Christian Right Activists Comment on Charlie Gard Case

This one has received wide attention; from Franklin Graham’s Facebook page:

As a parent and a grandparent, this is so alarming. Little Charlie Gard’s parents deserve the right to bring him to the U.S. to try to find treatment for him—that shouldn’t even have to be discussed! It’s their prerogative. That the U.K. hospital or the government would not allow them to make the decisions about Charlie’s life and medical care is unfathomable. Days and days have passed that he could’ve been being treated here in America—this is a tragedy. They have now delivered a petition with 350,000 signatures to the hospital, saying that they should release Charlie as the parents request. This is one of the dangers of socialized medicine. We need to stay as far away from this as possible here in the United States as healthcare is reorganized!

Graham’s view here concurs with that of Vice President Mike Pence, who used an appearance on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show to say that “the American people oughta reflect on the fact that for all the talk on the left about single-payer, that’s where it takes us.” Graham’s post also prompted an op-ed in the Washington Times by a Christian author named Cheryl Chumley, who told readers that the medical decisions were being made by “bottom-line bureaucrats feeding into their socialist system”, and that this was the same as “Obamacare”.

Thus are Americans reassured that under Donald Trump they are back on track to having the best and fairest healthcare system in the world, despite what appear to be more equitable arrangements in many other countries.

In fact, the Gard case is just the latest example of a medical ethics dilemma over what is best for a child in such a desperate situation, and to what extent parents should have the final say despite specialist opinion. Decisions about Charlie Gard’s treatment have not been made by “bureaucrats”, and there is nothing in court filings made by the hospital treating him (here’s the latest) that pertain to any identifiable principle of “socialized medicine”.

Another American involved with the case is Reverend Patrick Mahoney, of the Christian Defense Coalition. Mahoney has travelled to the UK and been photographed with Charlie Gard’s parents; according to the Daily Mail, “he appears to be the Gard family’s new spokesman”. The paper adds:

In 1992, Rev Mahoney, along with three other anti-abortion campaigners, was sentenced to up to six months in jail for violating a restraining order prohibiting him from demonstrating in front of an abortion clinic in Houston, Texas, though it is unclear whether he spent time behind bars.

Thus the Telegraph headlines Mahoney as “US pastor with a criminal record”, which unfairly gives an impression of a shady past. Press images and media quotes give the impression that Mahoney is fanatical and strident (and Right Wing Watch has documented a number of Christian Defence Coalition activities); however, when he was interviewed by the BBC’s World at One on Monday he put forward an argument grounded in reason:

They [the Gard family] are not going to some tent set up in the wilderness with snake oil to seek some magical treatment for Charlie. They’re going to one of the most prestigious medical facilities in the world… There is no sense that they have their head buried in the sand, they’re not facing reality – they are…

If we are keeping someone alive and actually prolonging the suffering, prolonging the pain, prolonging the sense that there is no hope for the future, then I think Charlie’s parents would have to make the difficult decision that we need to let Charlie go. But we are not even remotely at that place yet.

Evangelical Leaders Boast of Oval Office Meeting with Donald Trump

Rodney Howard-Browne: “A dream come true”

Robert Jeffress: “The ultimate selfie!”

Jim Garlow: “I just had a picture taken of me/us with the President- TAKEN BY THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!!! Am I the only person in the world to experience that ??”

From CBN:

About two dozen evangelical leaders spontaneously prayed with President Trump in the Oval Office Monday during a day-long “listening session” with the Office of Public Liaison.

Johnnie Moore, a former senior vice-president at Liberty University [said:] “It shows a substantive relationship between the evangelical community and this administration,” he told CBN News.

Along with Johnnie Moore and Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the meeting included (emphases added):

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council (FRC); Pastor John Hagee, founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio [previously blogged here]; Paula White, senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida [Trump’s “God Whisperer, blogged here]; former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann; Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition; Gary Bauer, president of American Values; Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church in La Mesa, California; Rodney Howard-Browne, senior pastor at the River at Tampa Bay Church, Mike Evans, the founder of Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem [previously blogged here], and Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte and others.

