site near Jerusalem,”… “Bethlehem in the Galilee was inhabited by Jews at the time of Jesus, whereas the other Bethlehem? There is no evidence that it was a living site, an inhabited area in the first century,”

…Unfortunately, said Mr Oshri, modern construction in the village has probably destroyed archaeological evidence. An ancient church was discovered in 1965 when a road was built, but earlier roadworks had gone through part of the site.

“…The church was very large, and built over the site of a cave. It was very similar in structure to the church of the Nativity,” he said.

The story has also been summarised by the Telegraph. It comes a mere seven years after Oshri wrote about the same thing in Archaeology magazine, and a mere four years after his theory was featured in National Geographic magazine (scroll down here).

As Frenkel indicates, Jesus’ historical birth in Galilee has been a mainstream scholarly position for decades, although the existence of two Bethlehems is of less significance than the fact that the Nativity stories of Matthew and Luke were written with Messianic prophecies from the Hebrew Bible in mind.

In fact, a serious scholar defending the traditional view is more of a news story, which is why everyone ought at least to be aware of a 2007 article from the Biblical Archaeological Review by Jerome Murphy-O’Connor (recently seen on BBC1 talking about St Paul with David Suchet, and as spirited as ever despite obvious poor health). Murphy-O’Connor’s piece is paired against an article by Steve Mason, who lays out the case for Nazareth as the birthplace.

But either way, Oshri doesn’t help to move the discussion forward. His point about the church also appears in the 2008 National Geographic:

Oshri and his team have uncovered the remains of a later monastery and the largest Byzantine church in Israel, which raises the question of why such a huge house of Christian worship was built in the heart of a Jewish area. The Israeli archaeologist believes that it’s because early Christians revered Bethlehem of Galilee as the birthplace of Jesus.

The reasoning here is unconvincing: these structures date from centuries later, and there’s no way that they would have been erected to embody some kind of rival tradition to the Church of the Nativity.

The debate is also addressed in a new book by the Pope, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (pp. 65-66); the Telegraph noted this in passing while getting over-excited by the fact that the book also contains the well-known detail that Year 1AD is merely an approximate date for the birth of Jesus. The pontiff – unremarkably – maintains the traditional view on Bethlehem on the grounds that Matthew and Luke are two independent traditions.

ITV Broadcasts “Search For Noah’s Ark” Documentary

Last night, British television (ITV) broadcast Joanna Lumley: The Search for Noah’s Ark, in which the actress travelled around the middle east and beyond looking for evidence of the Biblical story. The programme lasted just over an hour (padded out to 1:30 by adverts), and contains some interesting location filming and interviews, but the main attraction is Lumley trolling the world of Biblical archaeology and scholarship with ludicrous statements, particularly during the first part of the programme. In Istanbul, for instance, Lumley eats a bowl of ashure, known as “Noah’s Pudding”; she asks, utterly deadpan:

I wonder if this is what Noah ate to celebrate surviving the flood?

Lumley then heads for the area of Durup?nar near Mount Ararat; there is natural rock structure here that has been promoted by American fundamentalists as the Ark for some years, and we’re shown 1970s video footage of pseudo-archaeologist Ron Wyatt surveying the site (Wyatt’s alleged successes rival those of St Helen:  as well as Noah’s Ark, house and grave, Wyatt claimed to have seen the Ark of the Covenant, and to have found pre-flood wood without tree rings, sulphur balls from Sodom and Gomorrrah, and a sample of Jesus’ blood, which contained 23 chromosomes from Mary and one from God. Wyatt is now deceased, but his  Wyatt Archaeological Reseach Inc. lives on under the control of Richard Rives, who makes witless videos for WorldNetDaily).

Lumley views one of the nearby Hole Stones of Arzap (not identified as such in the programme), and explains to local children how it could have been used first to balance the ark and then as an anchor once dry land was spotted. She also takes in a local visitors’ centre, described in the programme as the “Museum of Noah’s Ark”. The curator, Hasan Ozer, shows her various mounted drawings and press cuttings, and explains to her how the site was first identified:

Before Noah’s Ark was discovered, there was a light shining here every night. Local people thought it was a mausoleum or treasure. Then in 1959 a Turkish Air Force pilot took a photo from the sky… When the photo was taken they said “This is Noah’s Ark”… They showed us the photo and said “Where is this place?” And I said, “I know where it is!”

