Ted Heath: A Note on Clive Driscoll’s “2001” Accuser and the Satanic Ritual Abuse Claims

From the Guardian, 11 August 2015:

A former senior detective has said police received allegations of child sex abuse made against Sir Edward Heath in 2001 – while the former prime minister was still alive.

…An alleged victim, a woman, was interviewed by Clive Driscoll. He was then a detective inspector [with the Metropolitan Police] and in 2012 secured convictions against Stephen Lawrence’s murderers. He retired last year having reached the rank of detective chief inspector…

Driscoll told the Guardian the woman he interviewed said she had been abused as a child by a group of people, including Heath on multiple occasions: “The person was 100% sure they were talking about Ted Heath. She totally believed what she was saying and that’s where the investigation starts, not where it stops.”

The woman claimed the abuse happened at a time after Heath had served as prime minister. Driscoll said others made similar abuse allegations, but he was not asked to take statements from them.

…Driscoll said he was asked to interview the complainant by a serious sexual offences steering group set up by Scotland Yard to review abuse claims.

He said: “My guess is it was not followed up properly, but I don’t know. The culture at the time would have been not to believe them.”

In November 2016, it was revealed that Wiltshire Police had contacted a researcher to assess an allegation that Heath had been involved in murderous Satanic rituals. That researcher, Rachel Hoskins, went public, concerned that Operation Conifer, Wiltshire Police’s investigation into historical allegations of sex abuse against Heath, was giving credence to fantastical stories based on supposed “memories” recovered during therapy. Hoskins gave an account in the Mail on Sunday, referring to the woman as “Lucy X”:

The stories that Lucy X began ‘remembering’ took her back to her childhood in Britain and in Africa. At first the detail in her diaries is scant. But Lucy’s descriptions grow ever more detailed under hypnosis: satanic ritual abuse in empty houses, in churches and on Salisbury Plain.

Eventually she ‘remembered’ that members of the paedophile ring had gorged themselves on blood and body parts. They maimed and murdered children in orgiastic sacrifices at the stake or on altars.

“Lucy X” reported this to police in 1989, but no investigation followed. Heath came into her story much later:

Lucy soon spoke with three other women she knew well. They met and swapped fantastical tales.

Earlier this year they would ‘remember’ that Heath was a prime mover in a network of sadistic paedophile abusers.

He had apparently taken part in rituals surrounded by candles on the forest floor.

The National Post ran a follow-up piece about “Lucy’s” Canadian therapist, which I discussed here.

At face value, there seem to be two female accusers: one reported Heath in 2001 as having been involved with “a group” committing sex abuse, and another remembered him in early 2016 as having been involved in Satanic Ritual Abuse. However, I’m inclined to the view that Hoskins either made an error or was working from incomplete notes, and that both reports in fact refer to the same woman. In both instances, we have a reference to Heath being involved with a group, and a suggestion of other complainants connected to the main accuser.

I would reconcile the accounts by suggesting that the woman reported being a victim of Satanic Ritual Abuse in 1989, added Heath to her complaint in 2001, and then made contact with police again in 2016, after Wiltshire Police established Operation Conifer.

So why wasn’t Satanism mentioned in the 2015 Guardian article? I asked the article’s author, Vikram Dodd, on Twitter – he replied that the piece was “about one complainant” and that “No mention made of satanic abuse in the account of their complaint given by Mr Driscoll”. So, either there were indeed two separate complainants, or Driscoll held back from giving Dodd a full unexpurgated account for some reason.

There is a further piece of context here: Driscoll is a firm believer in the reality of Satanic Ritual Abuse, and he has a long-standing association with Valerie Sinason, a psychotherapist who claims to have detected signs of Satanic Ritual Abuse in many patients (she insists that her method doesn’t amount to “recovered memory” techniques, although the distinction is opaque). According to Private Eye magazine in 2006 (issue 1116), Driscoll interviewed “76 children and adult victims” identified by Sinason in 2000; although nothing was ever substantiated, the two went on to collaborate, with Sinason interviewing Driscoll for a chapter in the second edition of her edited volume Attachment, Trauma and Multiplicity: Working with Dissociative Identity Disorder (Routledge, 2011). Driscoll was also involved with the Ritual Abuse Information Network and Support (RAINS).