Several of those in attendance have posted photos and comments on social media, revelling in their validation by Trump, and a number of secular news stories have followed (e.g. Daily MailWashington Post).

Particular attention has focused on “Holy Laughter” exponent Rodney Howard-Browne, whose photo of the back of Trump’s head while the pastors were laying hands on him has now been widely reproduced. According to Howard-Browne:

Yesterday was very surreal for @ahowardbrowne & I. 30 years ago we came from South Africa to America as missionaries. Yesterday I was asked by Pastor Paula White-Cain to pray over our 45th President – what a humbling moment standing in the Oval Office – laying hands and praying for our President – Supernatural Wisdom, Guidance and Protection – who could ever even imagine – wow – we are going to see another great spiritual awakening #ovaloffice #westwing #whitehouse#washingtondc

Also:

Highlight after all these years of fighting for America – standing in the Oval Office with President Donald J.Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and Pastor Paula White and other Faith Leaders – listening to our great President talk about America – Great Job Mr President- Great Job #ovaloffice #westwing #whitehouse #washingtondc

PS thank you to Pastor Paula White for making a dream come true

Back in 2009, Howard-Browne was warning that the Obama administration was advancing “socialistic policies that could lead to religious persecution, and eventually set the stage for a one-world government and the introduction of the Antichrist”; however, he is now more optimistic, in 2016 telling the conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles (a religious counterpart to Alex Jones) that a Trump victory “will give us a stay of execution” from “a one-world government, one-world religion, one-world money system, and the rise of the Antichrist”. (1)

One Facebook user left a comment that she was able to identify Howard-Browne’s hand in the photo by his distinctive black-diamond ring; by their bling you shall know them.

Robert Jeffress, meanwhile, boasted of his photo with Trump as the “Ultimate selfie!”, adding:

Always an honor to visit with our great President Donald J. Trump! Forget#FakeNewsMedia. Donald J. Trump is energized and determined to #MAGA!

Further details about how the meeting came to take place are provided by Jim Garlow:

Okay. This hit me funny. A group of us were in meeting at the EOB – next to the White House. Unexpectedly Jared Kushner showed up. Then Vice President Mike Pence showed up. And he said President Trump wanted us to come to the Oval Office. We did. We were gathered around President Trump seated at his desk for an official photograph. VP Pence saw me take out my phone, saw the look on my face that I so wanted a pic with my phone. The VP reached out his hand (not a word was said) took my phone, took the picture, handed the phone back to me!! I could not believe it. I just had a picture taken of me/us with the President- TAKEN BY THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!!! Am I the only person in the world to experience that ??

Footnote

(1) This idea that the End Times is a hazard that that can be postponed is useful political rhetoric, but theologically incoherent: the Last Days are supposed herald the return of Jesus, which one would have thought that evangelists such as Howard-Browne would want to happen as soon as possible.

Howard-Browne’s “new world order” rhetoric is also part of a wider conspiracy-theory worldview: not long after the Oval Office meeting, his wife Tweeted a promotion of veteran conspiracy theorist Jon Rappoport.

A Note on the Tommy Robinson “Manchester Jewish Community” Meeting Controversy

From the Jewish Telegraph:

REPORTS of a secret meeting between the founder of the extreme right-wing English Defence League and Manchester’s Jewish community are false.

Rumours appeared online and in a London Jewish newspaper claiming that Jewish leaders met Tommy Robinson in north Manchester.

The story was repeated by national newspapers.

The “London Jewish newspaper” that the Jewish Telegraph for some reason feels unable to name is the Jewish Chronicle, which had written that

Members of Manchester’s Jewish community held a secret meeting with Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the far-right English Defence League.

The controversial meeting, which took place in Prestwich last week, was billed as a charity fundraiser, but also saw Mr Robinson deliver a speech outlining his extreme views on Islam.