A gallery of photos from the museum can be seen here, including a clipping of Ozer with Wyatt.

Alas, however, the site is subsequently debunked in an interview with a geologist named Murat Avc?, who explains to Lumley how the rock formation came to be where it is; the theory that the rock formation is the fossilised ark is not sustainable (he has a paper in English here). But this serves only to spur Lumley on, to look for evidence further afield.

Her first stop is Mardin, where she has a brief chat with the “Archbishop of Mardin & Diyarbakir” (more properly, Archbishop Filuksinos Saliba Özmen, Metropolitan of Mardin and Diyarbakir) at a “small monastery” (actually the large Deyr ul-Zafaran Monastery). Nearby Mount Judi, the Koranic site of Noah’s landing, is closed off by the military, so Lumley instead heads for the Islamic Tomb of Noah in Cizre, where the imam, Mahmut Muren, explains that Noah was just a “nickname”, and that he was actually named Abdul Ghaffar. Surveying the tomb itself, which indicates that Noah must have been many times taller than anyone living today, Lumley mutters “terribly tall”.

This is followed by an unexpected interlude back in the UK, during which Lumley discusses the Bible story with Julia Neuberger at the West London Synagogue and then pads things out by talking to Lloyd Buck, a bird specialist who handles ravens (the raven was the first bird sent out by Noah). Lumley then visits the British Museum to discuss tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh with AR (Alan) Millard, who tells her that he believes there was a flood in Mesopotamia which forms the basis of the story, and that this can be seen from a list of Babylonian kings which is interrupted by a flood.

Next is a visit to India, where Lumley talks about the story of King Manu with a scholar named Nivedita Ghosh. Could the story of King Manu be due to the transmission of the flood story from Mesopotamia? Lumley discusses trade links between Indus Valley Civilization and Mesopotamia with another Indian scholar (who for some reason isn’t given a name subtitle), and then takes off for Oman to learn about ancient shipbuilding techniques from Eric Staples; Noah’s Ark is “stretching the imagination”, he explains to her.

The programme ends with Lumley standing on Jebel Shams with Mohammed Alkindi, a geologist who believes the ancient story can be reconciled with scientific evidence of a “catastrophic event”. Lumley concludes:

It probably did happen. There probably was a catastrophic flood. There probably was a good man who saved gis family and animals. And it was kept as a moral story.

Joseph Farah vs Jimmy Wales, Feat. Judith Reisman and Bradlee Dean

A rant by anti-Kinsey obsessive Judith Reisman in defence of a screed by anti-gay “preacher” Bradlee Dean attacking Elena Kagan has led to a new spat between Wikipedia and WND (still widely known as WorldNetDaily). Reisman had written that

Wikipedia’s trashing of iconoclastic, ordained preacher Bradlee Dean proves that the heavy-metal drummer and his band have been doing a great job of delivering truth to American youth. Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s creator, made his original fortune as a pornography trafficker. Wales’ cult of far-leftist volunteer editor zealots labor minute-by-minute to mislead readers who think Wikipedia’s half-truths – and worse – are a legitimate “encyclopedia.”

Why has Wikipedia slammed Bradlee Dean?

Writing in his Dec. 6, WND column, “Elena Kagan: Just in time for ‘gay’ marriage,” Dean suggests that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan recuse herself from the upcoming “gay marriage” case, based on a litany of her recorded homosexism.

“Homosexism” is a new word to me, but Reisman has a good line in neologisms; we owe to her the pseudo-medical concept of the “erototoxin”.

Reisman’s article goes on expound a video made by Dean explaining how all kinds of sexual behaviour that exists in the USA today can be traced back to Alfred Kinsey; this is somewhat self-referential, as Dean’s information almost certainly came to him via Reisman.

However, Reisman’s reference to Wales making “his original fortune as a pornography trafficker” upset Wales enough to contact WND‘s editor, Joseph Farah. WND‘s Chelsea Schilling has the story, which concerns a site run by Wales in the early 2000s called “Bomis”:”

Farah asked: “Are you suggesting that Bomis was not trafficking pornography? Or that you were not involved in Bomis?”

