New Mexico Congressman Helps Build Evangelical Links in Belarus

From the Albuquerque Journal, at the end of May:

Rep. Steve Pearce… flew alone to Belarus on a mission trip paid for by Capitol Ministries, a Washington-based evangelical group whose website says it “provides Bible studies, evangelism and discipleship to political leaders.”

…Capitol Ministries was founded in 1996 and has started ministries in over 37 state capitals, including Santa Fe. Pearce now holds the distinction of being the first member of the U.S. Congress to address the Belarusian Parliament.

In a telephone interview, Pearce said Belarus is eager to improve relations with the U.S. and had extended an invitation to Capitol Ministries for a member of Congress to address the country’s leadership. Pearce, whom Capitol Ministries describes “as a leading congressional sponsor,” got the nod.

“Generations have grown up with no belief in God,” he said. “They wanted to explore that a bit and they want to become closer to the U.S. They were amazed about the part in my speech about the Founding Fathers and the role freedom of religion played and that it basically drove people to this country and to set up the government.

“They were interested in the whole concept,” he added. “I talked to them about truth and trust and those basically come from the Ten Commandments.”

Capitol Ministries was profiled by Right Wing Watch in 2011; the organization is headed by Ralph Drollinger and his wife Danielle, and its sponsors include “Todd Akin, Michele Bachmann, Paul Broun, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Sue Myrick, Mike Pence, Tom Price, Lamar Smith, Joe Wilson and various others”. The Drollingers are also long-time associates of James Dobson, and RWW notes Ralph’s enthusiasm for Tea Party politics.

Pearce’s visit – which the Congressman has since described as a “missions trip” – was also covered by state media in Belarus; Minsk Capital Television writes:

Belarus is interested in maintaining a full partnership with the United States. This was said on May 28 at a meeting of the Council of the Republic Chairman Mikhail Myasnikovich with a US delegation.

It included representatives of the US Congress, the fund “Spiritual Diplomacy” and ex-players of the National Basketball Association.

Michael Morgulis, fund manager of Spiritual Diplomacy, Appointed Honorary Consul of the Republic of Belarus in the State of Florida

A new relationship between the United States and Belarus have begun. We have been working on this for many years and, as we say, step by step, have got many political leaders to reconsider their position. Now they consider Belarus as a perfect and loyal friend, as I wrote in one of my articles.

I previously wrote about Morgulis in 2008, and I noted his enthusiasm for President Lukashenko,* as expressed on the Spiritual Diplomacy website:

I also met with President Lukashenko several times and discussed spiritual subjects with him. He is nothing like the media wants us to believe. He has a capacity for making deep judgments.

Pearce himself is of the view that the notoriously authoritarian country is improving; as he told the Journal:

“I didn’t find the State Department’s perceptions to be accurate,” he said. “They had told me there is no freedom of religion yet the pastors I met with over there said it is a little tedious to get registered but once you’re registered they let you do what you want and don’t break you up or anything like that.”

“I understand they are doing things that are atrocious – and they would admit it,” Pearce said. “But they say they can’t change overnight and I was pretty sympathetic to that…”

Pearce and Drollinger have also now spoken about the visit in an interview with CBN:

In Washington, Pearce attends weekly Bible studies hosted by Ralph and Danielle Drollinger, the founders of Capitol Ministries.

…The Drollingers are Californians who nearly 20 years ago determined that the best way to change policy is to win the hearts of lawmakers for Christ. Since then, they’ve started Christian ministries in 40 state capitals and Washington.

…The Drollingers pushed to get Pearce into Parliament to spark a flame they pray turns into a regular Bible study… They’re also pushing the Belorussian education minister to adopt a curriculum that teaches the Bible as literature to high school students.

…One day after their presentation, the Drollingers received a letter saying the Lukashenko administration is very interested.

“They want to see if we’re trying to lead them down the evangelical road or a certain religion and it’s really not. It’s really written from the perspective of literature,” Danielle Drollinger explained.

The curriculum has been developed by the Museum of the Bible, which is a project under the chairmanship of Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby. Green is well-known as a patron of religious right causes, as noted by Salon last year.