It seems to me that if there are indeed two complainants here, then there has been a remarkable coincidence: an officer with a particular interest in SRA interviewed a woman who alleged that Heath was part of a child-sex abuse group, and then someone else independently happened to make an explicit SRA allegation against Heath later on. And in both instances, the main female complainant was supported by “others” or “other women”.

Alternatively, however, as soon as Driscoll’s name was raised in relation to allegations against Heath we might have expected an SRA claim to emerge into public view in due course.

Which scenario is more likely?

(Updated)

Charisma News Promotes New “Illuminati” Conspiracy Theorist

From Charisma News:

Former New Age blogger Steven Bancarz says the new world order Daniel predicted is alive—in the occult realm.

And quoting the source, Bancarz’s Facebook page:

There are many people who don’t mess with New Age beliefs because they know that it’s the exact same stuff the Illuminati (Illuminated ones) and Masons believe. The New Age is the religion of the New World order, it’s the religion of the Illuminati, the religion of the Masons. It starts with ancient Egypt, then Babylon, then up through the ages with mysticism and theosophy, and it gets mishmashed together and diluted a little bit to give us the religion of the New Age.

And the irony is that as those who began to dabble in the occult are conditioned to view themselves as “awake,” they are actually stepping deeper into the beliefs and values of the very NWO they believe they are opposed to.

In his Facebook post, Bancarz also delves into topics such as “Luciferian elites” and the occult significance of the “eye found on the dollar bill”. Charisma News previously highlighted him last month, in an article on “the Occult Themes Hidden in the Super Bowl”, in which he was quoted as referring to “a class of Satanic/occultic elites” and to “ritual sacrifice”, and in which he addressed himself to “non-Christian truthers and political activists” who he believes may be open to understanding the “spiritual nature of Illuminati rituals”.

Bancarz (who is 23 years old) formerly ran a website called Spirit Science and Metaphysics, where he promoted flim-flam under titles such as “Sea Salt & Baking Soda, Best All Natural Remedy For Curing Radiation Exposure And Cancer” and published click-bait articles such as “5 Mind-Blowing Alternative Theories About the Universe”. It’s not clear how much of the content on the site was original and how much was derivative, but by his own account it brought him “$40,000 per month in ad revenue alone”. However, he rejected it all in 2015, after converting back the religion of his childhood, Christianity.

According to his story in the Christian Post:

In an inspiring video testimony posted on Facebook back in April that has since been viewed over 750,000 times — over 1 million times if you aggregate all of social media — Bancarz shares how Jesus Christ liberated him from the snares of the occult.

…”I can pinpoint it from having started when I was exposed to a program on the History Channel called “Ancient Aliens.”

“It teaches ancient astronaut theory that mythologies and fables from the ancient world are really of ancient man being visited by extraterrestrial beings from outer space who they then describe as being gods.”

…In the 11th grade he began studying and researching the subject obsessively, noting that once one starts exploring aliens you can’t help but get into other New Age topics, like the non-locality of consciousness and other spooky information involving ley lines and ancient wisdom.

However, a personal crisis led him seek deliverance at a Pentecostal church, and he now runs an apologetics website called Reasons for Jesus.

This is not a particularly exceptional or interesting conversion narrative, but Bancarz appears to have caught the attention of Christian media due to the idea that he supposedly has some kind of special insight into the baneful attractions of the New Age. And from there, he is now being promoted as someone who has special knowledge about dark forces operating in the world. We’re invited to see a radical rupture between his past New Ageism and his present Pentecostalism – but all I can make out is a consistent conspiricism. The teenager who had the misfortune to take a TV show called Ancient Aliens too seriously is now a man who obsesses over the Illuminati and the New World Order.

Charisma News is a significant news source for evangelical Christians in the USA, particularly within the Pentecostal tradition. The site promotes many conspiracy theories, often as articulated by the likes of Jim Bakker. It’s a process I’ve referred to as the David Ickeization of Christianity – and despite denouncing the New Age, Bancarz fits the bill perfectly.