“By any sane measure of our revenue and profits, no, we were not ‘trafficking pornography,'” Wales replied. “Like many dot-com startups of the era, we struggled with what kind of advertisers to accept and we did have ‘adult’ advertisers – as did all the other major portals at the time. 99% of our revenue was not from that, so it’s totally ludicrous to claim we were ‘trafficking pornography.'”

Wales added, “You might as well claim that the owner of a local convenience store chain (who probably made more money than I did during that era) made a fortunate a [sic] pornography trafficker if they sold Playboy behind the counter. It’s nonsense and you know it.”

The website Wired reported in 2005 that Wales has “repeatedly revised the [Wikipedia] description of a search site he called Bomis, which included a section with adult photos called ‘Bomis Babes.'” Wikipedia had described Bomis Babes as “soft-core pornography,” but Wales changed it to “adult content section” and twice removed references to pornography.

“If R-rated movies are soft porn, it was porn,” he told the magazine. “In other words, no, it was not. That description is inaccurate.”

Wales is being disingenuous – the adult sites clearly carried the Bomis branding, so they were more than just the work of an “advertiser”; and it’s nonsense to say that soft core pornography is not pornography. It’s a strangely thin-skinned response, given that Bomis was also advertised via a photo of a pornographic actress wearing a “Bomis” t-shirt, and WND shows us a “photo of Wales aboard a yacht posing alongside two Bomis models who are wearing only panties and Bomis.com T-shirts” (the censorious Farah, however, has blocked our view of the “panties”). WND amended Reisman’s article to “originally made his living off a website that earned revenue from pornography traffickers”.

Schilling continues, with the case against Wikipedia:

WND’s Farah has been characterized by Wikipedia as a “Zionist twit and Jew-loving pig,” a “known [expletive] sucker,” “closet homosexual,” “conspiracy theorist,” “white supremacist,” a “proud member of the Ku Klux Klan,” a “religious nutcase” and “a pioneer in the political uses of psychedelics.” It also falsely accused Farah of having a romantic affair with a famous conservative female commentator.

Oddly, the list does not include the phrase “noted homosexual”, which caused some merriment in 2008, and which sparked Farah’s animus against the site. However, this is Farah’s turn to be disingenuous: all but one of the terms listed above would have been deleted as vandalism. Playing whack-a-troll with vandals on the site can be frustrating, but there’s no evidence that editors under Wales’ control are colluding in a campaign to defame Farah, any more than they felt the need to “slam” Bradlee Dean in order to rescue Elena Kagan.

And the one term that Farah has no right to expect Wikipedia to delete? Well, here’s Bradlee Dean just yesterday, discoursing on the Sandy Hook massacre:

The Sandy Hook shooting occurred just days after Sen. Rand Paul sent out an alert that the U.N. was set to pass the final version of the Small Arms Treaty, supported by Obama the day after election.

Part of the treaty bans the trade, sale and ownership of all semi-automatic weapons … like the one Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children and 6 adults.

The “Batman shooting” in Aurora, Colo., also happened to coincide with the same time as negotiations of the U.N. Small Arms Treaty.

The timing is impeccable.

This was published on WND; how, then, can Farah regard it as an insult to be called a “conspiracy theorist”?

***

As an aside, Reisman’s pointed reference to Dean as an “ordained preacher” requires further commentary. Who ordained him? This 2010 article by Karl Bremer guides us through public records relating to his “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” ministry:

Bradley Dean Smith first set roots in Annandale on November 17, 2004… Smith assigned the contract-for-deed to an entity called “Old Paths Church,” which currently shares the same address as YCR and was registered with the State of Minnesota by Jake MacAulay, YCR’s secretary…

Meanwhile, according to 10th District Court documents filed in Wright County, Smith and MacAulay attended classes offered by Glen Stoll of Edmonds, WA, who operated a business called Remedies at Law. There, they were promised they could buy what Stoll said were “established, exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable and assignable ministerial trusts” that would allow them to operate as a ‘free church’ that would be invulnerable to state regulation and control.”

….Stoll advised his customers to complete a “Political Profession of Faith” that he claimed would enable anyone to create their own personal ministry. And he would assist customers in getting such things as ID cards from the “Embassy of Heaven Church” in Stayton, OR, which Stoll said helps people sever all ties to government and become “Citizens of Heaven.” The Embassy of Heaven Church, which describes itself as “God’s Government on Earth,” at that time already had a long and controversial history of clashes with government authorities.