This is a somewhat unexpected turn of events: although Belarus–Russia relations are at times rocky, Lukashenko has close links with the Patriarch of Moscow, and he has expressed his support for Orthodoxy in terms of a contrast with “alien” influences. The situation is very different from Ukraine, where David Barton has recently been making evangelical inroads.

Ukraine has also come under the attention of “the Fellowship” (also known as “the Family”), a discreet American religious group that also operates internationally through bi-partisan political networks. However, Drollinger has expressed a scathing opinion of the Fellowship, published in the form of an Amazon review of Jeff Sharlet’s magisterial investigation The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Drollinger writes:

The Fellowship, if Sharlet’s internal descriptions are correct (and I believe they are from my more than 30 years of interactions with the group), is anything but a Protestant fundamentalist group. Even if his labeling is off, however, his book serves a tremendous purpose in outing a potentially heretical organization that appears to pimp Jesus to politicians throughout the world. In this sense, Sharlet may be right on target.

UPDATE: Pearce’s visit was condemned by Andrei Sannikov, who is Belarus’ “most high-profile opposition figure” and a former prisoner of conscience under the Lukashenko regime:

*Footnote

A US Embassy cable from 2006 describes a press conference with Lukashenko:

His curt answers to Western journalists and scolding of Belarusian correspondents only helped to show the world his bizarre behavior, yet he still received healthy applause from his well-chosen audience and foreign lackeys Q including American citizen Michael Margulis, whom Lukashenko repeatedly mentioned during his remarks as representing the real American people.

Kamal Saleem Doubles Down on “Obama is a Muslim” Conspiracy Theories

Fake ex-terrorist Kamal Saleem (background here) is still doing the rounds – from the Hill Country Community Journal (Texas):

At the June 25 event at Southern Oaks Baptist Church [in Kerrville], Saleem said… many kinds of jihad are practiced in the U.S. White House.

…Saleem said there is a film on YouTube showing Obama using a Muslim gesture, right hand at his waist over his left forearm, when saluting the American flag. And he said Obama wears a ring that is inscribed “There is no God but Allah.”

…The Muslim Brotherhood sent Saleem to America, partly financed by Saudi Arabia. “My job was to create a clash between blacks and whites, especially recruiting blacks to Islam.”

….Saleem said in Muslim theology there are seven spheres of influence in their work in the United States: family, education, government, medicine, economics, art and entertainment, and media. And the Muslim Brotherhood organization has lobbied in every sphere.

Saleem said, for example, ObamaCare exempted Muslims.

…He listed the three altars of the Muslims: Islam (Baal), homosexuality (Sodom and Gomorrah), and abortion (Malek); and said all three are burning now.

….Saleem said by the end of Obama’s presidency, probably 100 million Muslims will live in America; and Obama made it possible for them to enter through Cuba and have instant amnesty.

Most of this is the same old stuff, although his projection of a garbled version of dominionist “Seven Mountains” theology onto Islam is perhaps new. Further, his claim that his job as a secret Muslim operative in the USA before was was “to create a clash between blacks and whites” seems to be a new adaptation to current affairs, providing a congenial explanation for recent black discontent at oppressive and sometimes lethal “policing” in certain areas. A couple of Saleem’s specific claims have long been debunked: the story of Obama’s Muslim ring was based on a blurred image, while the ObamaCare exemption actually refers to the Amish.

Saleem’s presentation was facilitated by Pastor Greg Young, who recently had a prominent position at an event where the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, signed a law designed to ensure that pastors will not be obliged to perform same-sex marriage services. Abbott also recently appeared on Young’s radio programme, Chosen Generation.

Also speaking at the same event was Jeremy Dys, senior counsel for Liberty Institute; Dys previously featured on this blog here.

Footnote

Today’s date, of course, is the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 attacks in London, in which 52 people were murdered by home-grown Islamic terrorists; the massacres took place on travel routes that a number of my friends were at that time using on a regular basis. The ruthless ideology and the callous mind-set that inspired the killers remains a blight, spreading misery and horror wherever it is found, and countering its baneful influence is today a more urgent task than ever.