The Jewish Telegraph trailed its follow-up article as “THE TRUTH from @TRobinsonNewEra about THAT Jewish community meeting”. According to the paper, the meeting was “organised by a Jewish person who does not represent a communal organisation”. Further, “Jewish people were there, but they were businessmen in a private capacity”; it was a “public meeting” with security; and attendees had “mixed views” about Robinson.

However, if this is “THE TRUTH from @TRobinsonNewEra”, he gave a different impression in earlier Tweets, as noted by the Independent newspaper. On 29 June he mocked an attack on him from Jewish Voice by saying that he was “about to deliver a speech to a Jewish crowd in a hotel”, and on 3 July he said that he had given a talk “to Manchester Jewish community” – obviously implying a representative group.

Neither the Jewish Chronicle nor the Independent in fact refer to “Jewish leaders” as having been in attendance; and for a “public” meeting, the Jewish Telegraph remains oddly coy about providing details other than that it took place at Fairways Lodge Hotel – supposedly on 28 June, although Robinson’s Tweet in which he’s “about to deliver a speech” is from a day later.

The Jewish Chronicle article included condemnatory comments about the meeting from North West Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement, along with an admonishment from the Board of Deputies (“Tommy Robinson’s record of anti-Muslim provocation means that he could never be a partner of a respectable or mainstream Jewish organisation”). The paper’s editor, Stephen Pollard, also followed up with an op-ed in which he accuses Robinson of wanting to “lure” Jews as a cover for a racist motive – it will be interesting to see if Robinson and his camera-crew will now be descending on Pollard’s office or home with a demand for an explanation, as he has happened to others.

Some of these criticisms are also noted by the Jewish Telegraph, along with praise for Robinson from “Israel-based Dr Brian Thomas, a businessman and blogger who holds a science degree”, and who hosted Robinson in Israel last year. Thomas has also attacked the Jewish Chronicle coverage of Robinson on Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch website, and reproduced a statement in response to Pollard written by Jasmine Lennard, an actress and reality TV star who recently hosted Robinson at her home along with his employer Ezra Levant.

The meeting also inspired a commentary piece in Arutz Sheva, praising Robinson and condemning “comfortable Jewish establishment leaders… engaged in a campaign of appeasement directed towards the invading Muslim multitude at the expense of one who would save them from it.” The author also takes at face value a Tweet from Robinson from March, in which he stated “I’m Jewish mate” – this was actually a joke in response to an abusive query about why he had been seen supporting Tottenham Hotspur at a football match.

A Note on CNN and Trump’s Wrestling Video Meme Creator

From the ADL:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today released an analysis on Reddit user, Han——-Solo, who is claiming credit for President Trump’s use of a wrestling video Sunday morning featuring a CNN logo.

…For more than a year, this Reddit user has violated the platform’s terms of service by posting the type of hate against Muslims, African-Americans, Jews and others that has become all too common both online and offline, according to ADL’s analysis, available here. In fact, the individual posted an image collage of CNN journalists and employees labeling them with a Star of David and writing, “Something strange about CNN…can’t quite put my finger on it…”

HanAssHoleSolo’s authorship of the Trump-CNN wrestling meme was discovered by the journalist Jared Yates Sexton, who also drew attention to his other works. As result, Sexton has been abused and subjected to death threats.

Anyone who uses Twitter to communicate with the public is likely to have Tweeted or Re-Tweeted memes or comments without researching where they have come from. In some cases, this may have meant unwittingly validating someone with a malign agenda. Often, the disseminator is blameless, although in some cases there is negligence, or worse.

It’s unlikely that whoever brought the wrestling gif to Trump’s personal attention wanted to raise the profile of HanAssHoleSolo, but it is reasonable to wonder whether this person was ignorant of his other work or rather decided that it wasn’t important. Either way, the incident shows how the erratic and undiscerning curator of the world’s most powerful social media presence is using his platform to elevate the creations of individuals who would be better left in obscurity. That in itself is a story.