Although Dean/Smith later split from Stoll, Bremer draws attention to a 2009 piece in the Minnesota Independent that raises questions about the status of the “ministry” and its use of tax breaks. For background on the Embassy of Heaven Church, Bremer directs readers to a 2004 post by none other than Ed Brayton. Ed explains:

They believe that since they are citizens of Heaven and not citizens of the United States, they are exempt from any legal requirements imposed on them by the local, state or federal governments. They even go so far as to issue their own driver’s licenses, license plates and passports, which they amusingly present at airports thinking that they are going to be allowed on a plane with them. The three or four hundred Embassy of Heaven members nationwide who have attempted to drive their cars with Embassy license plates, using Embassy driver’s licenses, and without car insurance, have often found themselves being arrested. They then refuse to recognize the authority of the courts over them, refuse to post bail or enter a plea, and the courts typically hold them for a few weeks before deciding it’s not really worth it, then they let them go. 

Also, Stoll is apparently also Kent Hovind’s attorney.

Dean is of wider interest because his ministry has received an endorsement from Michele Bachmann (“They’re way on course. Because they get it. They get what this is all about.”), and he has links with other Republicans in Minnesota; in May 2011 Dean was invited to give the opening prayer at the at the Minnesota House of Representatives, which he used as an opportunity to attack Obama. He also enlisted Larry Klayman in a doomed attempt to sue Rachel Maddow for $50 million after she drew attention to his hateful anti-gay rhetoric in a way he claimed misrepresented him.

Rick Joyner and Todd Bentley: British MP’s Death From Cancer Is God “Removing Opposition”

Back in August, I noted opposition to a visit to Britain by controversial faith healer Todd Bentley. Malcolm Wicks, MP for Croydon, called for Bentley to be banned from entering the country, and this was eventually the Home Secretary’s decision.

Wicks was at the time already ill with cancer, and he died aged 65 a few weeks later, on 29 September.

For Bentley’s segment of neo-Pentecostalism, in which charismatic leaders claim to have been given special authority by God, the death is of a course a supernatural confirmation of Bentley’s spiritual anointing. Rick Joyner concurs (transcript via Apprising Ministries):

Bentley:… September 29th, I was preaching in Ohio. And just before midnight, I got a report that the man that led the ban and the campaign against us in England died suddenly of cancer; on September 29th.

Joyner: Remember the Lord said, “Mark your calendar.” Now this is an important revelation.

Bentley: And I almost—even just sharing the story with trepidation—I-I-I, started weeping. And I thought, “Lord, this man had been battling with stage 4 cancer. And led the campaign. And all the news reports were ‘faith kicking evangelist that cures cancer.’ And it was all against, whether there’s been anybody who has really been healed of cancer.” And when the Lord gave me the dream I had no idea what was coming because the only promise that I received was, in the ninth month, September; 2-9. And I kept thinking about the Scripture Haggai 2:9. And it was in the ninth month that God gave the promise that “the greater glory—the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the former house.” And all I know is God saying, “staring September 29th there’s something of the realm of My glory, My presence and power that’s going to show up and all things are going to become new and the church is going to be able two years from now look back and mark that from that day there was a clear release of God’s presence and power.”…

Joyner: [clears throat] It said, “Mark your calendar.” Now, I think this represents the major opposition. This was the biggest opposition I’ve seen—a whole country banned somebody—a preacher of the gospel. Now, look at some of the crazy people that get in that country. Terrorists, and I mean—but this—mark this day. God is removing opposition from His people. He is going to take the opposition out of the way. And listen, we need to let the pure and holy fear of the Lord come upon us too. I tell you, it is going to be extremely costly to get in God’s way; for what He’s about to do. We need to take this with the utmost seriousness. And, we don’t want anybody dying. We don’t want Ananias’ and Sapphiras. This is serious business.

Commentary on that is probably superfluous.

However, it’s perhaps worth noting that while Bentley’s position within neo-Pentecostalism is much diminished since his sexual indiscretions came to light in 2008, Joyner is more of an “A-lister”, with particularly close links to the likes of Jim Bakker, Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, and Alan Keyes.

In 2011, Joyner warned that the Fukushima disaster presaged the economic destruction of the USA and an earthquake which would very soon devastate the west coast of the USA. A rather stranger boast is his claim to have been shown Hitler’s secret burial place.