However, that does not mean we should be too busy to ignore the various frauds and fantasists for whom an “anti-jihad” pose is an opportunity to spread hate and paranoia, to promote themselves, and/or to make money. This blog has drawn attention to a few examples over the years; my efforts have been modest, although a certain impact can perhaps be measured in abusive counter-attacks and other underhand behaviour I have experienced. Media and police have been hoodwinked; members of the public, including church groups, have had their fears played on or their good intentions manipulated. Clowns like Saleem should be given no indulgence or quarter.

David Aaronovitch Responds To Critics of Satanic Ritual Abuse Documentaries

David Aaronovitch has written an exhaustive response to criticisms of his recent BBC Radio 4 documentaries on Satanic Ritual Abuse conspiracy theories, responding in particular to three complainants:

The two complaints from interviewees were both hosted by the Needleblog, a private blog devoted to the issue of child sexual abuse. The first was made by Tim Tate, author – among many other works – of Children for the Devil: Ritual Abuse and Satanic Crime, published in 1991 (but subsequently withdrawn after legal action). Tate was also co-producer of a 1989 edition of ITV’s prime-time programme The Cook Report entitled The Devil’s Work.

The second complaint came from Dr Sarah Nelson, a sociologist at Edinburgh University and former journalist. Dr Nelson describes herself as a specialist writer and researcher on child sexual abuse.

The third complaint came in two articles by the journalist and campaigner Beatrix Campbell, hosted by the Open Democracy website, the first being entitled “Analysing Aaronovitch: has the scourge of ‘conspiracists’ become one himself?” And the second “Analysing Aaronovitch: a skeptical narrative.”

Tate’s and Nelson’s objections also made it into the Independent newspaper, which reported their view that Aaronovitch’s scepticism is itself a conspiracy theory.

Aaronovitch’s reply includes a discussion of Tate’s book, as well as of a work by Campbell and her partner Judith Dawson (then Jones) from 1998, entitled Stolen Voices: An Exposure of the Campaign to Discredit Childhood TestimonyBoth books are very difficult to get hold of – the former was withdrawn following a successful libel action, while the publishers of the latter (the Women’s Press) decided the text was too risky. The two works show that their authors endorsed very specific claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse that do not hold up to scrutiny, while Campbell and Jones had promoted a explanatory framework – derived from evangelical campaigners – that they had subsequently dropped without apparent explanation or even acknowledgement. This was the claim that Satanists are motivated by a wish to “invert” Christianity, which Campbell and Jones later abandoned in preference for the view that Satanic paraphernalia is simply used by paedophiles to scare children.

Aaronovitch also notes Campbell and Dawson’s reliance on tenuous associations as a way to smear critics, in particular the academic Jean La Fontaine (author of Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England). Campbell noted that LaFontaine had recommended factual writings by Benjamin Rossen, a Dutch academic who had been involved with debunking claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse in the town of Oude Pekala. However, Campbell and Dawson noted that Rossen was also on the board of a  paedophile-supporting magazine. Aaronovitch quotes Campbell:

“Professor La Fontaine’s orthodoxy on this issue echoes the views of well-known promoters of paedophilia. [Aaronovitch’s italics] Although not relying on his work in her recent findings, she recommended writing by Benjamin Rossen, among others, in a letter to the leading professional journal, Child Abuse Review, this year.”

And then Dawson:

…”‘I don’t want to make a fool of the woman,’ says Judith Dawson, ‘but everybody working for child protection knows about Rossen’s advocacy of paedophilia. That calls into question La Fontaine’s whole attitude to adults’ sexual interest in children. [Aaronovitch’s italics] Anyone who regards Rossen as helpful on these issues cannot have any credibility in this debate.'”

Aaronovitch’s commentary on this:

“That calls into question La Fontaine’s whole attitude to adults’ sexual interest in children.” Says Judith Dawson, the constant companion to almost any article on the subject by Beatrix Campbell. Does it really? And what does Dawson (and, by extension, Campbell) imagine that attitude to be? We get it, though, don’t we? What is being implied is that LaFontaine is somehow “soft” on paedophilia. Perhaps, even, mildly tolerant of it. It is a technique repeated over and over again by Campbell.

Another theme in Campbell’s articles about Aaronovitch – to which he does not refer explicitly – is that scepticism is a form of anti-feminism. Thus Campbell’s attacks include the rather weird sneer that “Aaronovitch is a herald of reason as masculine intuition”, while research into false memories is “anti-feminist resistance”. The bad faith is obvious, and while it deserves noting it requires little comment.