Articles Highlight “Satanic Child Sex Orgies” Claim in Relation to Cost of Edward Heath Investigation

From the Sun on Sunday:

A POLICE probe into claims ex-PM Sir Edward Heath took part in satanic child sex orgies has topped £1million.

The massive bill was blasted as obscene, futile and an abuse of taxpayers’ money.

…Unmarried Mr Heath was PM from 1970-74 and died 12 years ago.

Lurid allegations against him include claims he was in a group which stabbed, tortured and maimed 16 children in churches before gorging on their blood.

The expense has been revealed from a Sun on Sunday Freedom of Information request. The Mail on Sunday has followed up in similar vein:

Police have spent more than £1million investigating claims former Prime Minister Ted Heath had been linked to a network of paedophiles who held satanic orgies. 

The controversial inquiry into Heath by Wiltshire Police – Operation Conifer – has now topped £1million, despite growing demands for it to be shut down.

It should be noted that we only have partial details of the investigation into Heath, based for the most part on leaks.

Operation Conifer was launched in the summer of 2015, in the wake of a complaint that Wiltshire Police had derailed the trial of a brothel keeper in the 1990s due to a threat to implicate Heath. In fact, this had not been the case – the trial had actually been discontinued due to the non-attendance of a witness, and the brothel keeper was convicted at a later date without Heath’s name being raised.

Meanwhile, a number of stories were appearing in the media concerning historic “VIP” sex abuse, several of which concerned Heath. A former rent boy claims he had been picked up by Heath in 1961; a woman says she counted a number of boys climbing onto his boat in the early 1970s, but that there was one less on his return; Jimmy Savile’s nephew suddenly thought to remember that a friend had told him long ago that Heath had abused him; and there were also allegations involving Operation Midland’s “Nick”, who told police that Heath had prevented Harvey Proctor from castrating him at a paedophile orgy. I discussed these various claims here. Thus it was that police investigations were opened and consolidated into one operation led by Wiltshire Police, which issued an appeal for information outside Heath’s former home in Salisbury. This was all despite the fact that Heath had died in 2005.

Following the Henriques Review into how the Metropolitan Police had mishandled Operation Midland, Wiltshire Police attempted to quell disquiet – and incredulity – with a statement in which it announced that Operation Conifer currently two people were currently on bail. We don’t know who these people are, but “police sources” confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that the arrests “related to child protection and not perverting the course of justice”. In other words, they do not refer to allegations that police had “covered up” Heath’s supposed crimes, but rather infer that Heath is accused of being linked to other abusers and was perhaps part of a “ring”.

Two weeks after this statement, the Mail on Sunday ran with a front-page splash revealing that the police had been contacted by a group of women who had previously made an allegation in 1989 of having witnessed murderous Satanic rituals in Wiltshire. One of these women had apparently “recovered” her memories during therapy in Canada. The women had not previously implicated Ted Heath, but now said that they remembered him as “Ed”. The story came to light because Wiltshire Police had asked for expert advice from Rachel Hoskins, who promptly went public with concerns that the police were going off track. It seems a fair bet that the two arrests relate to other individuals named by this group of women (elderly relatives, most probably – the Mail on Sunday article refers to the group as a “family” who “claim the MP was part of a satanic sex cult run by their parents”).

More recently, the Mail on Sunday ran another front-page story on the subject, claiming that, according to an unnamed source, 30 individuals have come forward, and that the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, Mike Veale, believes them “120%”. The article did not go into specifics about the allegations, but the Daily Mail followed up the next day with an article that once again highlighted the “Satanism” claims. This in turn got picked up by the Sun.

Veale has not confirmed or denied the claim about what he supposedly believes about Heath, although a BBC report from December 2016 did specifically state that

Mr Veale also confirmed reports that satanic ritual sex abuse was a feature of the investigation, although he said it was a small part and did not relate to Sir Edward.

The current media tone is sceptical, but the upshot of the reporting is that the investigation into Heath has led to renewed headlines about murderous Satanic cults – a trend that most of us thought had gone for good after the fiascoes of the 1980s and early 1990s.