This point has perhaps been overlooked in the subsequent furore over whether CNN supposedly “blackmailed” HanAssHoleSolo once its journalist Andrew Kaczynski tracked down his real-world identity. The controversial section of CNN’s reporting has been widely quoted:

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.

CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

Apparently, that last sentence was a bit of legalese added by executives, although Kaczynski is receiving threats about it. It has been interpreted to mean that CNN will name the man (who is middle-aged, and not a “15-year-old boy”, as in some reports) if he satirises CNN again; those promoting this understanding include Trump’s unprepossessing son, Donald Trump Jnr. It would be more reasonable, though, to take it to mean that CNN is not tying its hands if it turns out that “HanAssHoleSolo” has given a false assurance to deflect scrutiny.

The difficulty, though, is that it also means that CNN is not just reporting the news, but explicitly telling an actor in the news how he can control what is written about him by complying with certain standards of behaviour. That’s undesirable in principle, although given the context here it’s at the very thinnest end of the wedge.

A simple alternative would have been for CNN simply to have named the man. A favourite slogan of the right of late is that “actions have consequences”, and those who use social media to rail against Jews and black people from behind “the coward’s cloak of anonymity” have no right to not be exposed for it. The fact that CNN finds itself accused of blackmail for withholding information out of concern for the man’s safety and prospects is an example of no good deed going unpunished.

New Nathan Morris Miracle Healing Claim

From ASSIST News (via Charisma News):

God-Ordained Miracle Stuns Doctors Prepared to Operate

A Sheffield man has mystified the medical profession following the miraculous healing of a huge tumor on his face.

Ken Gorman suffered excruciating pain after a small lump, discovered at the end of May 2013, grew bigger and bigger. Doctors prescribed tablets for the pain and sent him to Rotherham General Hospital for investigation, where an MRI scan found three tumors (or three broken sections of a tumor) wrapped around the central nerve in the side of his face.

Surgery was arranged for early July. Meanwhile, he heard of a healing meeting at Hull City Hall led by evangelist Nathan Morris…

“Within the next 10 days, the huge swelling on my face had receded, all pain was gone and I was off all medication…”

The story is now making its way into various Christian news sources (including a Brazilian site in Portuguese). We are not told what kind of a tumour it was, but its rapid growth and then disappearance within the space of a month (Morris was in Hull from 13-15 June 2013) perhaps suggests a cyst of some sort. We are not given much of a case history (or even a photo of the symptom), and there is no first-hand evidence that medical professionals were indeed “stunned”.

Morris previously made the news in 2010, when the Daily Mail drew attention to a YouTube clip from the “Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival” in Mobile, Alabama, in which Morris prays over a woman in wheelchair who then rises up and takes a few unsteady steps. The woman, Delia Knox, had apparently been wheelchair-bound since in accident in 1987; she now appears to have normal mobility, and her case has been extensively celebrated in Christian media. (1)

Morris is British, and his Shake the Nations Ministries has an address in Rotherham, UK. However, he relocated to Alabama in 2011 and then to Apopka in Florida last year. He travels widely, and says that his team has “witnessed over 100,000 Muslims and Hindus convert to Christianity”. The Bay of the Holy Spirit Revival was held at John Kilpatrick’s Church of His Presence, and Morris and Kilpatrick are regular collaborators. Kilpatrick featured on this blog just recently, after he received a special message from God in which God explained that He had “raised up” Donald Trump.

Kilpatrick and Morris also used to appear with Steve Hill, a rather overwrought evangelist who died in 2014; Kilpatrick and Hill’s 1997 Brownsville Revival was the the subject of a critical investigation by the Pensacola News Journal.

Footnote

(1) Knox pursued a career as a Christian singer while she was disabled, and she gave her testimony in a video that appears to date from the 1990s that has been uploaded to YouTube here. She explains that she received a head injury from being in a car accident caused by a drunken driver, and the video shows her attempting physiotherapy exercises. There’s also what seems to be a passing reference to a brain tumour at 2.40.