Campbell also criticises Aaronovitch for referring to the recent SRA panic in Hamptstead:

Aaronovitch imputes something eerie about Hampstead, “No one in the mainstream media was biting.” said Aaaronovitch. But a forensic blogger reports, “none but those involved in the hoax was biting, not the police, not social workers…’ and insofar as anyone in the alternative media took it up it was mostly to ‘expose it for what it was…” That’s because they reckoned someone would use it just the way Aaronovitch did.

The Hampstead allegations were particularly bizarre and wide-ranging, and as such they have remained for the most part within the milieu of 9/11 Truthers and what we might call “the David Icke crowd”. However, Campbell happily endorsed a complaint to the BBC about Aaronovitch’s documentaries by a campaigning group called Everyday Victim Blaming, which included the following (emphasis added):

Aaronovitch’s programme on ritual abuse was misleading and inaccurate. It failed to include details of successful prosecutions within the UK where ritual abuse, including satanic ritual abuse, were found to have occurred. Whilst it is true that there is no evidence on satanic ritual abuse as a global conspiracy, there have been 4 separate cases within the UK where satanic rituals were a feature of multi-perpetrator (and multi-generational) abuse: Rotherham, Orkney, Nottingham and Hampstead.

At some point, this was amended:

Aaronovitch’s programme on ritual abuse was misleading and inaccurate. It failed to include details of successful prosecutions within the UK where ritual abuse, including satanic ritual abuse, were found to have occurred. Whilst it is true that there is no evidence on satanic ritual abuse as a global conspiracy, there have been a number of separate cases within the UK where satanic rituals were a feature of multi-perpetrator (and multi-generational) abuse: Rotherham, Orkney, Nottingham. 

Was Hampstead dropped because the claims were simply too fantastical (babies cooked at the local McDonald’s, for instance), or because it’s safer to recycle over old accusations from decades ago?

Aaronovitch’s lengthy essay – of which I have offered just a taster – also includes comment on the current “Westminster paedophile ring” allegations:

I return to what got me into all this – the belief that that the most lurid of the current Westminster/VIP paedophile ring accusations, including child murders in front of of witnesses, seem to me to be replicating the earlier Satanic panic. I have watched as tabloid newspapers have printed uncorroborated nonsense from known fantasists as fact, as single accusers with uncorroborated stories of killings have been given credence by BBC reporters on the basis of “believing the survivors” for all the world, as though Lord Clyde had never reported and Orkney and Rochdale had never happened. As journalistic agencies have turned a buck by ramping up and selling stories that I confidently predict will fail to stand up.

I’ve raised concerns about some of these stories myself, in particular here and here. Campbell apparently believes that taking a critical interest in this way is evidence that one does not care about the reality of child abuse.

Aaronovitch’s essay was published on Barristerblog, a website run by Matthew Scott. Scott has himself faced unpleasant accusations and insinuations from people who ought to know better, as I highlighted just yesterday.

Criticism of Janner Decision Prompts “Pro Paedophile” Accusation

From Mark Williams-Thomas, on Twitter (30 June):

Barrister Matthew Scott from Pump Court  says Lord Janner is a helpless, senile man who should not be prosecuted… (Here)

The Tweet includes a link to an op-ed by Scott in the Daily Telegraph. Shortly thereafter, Williams-Thomas published a follow-up message:

Just realised who Matthew Scott is -been blocked for ages given his views about child abusers & his small group of pro paedophile  followers (Here)

Williams-Thomas is an investigative journalist; he was responsible for the 2012 Exposure documentary about Jimmy Savile, and he is now a frequent presence in the media as a commentator on the subject of historic sexual abuse. As such, it is alarming to see the casual way that he implies – without a shred of evidence – that Scott’s article was written in bad faith by a man with reprehensible views about sex offences against children.

In response, Scott asked Williams-Thomas to explain “What are my ‘views about child abusers’ that led you to block me Mark?”; Williams-Thomas did not deign to reply, although he did later confirm that he was not suggesting that anyone who follows Scott on Twitter must be “pro paedophile”. Presumably, though, we should be warned that anyone who expresses agreement with Scott’s views is at risk of being so accused. Inevitably, Williams-Thomas’s Tweets inspired enthusiasts to post abusive and defamatory comments about Scott, and Williams-Thomas hasn’t felt the need to discourage such behaviour.