IPCC Clears Officers Over Handling of Operation Midland Despite Inquiry Finding “Significant Failings”

Yet another epilogue to the Operation Midland fiascoa statement from the Independent Police Complaints Commission:

…The IPCC has… discontinued its investigation into allegations [officers] failed to properly investigate allegations made by a complainant ‘Nick’ which lead [sic] to an extended investigation causing prolonged and undue stress to those under suspicion. There is no evidence to indicate bad faith, malice or dishonesty and no indication any of the officers may have behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings. The information available indicates the investigation was extensive and carried out diligently with the majority of the decisions made appropriately recorded.

…The IPCC has also discontinued investigating allegations that there were irregularities in the seizure of exhibits during the subsequent searches. There is no evidence to indicate that any of the officers involved may have breached professional standards.

This is par for the course with complaints about police misconduct or incompetence: we are told the outcome, but virtually nothing about the reasoning behind it. In November, an independent enquiry identified a litany of “significant failings” in how the police had handled Operation Midland – but it is not the job of the IPCC to explain to us exactly why these shortcomings, laid out in some detail in the Henriques Report, do not amount to cause for formal censure.

Within the narrow disciplinary remit of “professional standards”, officers are not accountable for decisions that were obviously flawed, or even incoherent, so long as they did not breach a specific regulation. Thus we are assured that there were no “irregularities in the seizure of exhibits”, but the police don’t need to justify why exactly they needed to impound so much of Harvey Proctor’s property, such as his shoe-horns.

Further:

…IPCC Commissioner Carl Gumsley said:… “It is… important to acknowledge the climate in which Operation Midland and the investigation into Lord Brittan were being undertaken. At this time there was much concern that cover-ups by the ‘establishment’ had taken place and there was widespread intense scrutiny on both investigations. The way both investigations were conducted should be considered in that context and in line with policies which existed at that time.”

Certainly, the police were in thrall to the climate – which was why Det Supt Kenny McDonald declared Nick’s claims to be “credible and true” before the investigation had even got underway – but this is hardly to their credit. We expect the police to enforce the law impartially, and not be at the whim of “climates”. And in any case, why does Gumsley feel the need to offer such a mitigation if he is confident that the investigation was handled properly?

The police have also contributed to the climate. Many people take the view that there is “no smoke without fire”, and in the context of conspiracy theories about “cover ups”, any determination that there was no cover up is simply further evidence of the cover up’s extent. Thus “Nick” still has his believers, who refuse to accept that his stories are untrue despite positive evidence that he misled the police and despite serious difficulties and implausibilities in his testimony.  Some of these enthusiasts are little more than social media trolls and fanatics, but several have public profiles in advocacy against child sexual abuse.

However, the IPCC hasn’t quite closed the book on Operation Midland: they are still investigating whether officers “failed to accurately present all relevant information to a district judge when applying for search warrants for three properties.”

UPDATES – 9 March

Police “not interviewed”

From the BBC News:

…The watchdog told the BBC that none of the exonerated officers were interviewed by IPCC investigators.

It said that, on the available evidence, there was no indication the officers had breached professional standards.

The watchdog also said the public statement by one of the officers – Detective Superintendant Kenny McDonald – that the allegations at the heart of the case were “credible and true” was not investigated at all because the Met had “not referred” the statement to them for investigation.

Again, I return to the subject of Harvey Proctor’s shoehorns. Much of Proctor’s property was impounded for no explicable reason, and we are therefore entitled to suspect that it was done out of spite or in order to intimidate – what in police terms is called “oppressive conduct”. Perhaps it would be impossible to uncover such a motive – but the IPCC hasn’t even made the attempt, by the looks of things.

A BBC clarification

The BBC’s Tom Symonds had a bit of fun on Twitter by suggesting that the IPCC had found Kenny McDonald to be “credible and true”.  However, the Tweet was (wilfully?) misinterpreted to mean that the IPCC had actually used this phrase, as a dig at Harvey Proctor and perhaps other critics. Symonds deleted the Tweet and issued a clarification.