Northumbria Police in Controversy Over Threat to Anti-Islam Activist’s University Place

A statement from Northumbria Police, published on Twitter:

Chief Superintendent Neil Hutchinson said: “Northumbria Police is aware of concerns on social media around messages sent by a Northumbria Police officer. These email messages have been linked to a tweet posted by the recipient of the emails.

“We wish to make it clear that the email messages sent by the officer were in relation to an on-going investigation which is not connected in anyway [sic] to the tweets. It is disappointing that the officer’s action in sending these messages has been misrepresented as linked to the tweet when they refer to a completely unrelated matter…”

The statement was issued in response to complaints on social media that the officer who had sent the emails had acted improperly, and that he had done so because he is a Muslim and the recipient, one Jonaya English, is a non-Muslim who Tweets criticism of Islam. Commentary along these lines has been posted online by the likes of Katie Hopkins, Paul Joseph Watson, Tommy Robinson, and Robinson’s employer Ezra Levant, who has apparently offered English work with his alt-right RebelTV social media platform.

English has published the emails, from PC Mohammed Khan. Khan is university liaison officer at Newcastle University, where English currently has an offer of a place. In the first email, Khan said that he had “received information which I need to speak to you about”, and in the second he added that

If you fail to engage, I will be informing Newcastle University that in order to apply sufficient safeguarding measures my only option is asking Newcastle University to withdraw their offer to you.

It is in your interests to engage with me.

English says that the Northumbria Police statement is a “lie”, and she asserts that Khan’s emails concern a Tweet she had posted to the effect that most terrorist attacks are by Muslims, who have learnt to act this way from the Quran. She posted this Tweet in reply to a Tweet from the Council of Europe about the attack on Finsbury Park Mosque.

Whatever the investigation is actually about, no-one is obliged to “engage” with the police about “information” received unless they are arrested, and even then they do not have to cooperate. Police investigations often mean building a case for the prosecution rather than assessing the evidence in the round (as I discussed here) – and in this instance, it appears that the officer has already fully identified with the complainant. Attempting to pressurize someone into communicating with the police by threatening to use influence with a third party to employ a sanction looks very much like the disciplinary offence of oppressive conduct. One also wonders why Khan was so keen to “speak” to her but apparently so unwilling to put any substantive details in writing.

English believes that the complainant is a young Muslim woman whose own Twitter handle appeared in the Council of Europe Tweet. According to English, she and this woman have a history of mutual animosity that goes back to their schooldays in the same sixth form – and presumably this context is how English has inferred what the complaint is about, despite Khan’s paucity of information. English also says that the complainant called the Tweet “harassing and bigoted”.

This background raises the possibility that the complaint pertains to “unwanted contact” on Twitter as well as to the actual content of the Tweet (if that is indeed what this is all about). But this is what the Block button is for, and it is difficult to see how the police can intervene when both parties are activists have who chosen to contribute in a public forum about matters of public interest. If there is some exceptional reason why the complainant might reasonably have inferred a harassing subtext aimed at her personally, this needs to be established by a legal process before Khan starts making recommendations to the university.

On Twitter, the alleged complainant has protected her account and changed her Twitter name; English has made a point of highlighting her new Twitter name, which does not seem to me to serve any purpose other than to encourage supporters to pile on. She also accuses the complainant of having harassed her in the past, and she makes claims of a private and personal nature that in my judgement are spiteful and gratuitous.

Ted Heath Police Probe: A Note on “Lucy X” and Operation Midland’s “Nick”

From the Daily Telegraph:

The long running police inquiry into claims that Sir Edward Heath was a paedophile has been dealt a severe blow, after it emerged that several of the key complainants are connected, raising concerns that they could have colluded before making allegations.

The Telegraph can reveal that key testimonies on which the investigation is based, are potentially tainted because the alleged victims have a close family connection.