Scott’s op-ed decried the recent decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to subject Janner to a “trial of the facts”. As he explains:

The procedure was introduced in a 1991 Private Members’ Bill by the Conservative MP John Greenway in order to protect those rendered unfit to plead through mental illness, who were forced to either plead guilty or be detained in a mental hospital.

So it is something of an irony that a procedure originally intended to protect the vulnerable should now be invoked to put a patently senile man before the courts.

…Lord Janner may well be a guilty man; it may well be that the CPS ought to have prosecuted him years ago. But he may also be innocent; indeed, the law presumes him innocent. The injustice that may have been committed by failing to prosecute him when a fair trial was still possible cannot be righted by committing another injustice now.

…Alison Saunders [the Director of Public Prosecutions] was right. Such a prosecution will serve no reasonable purpose. The trial now threatens to be a revolting spectacle in which a criminal court – egged on by sections of the press and MPs who should know better, compensation-seeking lawyers, and internet commenters, many of whom are motivated by undisguised anti-semitism – will be employed for no purpose other than further to traduce a man who can do nothing to defend himself.

I share these concerns, and it looks very likely that the CPS caved in to forces that it has a duty to resist: political and public pressure. Indeed, a leader attacking Saunders in the The Times blithely includes the observation that “Mrs Saunders underestimated the desire not only of the alleged victims but also of the wider public to hear the allegations aired in a court of law.” But I don’t see how it is Saunders’ job to “estimate” what “the wider public” think about things; indeed, taking such a factor into account would probably hinder objective decision-making. I’m sure that it would be easy to whip up popular support for a posthumous trial of Jimmy Savile, but that wouldn’t make such a thing sensible – and putting on trial a man whose mind has been destroyed by Alzheimer’s amounts to much the same thing.

Scott has also come under criticism for raising the spectre of anti-semitism. This can be over-stated: it is perfectly reasonable to believe that Janner has a case to answer, and that past opportunities were missed due his status, without indulging in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. However, internet searches for “Janner” + “Jew” yield results that are unedifying, including fringe conspiracy sites that are widely cited on Twitter by those who claim to be drawing attention to “establishment coverups” and the like.

There are also concerns about Exaro News. Anti-Jewish comments have been posted by readers as comments on the site, and on at least one occasion an anti-Jewish statement has been silently edited by the site owners. This was spotted by Scott in April; a reader who described Janner as “another rich Jew” had his comment amended to “another one”. This helps to obscure the reader’s anti-semitism, but it is a less than satisfactory way of dealing with the problem.

Exaro also recently published a bizarrely pointless article headlined “Revealed: How Lord Janner Lobbied for Israel as Backbench MP“. Janner had a long-standing association with the Zionist Federation, and served as the body’s president for a time; of course he “lobbied for Israel” at every opportunity, and the word “Revealed” in the headline is gratuitous and absurd. Given that the head of Exaro News, Mark Watts, used to work for Iran’s Press TV, one is left with an troubling impression.

The claims against Janner that will be heard before the court concern allegations relating to Leicestershire; the “trial of the facts” will not include further allegations made by Exaro‘s star witness “Nick”, which relate to claims of VIP conspiracies in London. Scott has also been critical of Exaro‘s general approach to publishing details of “Nick’s” various allegations.

Scott has also recently attracted crank criticism on Twitter due to comments he made in a radio documentary about the recent “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare in Hampstead. The Hampstead allegations were so extraordinary and excessive that they were shunned by most commentators on organised sexual abuse, although their primary promoter, a woman named Sabine McNeill, had formerly worked with John Hemming MP.*

Footnote

*The Hampstead accusations also recently featured in a two-part radio documentary about Satanic Ritual Abuse scares by David Aaronovitch. A campaign group called “Everyday Victim Blaming” made an official complaint to the BBC about the programme, on the grounds that SRA is true. Details of the complaint were posted to the EVB website, and included an endorsement of the Hampstead claims. However, this element was recently silently edited out from its website.