UPDATE: Rick Hiebert took a look at Todd Bentley’s Twitter stream from 29 September, which was when Bentley supposedly received his highly-significant message from God:

I’ve had a look at all his “tweets” from Sept. 29 onwards to when I am posting and I haven’t spotted any mention of his dream, or of the passing of Malcolm Wicks and how sorry he may be about that.

There are tweets about what he eats, where he is going on his travels, his new digital book and such. He tweets about other dreams that he has had, so it can’t be that he doesn’t mention such things on his Twitter feed.

One may draw a fairly obvious inference from that.

UK Independence Party Leader Was “Unaware” of Letter in His Name about Controversial Catholic Media Outlet

From the Observer:

In September, Polish free press campaigners produced a statement that they said was from [UKIP leader Nigel] Farage in support of Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, a Polish priest and founder of Radio Maryja and its associated outlets, whose stations stand accused of pumping out strongly antisemitic and homophobic material. Last year Rydzyk greeted the arrival of the first gay Polish MP with the words, “the sodomites are coming; it is a really grave matter”. The statement reported as having been from Farage expressed the Ukip leader’s “wholehearted support” and “encouragement” for the priest’s media outlets, which it said were involved in “a battle to preserve freedom and democracy in Poland”.

Last night a Ukip spokesman said that, although it accepted the statement had been circulated, Farage had not “written or signed” it and was unaware that it ever existed…

The letter can be seen here, and concerns a TV station, TV Trwam. It includes the following:

I wish to protest strongly, concerning the Polish Government’s discriminatory and repressive treatment of the television-company, TV Trwam, and to express my wholehearted support for Fr Tadeusz Rydzyk and his fight for media-freedom in Poland.

…The Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group has always, and consistently, been a strong advocate of freedom of speech and of media-freedom. 

…I appeal to all other political groups in the European Parliament to co-sign the present letter and to join me in requiring the Polish government to restore the freedom of the media and stop discriminating against the Catholic media in Poland.  Whether one agrees or not with the views of Fr Rydzyk and Catholic TV Trwam, the current situation of the media in Poland undoubtedly fails to meet recognised, democratic standards and should be a matter of concern for all of us.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Farage

The letter complains in particular of “the decision to exclude TV Trwam from the Polish Broadcasting Council”, which means that the station is also excluded from the country’s digital platform. The issue has been raised in the European Parliament, and a Polish-based blogger came across a protest in support of the station just today. According to an April report from the Polish Voice, TV Trwam has been excluded from the council over “lack of transparency in its funding”; supporters, however, claim that this amounts to suppression of religion and an attack on democracy.

The station’s complaint also has the support of the Polish Episcopate, although in 2006 and 2007 Radio Maryja was a cause of concern due to Fr Rydzyk’s influence. The Guardian reported in 2006:

As Pope Benedict prepared to pay his first visit to Poland last month, the papal representative in Warsaw called on the Polish episcopate to deal with the “nagging issue of Radio Maryja”.

Among those who accused the station of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in 2006 was Marek Edelman, is the last surviving commander from the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The following year, the Archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, called for a change of management at Radio Mayja and warned that the church risked becoming identified with the station. One media report  of the speech also noted remarks that were attributed to Rydzyk earlier in the year:

Rydzyk, in his alleged remarks, criticized President Kaczynski for bowing to pressure to compensate people – some of them Jews – for property nationalized by the postwar communist government, and for donating land for a future Jewish museum when Kaczynski was Warsaw’s mayor.

“You know that it’s about Poland giving $65 billion dollars to the Jews,” Rydzyk purportedly said in a recording that surfaced this summer.

“They will come to you and say: give me your coat. Take off your pants. Give me your shoes.”

However, the station does not object to all Jews, and in 2005 the self-described ex-gay “conversion therapist” Richard Cohen appeared on the station as part of a visit to the country from the USA. According to a report by Tomek Kitlinski and Pawel Leszkowicz from the time:

The Polish priest who hosted the program condemned “easy and cheap toleration, which is in fact a way of death.” Cohen accused gays of a world conspiracy, likened it to Communism, and exhorted: “I challenge you, Poland, to be a world leader in solving homosexuality!”