Heath was the subject of a number of posthumous allegations that were reported in the media in 2015 – I summarised these here, and highlighted various difficulties in each instance. One of the most remarkable claims was that of Operation Midland’s “Nick”, who said that Ted Heath had been present at VIP paedophile orgies in the 1970s or 1980s and had intervened to stop Harvey Proctor from castrating him.

What we didn’t know at the time was that Nick’s extravagance had been matched by “a group of women” – now described as “three sisters” – who said that Heath had been part of a Satanic coven that murdered babies in churches in the west of England. The sisters reported this to police in 2015, although it only became public knowledge in late 2016 when an expert consulted by Wiltshire Police, Richard/Rachel Hoskins, went public with concerns. Astonishingly, it seems that the “Satanist” claim is Wiltshire Police’s central strand.

Hoskins, referring to one of the sisters as “Lucy X”, made a passing reference to a possible connection with “Nick”:

Lucy X’s father is said to have worked alongside Nick’s dad in the same community, although it is not known if Nick and Lucy X have ever met.

I discussed that here, and followed up with a discussion of Lucy X’s therapist and recovered memory here. Further details of the investigation were revealed in February, at which time it was suggested that the police would have completed a report by June.

The Telegraph now adds:

Three of those who claim to have been abused by Sir Edward are sisters whose father was a soldier based at Wilton Barracks in Wiltshire for almost 20-years.

The other key complainant in the case, is a discredited fantasist, known as Nick, whose step-father – an Army officer – was also based at Wilton Barracks at the same time.

It has now emerged that both men, who who have since died, worked alongside one another for eight years in the stores, and their families are likely to have known one another and may have even socialised together.

The Telegraph claims that similarities between Nick’s account and that of the sisters greatly impressed Wiltshire Police – this was before Nick’s various allegations had crumbled under scrutiny and the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Midland had collapsed in ignominy:

In the summer of 2015 Wiltshire Police launched its own historic sex abuse investigation, and reinterviewed Nick and the sisters – who at that point also accused Sir Edward as being one of their abusers.

Convinced that apparent similarities between the accounts proved the allegations must be true, Superintendent Sean Memory broadcast a televised appeal outside Sir Edward’s former home in Salisbury asking for other “victims” to come forward.

Independent corroboration of details not the public domain can of course be strong evidence that someone is telling the truth – which also means that when apparently independent witnesses turn out to have a connection that they have failed to declare, it is reasonable to conclude not just that their testimony is less impressive, but that it may be tainted by dishonest presentation.

However, there is not enough in the article to conclude that Nick and Lucy X (and/or her sisters) have indeed been in private contact. It is more likely that the sisters simply added Heath to their old account of SRA (first reported in 1989) in 2015 because Heath’s name was current in the media. The sisters may also have recognised other names brought into the public domain by Harvey Proctor in August 2015; however, Proctor’s press conference was on 25 August, which was a few weeks after the “televised appeal”. It is also possible that Wiltshire Police simply jumped to conclusions when they found two accounts that both happened to refer to Wilton Barracks (or, more properly, Erskine Barracks in Wilton, until recently the army’s Land Command HQ).

In fact, there is not a great deal of similarity between Nick’s allegations and those of Lucy X – Nick refers to ritualistic forms of torture that recall SRA in their grotesque inversions (in particular, having Remembrance Day poppies pinned to his skin), but he appears to have avoided references to Satanism. Lucy X, meanwhile, refers to Heath, but not the roll-call of Westminster VIPs whom Nick claims to have encountered.

Either way, though, the fact that Wiltshire Police invested so much in Nick must be damaging: Nick’s claims have fallen apart under scrutiny, and Operation Midland was the subject of a withering review by Sir Richard Henriques. The Telegraph has also reported that Henriques has now been asked to review the Wiltshire Police Heath investigation.

Nick is currently being investigated for attempting to pervert the course of justice by presenting false testimony to the police; it was recently further reported that he is being investigated for fraud, over £50,000 in compensation that he received. According to the journalist David Hencke (speaking recently at a public event), this money was a payout for alleged abuse by Jimmy Savile.