Spinning the outcome

Meanwhile, Mark Watts, the former Exaro journalist who championed Nick’s allegations (while obscuring the most fantastical elements) announced the IPCC statement with a Tweet declaring “IPCC dismisses most complaints agnst officers on Operation Midland in face of Henriques review”. Here Watts, who styles himself as some sort of exposer of the establishment, actually goes further than the Metropolitan Police in his complacent interpretation of the the statement.

In fact, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner Fiona Taylor has conceded that “we did not get everything right” and confirmed in relation to the Henriques Report that “our work to carry forward Sir Richard’s recommendations is ongoing.”

Timing

There has also been some comment about the fact that the IPCC statement just happened to have been published on same day as the Spring Budget 2017, meaning that it is likely to receive less attention. According to the Telegraph:

Mr Proctor said he did not believe the IPCC’s assurance that the timing of the statement was ‘coincidental’, adding: “The IPCC  follows the well trodden path of the [Metropolitan Police Service] in managing news.”

Responses

According to the same Telgraph report, Proctor has described the IPCC statement as a “whitewash”, while Lord Bramall has called it “ridiculous” and “absolutely absurd”, noting that “the police themselves admitted they had got it so wrong.”

Media Reports Highlight “the Christian Nationalist Alliance”

From Newsbusters, and syndicated to Charisma News:

Last weekend, a group of witches assembled their tarot cards, Trump photos and orange candle stubs and cast a “binding spell” over the president. After a long incantation, many concluded with “so mote it be,” while others simply said “you’re fired!”

…On February 24, the Christian Nationalist Alliance organized a Day of Prayer in response to the mass ritual. “We beseech all Christian soldiers,” wrote CNA’s April Lavalle, “to join us in praying for the strength of our nation, our elected representatives and for the souls of the lost who would take up Satanic arms against us.”

Newsbusters headed the article “Witches Brew #MagicResistance: Cast Spells Against Trump”, which Charisma News has changed to “Don’t Stop Praying: Witches’ #MagicResistance Against Trump Is Growing”.

Journalistic interest in story achieved a great deal free publicity for both the witches and their Christian opponents last week, with Rolling Stone referring to the Christian Nationalist Alliance as a “right-wing group”. However, details of this supposed group are scarce, and contrary to the above April Lavalle is not in fact associated with it: Lavelle is a journalist, and it seems that confusion has slipped in because she wrote an article on the subject for Some which was then screencaptured by a website associated with the Christian Nationalist Alliance. Lavelle actually enthused over the witches’ plan, offering a guide on “how to cast a spell on Donald Trump”.

The public face of the CNA is a certain Kevin Ambrose, who set up his Twitter account in February; there is also a Twitter account in the name of the CNA, and websites called Christian Nationalism and the Christian Nationalist Alliance were registered via a privacy service in January. The former site carries articles by Ambrose, while the latter consists of the CNA logo and a promise of content “coming soon”.

Julia Reinstein of Buzzfeed reached out to Ambrose on Twitter ahead of her own article about the witches’ Trump protest, but was rebuffed because the CNA “has no time for #fakenews”; however, Ambrose did provide one quote for the media, explaining that

“This instance stands out to me because they are attempting to enlist the aid of non-religious liberals. 

“These people, mostly young, who may be riled up by the non-stop media attacks on President Trump are a fertile recruiting ground for Satanic groups.”

According to the Christian Nationalism website, the CNA is “a for-profit entity that is the definitive voice on Christian Nationalism in the United States”. Those who sign up will receive a journal, an email address, preferred caller access to a podcast, and “premium access to the American Prayer Network project”. It describes itself as “anti-Islam” and “anti-communist”, and its positions emphasize capitalism, the right to bear arms, and the importance of Christianity in public life. On Twitter, Ambrose has referred to dominion theology, citing the Christian Reconstructionist George Grant. Ambrose also says that the CNA “stands with” the Front National, and he enthuses over Marion Le Pen in particular as “a modern day Joan of Arc”.

“Cosmetic Clitoridectomy” Case Prompts Three-Year Criminal Investigation

From the Evening Standard, a couple of days ago:

A leading London doctor who says that women should be free to choose what to do with their bodies has been spared prosecution over allegations that he authorised unlawful genital surgery on a mother of two.