On Radio Maryja, Richard Cohen asked a rhetorical question: “One is not born homosexual-who would like to be born a leper in the society?” Gays, according to him, can renounce their unfortunate attraction, and only then do they become fully human… Poland’s most influential mass circulation newspaper, Gazeta Ryborcza, posted the Catholic Press Agency story on Cohen’s visit, without commentary: “Richard Cohen himself experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual orientation.The decisive moment was. as he indicated, his meeting of Christ. Cohen who had professed Judaism became a Christian.”

EDL Accused of Justifying School Gun Massacre on Twitter

UPDATE: The EDL denies that the Tweet was genuine, and state that they are “in contact with Twitter”

UPDATE 2: The source of the screenshot has posted a video – see here. The video shows a computer desktop, on which the relevant Twitter page is shown to be open in the Opera browser . He uses the cursor to highlight the text, to click “Reply to Tweet”, and to open the same page on another tab, bringing up a “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” message. The url for the missing Tweet is shown as being https://twitter.com/Official_EDL/status/241922092158143412. The time on his desktop starts at 19.58, which is 22 hours after the time on the the alleged Tweet.

UPDATE 3: The EDL Twitter feed continues to deny the accusation, promising that “we will have the proof soon”, and warning that police will become involved unless the source admits to faking the Tweet. Also, another person has made a video showing that it is possible doctor the text within a browser (and, it appears, the url, although this is less clearly demonstrated).

UPDATE 4: This site, belonging to Tom Royal, explains that Twitter urls are generated from their timestamps by a piece of software called Snowflake, and that this software can thus be used to “decode” urls in order to determine when a Tweet was made. Royal found that url in the video relates to a timestamp from September. Jamie Bartlett has further information to show that the Tweet cannot be genuine.

UPDATE 5: The source of the alleged (and now thoroughly debunked) screenshot is now “account suspended” on Twitter.

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A number of anti-English Defence League Twitter feeds are currently publicising a screenshot which purports to show the official EDL Twitter feed (@official_edl) celebrating the the latest school massacre in the USA:

If those kids were children to filthy leftists, Adam Lanza did the right thing This world is being destroyed by leftists #Newtown #EDL #NFSE

The screenshot shows that the Tweet is timestamped 10:11pm, presumably GMT. It does not appear in the @official_edl Twitter feed, which has no Tweets between 10:04pm and 10:05am.

The question, of course, is whether the Tweet was genuine but quickly removed, or whether it is a fake created for propaganda reasons. Nobody posted the Tweet’s url, there is no record of it on Google or Yahoo, nobody appears to have replied to it, and nobody seems to have downloaded a copy of the page.

As far as I can tell, the only person who claims to have seen it first hand is a certain JasonWillman3, who posted the screenshot at 12:49am. He describes himself being as a “newbie” (“I’m new to this Twitter thing so bear with me GUYS!”); this scoop was in fact his first ever Tweet, but he knew enough about Twitter to draw it to the attention of a couple of anti-EDL feeds. A few minutes later, he explained that he had come across the Tweet while “casually scrolling through #Newtown feed”. His follow list, which is currently quite short, suggests a primary interest in the EDL, with anti-EDL Twitter feeds as the first feeds he chose to follow.

However, there does seem to be more than one screenshot doing the rounds: JasonWillman3’s version shows some of the official_edl background wallpaper; another version (provenance unknown, but first appearance seems to be 6.56am) has just the @official_edl heading and the text, but does appear slightly crisper – this perhaps suggests that they are two independent images, although I’m reluctant pronounce on technical matters (and it’s possible for more than one hoax image to exist). In both images, the “Follow” button has not been clicked.

Without better documentation, I’m inclined towards scepticism.

UPDATE (posted before UPDATE 2 above): As now noted above, the EDL has stated that they did not make the Tweet, and that they are in contact with Twitter about it. If the Tweet is indeed a hoax, it seems to me most likely that it was created by someone using a different account (probably an account with no followers and in “Protected” mode) and then deleting the evidence very quickly. If so, Twitter should have a record it.

Whatever the truth turns out to be, it’s a foul thing to have written given the tragedy in Newtown, and likely to be an act of criminal malicious communication under British law. And if the author turns out to be a faker, a defence of “I didn’t mean it myself, I was just trying to discredit the EDL” ought to cut no ice.

Serbians Await Doomsday at Mount Rtanj, Cite Arthur C. Clarke

From the Telegraph:

Hotel owners around the pyramid-shaped Mount Rtanj, in the east of [Serbia] , say that bookings are flooding in, with believers in the [Mayan Calendar] prophecy hoping that its purported mysterious powers will save them from the apocalypse.

Adherents of the end-of-the-world scenario think the 5,100ft-high mountain, part of the Carpathian range, conceals a pyramidal building inside, left behind by alien visitors thousands of years ago.

Arthur C Clarke, the British science fiction writer, reportedly identified the peak as a place of “special energy” and called it “the navel of the world”.

This website, entitled Duh Rtnja, lays out the theory of Mt Rtanj’s special significance, and promises “galakti?ki kontakt” on 21 December – inevitably, the site also comes with a collection photos overlaid with all kinds of weird and rambling measurements and arrows. There is also a collection of YouTube videos promoting the theory, featuring interviewees that include persons named Goran Marjanovic and Spasoje Vlajic. There is an associated Facebook page here. An aptly named “Milenium grup” apparently runs a hostel at the site; they have a 99-year lease, so perhaps we don’t need to worry too much about the next ten days.

It’s not clear from where the strange quotes attributed to Arthur C. Clarke have come; out of context, it is impossible to judge what they even mean, let alone assess any kind of argument. My instinct, though, is that they’re false. The notion of an ancient alien object on the earth resonates with the plot of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and its short story predecessor (The Sentinel) features a pyramidal alien object. That, combined with Clarke’s TV shows exploring “mysterious” sites around the world, may have been enough to generate the story of his interest in the mountain, despite his sceptical approach (see below).

Some rumours about the site, including reference to Clarke, were posted to a forum in 2009:

There was an expedition here recently and now more and more attention is being directed at this place, which is not really to my liking.They have classified the mountain as a pyramid.It is pyramid shaped,but it also has a pyramid inside.Inside,there is also some sort of crystal, and no planes fly over Mt.Rtanj,because they disappear off the radar,in fact,there is talk that some might have disappeared altogether.Whatever is inside is surrounded by 3 underground lakes,and we know that water amplifies.Put all that together with it lying on an extremely powerful energy grid.There is talk of finding gold here as well.In fact there is an old closed down mine right near the mountain.A jewish family were the owners and there is talk that the head of the family was killed for some reason,and then the mines were closed.It’s as though someone wanted to get rid of them and close off this area.Then there’s talk of Tito,allowing alien bases to be built in 3 mountains.

There is a star gate here,I know it.And I plan on going here with a mission in mind.One which I will not disclose,and if I don’t come back,you’ll all know that the aliens have taken me.

…Arthur C Clarke even wrote that it is not a mountain but a pyramid.He also said,the oldest.

Whoever posted this is now listed as “account closed” so the aliens must indeed have “taken” him or her.

Further supposed details were posted to a New Age site in 2011:

RTANJ – NAVEL OF THE WORLD

…Regarding the pyramids, the one next door to Bosnian pyramids, RTANJ, SERBIA, IS NAVEL OF THE WORLD, CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION.

http://youtu.be/-GTuOfPIBcM

RTANJ in Serbia is the largest and oldest building pyramid construction in the world.

NASA and Arthur C. Clarke did considerable research on this mountain, which NASA SUPRESSED.

Arthur C. Clarke called Rtanj ‘navel of the world’ and stated that RTANJ is different from any other pyramid in the world.

Etc…

Meanwhile, here’s Clarke pondering the mysteries of the universe:

Journalists Accused of “Harassment” by Nadine Dorries

From the London Times:

Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP who appeared on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, has accused journalists of invading her privacy and threatened to call the police if they turn up to her constituency office.

This is, of course, Dorries’ default position when it comes to unwelcome attention: in the past, she has complained to the police about on-line critics of her behaviour as a public figure, including her former election rival Linda Jack, and on one occasion she even claimed to have reported someone for libel (really).

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail claims that the paper has been trying to reach her in relation to a speech she made in Parliament in 2010:

All week, the Mail has also been trying to get Mrs Dorries to answer the same question. But she failed to respond to our emails and phone calls to her Westminster office.

Instead, she went on the attack on Twitter: ‘If another journalist visits my home, members of my family, their homes or my office, I will inform the police,’ she declared in one outburst. ‘This is harassment.’ In fact, the only other member of her family who has been approached by us is Mr Dorries.