Professor David Veale was placed under a three-year Met investigation after another senior doctor complained to police that his involvement in a clitoris removal operation on the 33-year-old woman appeared to breach the law on female genital mutilation.

A file on the case was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service….

…Mr Veale told the Evening Standard that he had been caught up in a “highly political” campaign to secure a first conviction for female genital mutilation and that there was a “completely clear” difference between FGM and cosmetic surgery… On the criminal investigation against him, he said it had “dragged on” despite having no chance of success.

Female genital mutilation has been illegal in the UK since 1985. It is also illegal to take a child out of the country for the purpose of FGM or to assist with the procedure on a British national outside the UK. However, as noted by the Guardian in 2014, girls continue to be sent abroad, and families pool resources to bring “cutters” into Britain. Yet so far, there has not been a single successful prosecution – and there was consternation a few days ago when the official social media account of West Midlands Police indicated that pursuing prosecutions of parents was “unlikely to benefit child”.

Veale is the co-author of “Cosmetic Clitoridectomy in a 33-Year-Old Woman“, a short case history that was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2011. The authors showed that they were well aware of the law regarding FGM, but they argued that this particular case came under “mental health exceptions for cosmetic surgery resulting from perceived abnormality”:

She had a longstanding aversion to her genitalia associated with an extreme desire for a cosmetic procedure. Such a request, in the absence of any cultural beliefs, would suggest to most clinicians that a patient was very disturbed. However, on a structured diagnostic interview for DSM-IV, she had no evidence of any psychiatric disorder or personality disorder and I could not elicit any further information that might make a cosmetic procedure unwise or require further investigation.

Veale had to “distance himself from his astonishment at, and aversion to, the request”, and he “gave an opinion on the basis of his mental assessment and clinical experience in body image disorders and cosmetic procedures.”

The paper provoked critical responses in the same journal, to which Veale responded in subsequent follow-up pieces (here and here). One of those critics, Susan Bewley, raised the possibility that an unlawful procedure had been undertaken, and referred the matter to police.

It seems very odd that this should have taken three years to resolve. Police perhaps needed to check that the published details were a true reflection of the facts of the case, and then to ask for a legal opinion – but it is difficult to see why that should have taken so long. Was the delay down to the police, or the CPS?

This tardiness is worth noting as a general observation: it is often assumed that a lengthy police investigation must mean that the police are uncovering lots of evidence; that a referral to the CPS must mean that this evidence is strong; and that the longer it takes the CPS to come to final decision the more reason we have to doubt the suspect’s innocence. In 2016 I noted the case of a high-profile harassment allegation, in which the complainant specifically referred to the amount of time taken by the CPS to drop the matter as a vindication of her failed complaint; and in the case of Veale, Bewley has referred to the length of time taken as a reason why the CPS ought to have proceeded to prosecution.

Of course, this is wrong-headed. There may be delays in gathering evidence for reasons outside the police’s control (e.g. temporary unavailability of a witness); there may indeed be a large quantity of evidence to go through, but that turns out to be weak or invalid (for example, the extensive false testimony of “Nick”, the Operation Midland complainant); and some investigations and deliberations may be queued behind other, more urgent matters. However, we should not discount the possibility that the police and/or CPS may sometimes allow things to drag out unnecessarily due to incompetence (or even malice), or because of a wish to postpone or avoid criticism (the latter may include the police referring a matter to the CPS even though an allegation has no merit).

In this instance, it seems that the authorities wanted to be seen to be doing something about FGM, but their efforts were misdirected – and not for the first time. In 2015, Dhanuson Dharmasena was prosecuted for having cut and re-stitched scar tissue on a incised woman who was giving birth. Medically informed commentary ahead of the trial made it clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the doctor had acted for medical reasons, yet the case went to trial anyway – and he was duly cleared after 30 minutes of jury deliberation. David Richmond, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynacagologists, wrote after the case that

Every single professional I have encountered in the last 12 months was astonished at the prosecution of this young doctor but assumed, wrongly it transpires, that the CPS must have strong evidence. Dr Dharmasena was a junior doctor providing emergency obstetric care to save the baby of a young mother in labour who had suffered FGM as a young girl. He was doing, to the best of his ability, what obstetricians do every hour of every day.