Harassment? Or legitimate journalistic question?

Dorries’ 2010 speech was an attack on the allegedly “corrupt dealings” of an investment company called WorldSpreads; however, according to the Mail:

But there was one thing — or, rather, one person — Mrs Dorries failed to mention when she rose to her feet in the Commons to highlight the scandal. 

This was financial adviser Paul Dorries…They separated in around 2007. 

It appears that shortly after their split, 59-year-old Mr Dorries began introducing the very investors Mrs Dorries later referred to in her speech to WorldSpreads, for which he was to receive commission.

Investors advised by Mr Dorries appear to have lost life-changing amounts of money, but although the very name “WorldSpreads” obviously implies high risk (the crucial clue being the term “spread betting”), Nadine Dorries  insists that the money was lost due to criminal malpractice; and indeed, on Twitter today, Dorries complains that the Mail article failed to mention that the company is allegedly currently “being investigated by the police”. Accusations by others against the company – which has since entered administration – were noted by the Telegraph in April. Dorries’ speech referred to WorldSpreads as a “stockbroking firm”, which, as Unity at Ministry of Truth noted in 2011, was inaccurate (Unity’s post, as usual, also contains a great deal of other important background details).

The Mail makes it clear that Paul Dorries also regards himself as a “victim” of WorldSpreads, and that there is no evidence of impropriety on his part. However, the paper also notes court judgements against him in relation to duff investment advice concerning “an internet venture based on the concept of Facebook” thought up by his “associates”.

There’s also evidence of questionable judgement: he allegedly tried to reassure one investor who had received a devastating statement that she was half a million quid down “that something must have gone wrong with the WorldSpreads computer”, and he apparently took financial advice of his own – from a psychic:

The psychic was approached by Mr Dorries, he says, who came armed with a list of companies, then asked him which ones would be successful. ‘I pointed out about 20.’ Mr Dorries was delighted with the results, apparently, and came back to see him.

Paul Dorries’ business dealings were previously discussed on a blog run by Chris Paul (which has since become infected with malware, according to Google – here’s Wayback’s cache), and this post included the claim that disgruntled investors had hired a private detective agency (Mike Lenny & Co) to investigate him; shortly after Paul published his piece, his blog received anonymous comments stating that Mr Dorries had (perhaps inevitably) reported him to the police. The comments specifically mentioned  Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, and this detail also appeared in a letter sent by Nadine Dorries to police on the same day (this is all discussed here). The comments came in on 10 July 2010; Nadine Dorries raised the issue of WorldSpreads in Parliament on 27 July 2010.

The Mail article also raises questions about Dorries’ marital status:

…our research has been unable to unearth any trace of a marriage certificate in this country. Some of Mrs Dorries’s relatives, we have been told, were surprised never to have been shown wedding photographs of the happy couple. 

…just as we could not find any trace of a marriage certificate using the obvious search terms, we could find no record of their divorce, either, in the Central Index of Decree Absolutes at the Principal Registry of the Family Division in London.

However, a mid-November article in the same paper (by a different journalist) has the detail that

The date of Nadine and Paul’s wedding is unclear — the Mail has been unable to find any trace of a marriage in this country. It is likely they married abroad.

Miss Dorries has spoken in the past about how, early on in the marriage, they spent a year together in Zambia…

This article also details the “shock” existence of a supposed “secret husband” – which in fact turns out to have been a previous husband before Paul Dorries, whom she has dropped from her official biography. It’s not a subject of any real interest to anyone, and it’s not an avenue of enquiry that on-line critics of her public activities have ever felt the need to explore; Unity wrote in the same post that “there is apparently a first husband out there… but please don’t pursue the matter any further than this as I’ve been advised that he’s much better off out of things”.

According to the Mail, Dorries married this man when she was very young and had just suffered a bereavement, and one can understand why she wouldn’t feel the need to keep reminding the world – and herself – of a unhappy personal matter from the 1970s. However, the fact the Mail knows of him at least puts to bed a possibility that had crossed my mind, which is that the Dorries marriage certificate couldn’t be found due to confusion over Nadine’s surname at the time. Personally, though, I’m not convinced that there’s anything “weird” or of wider interest about her past marital arrangements.