This demonstrates how assumptions about the CPS can lead to wider reputational damage.

Meanwhile, genuine cases have gone unpunished by the law: in 2012, a doctor named Ali Mao-Aweys advised a Sunday Times reporter posing as an aunt wanting her nieces to be “circumcised” to contact a dentist in Birmingham named Omar Addow; both men were arrested, but later released without charge and although they were both struck off by their respective regulatory bodies no wider investigation into their activities seems to have followed.

US Evangelical Leaders Call for “Year of Good News”

From the website of Pastor Greg Laurie:

The Year of Good News

…In a time of fake news, distracting news, divisive news, disorderly news, and, sometimes, depressing news, we—as Christians and as leaders—want to recommit ourselves to making sure that the Good News of Jesus cuts through it all. We call upon Christians in America to make 2017 “The Year of Good News.”

…We need a national miracle to heal our political, racial and cultural divisions, and that miracle is found in the power of Jesus to change our hearts. Therefore, we commit to preach louder than our nation’s politics, and we aim to make the message of Jesus Christ transcend the monopoly of our media. We confess our only hope of unity is on the level ground at the foot of the cross of Jesus, and our only hope of healing is in the victory achieved through his empty tomb…

Laurie (whose “end times” ruminations I noted in 2009) took part in the National Prayer Service that followed Donald Trump’s inauguration, but as a public figure he was not especially associated with efforts to elect Trump. In his view, Trump “has taken a stand on a few issues that are very important to us as evangelicals”, which is a measured and non-partisan statement.

However, non-partisanship is not a concept that one associates with some of the prominent evangelical leaders of who have signed up to the statement: most notably Franklin Graham (who declared that Trump won the election because “God showed up”), his sister Anne Graham Lotz (“I see what happened in this election as being a tremendous movement of God in answer to prayer”), and James Dobson,who spun Trump’s personal failings as the stumblings of a “baby Christian” and who lectured on the need to “forgive” when Trump’s boasts about sexual assault came to light.

It’s therefore difficult to regard the statement without scepticism. Franklin Graham and James Dobson do not preach “louder than… politics”; their evangelistic outpourings are highly political, even though ahead of the election Graham maintained a fiction of not formally endorsing Trump. The reference in the statement to “the monopoly of our media” as somehow inhibiting the Christian message is impossible to read without thinking of Trump’s extravagant attacks on  the the press as “the enemy of the American people”; and the idea that divisions in American society will be healed through “the power of Jesus to change… hearts”, while being unexceptional evangelical rhetoric, glosses over the reality of the religious and political opportunism that has come with with the resurgence of the religious right.

Edward Heath: More Details of Ongoing Police Investigation Emerge

From James Gillespie at the Sunday Times:

A convicted hoaxer, a Twitter “fantasist” and a sex offender are among the people believed to have been interviewed by Wiltshire police in their investigation into claims that the former Conservative prime minister Sir Edward Heath was a paedophile.

The evidence so far from 30 people who are said to have come forward with claims of sexual abuse by Heath has reportedly been described by Mike Veale, the chief constable, as “120%” genuine.

However, an investigation by The Sunday Times has revealed that some of the people who have been questioned by officers — not all of whom claim to be victims — have previously made public claims that turned out to be false,

This comes a week after the Mail on Sunday ran a front-page splash with the headline “Police Chief: Heath Was A Paedophile”, which I discussed here. Veale responded to the MoS article by issuing a statement in which he lamented “unhelpful speculation” and confirmed that “it is not the role of the police to judge the guilt or innocence of people in our criminal justice system.” Of course, he was unable to say anything about the alleged leak itself, and he refused to be drawn when I asked him via Twitter whether he could give an assurance that he had never leaked his opinion about any ongoing case to the media. The journalist David Aaronovitch has taken the view that the article “amounts to the Chief Constable briefing through a friend without providing any evidence”, although Paul Goodman has posted alternative suggestion at Conservative Home:

The Mail’s story looks consistent with senior police officers – not necessarily from Wiltshire, and certainly not the Chief Constable – feeling that they need to justify an investigation that began in the summer of 2015, but which has not yet produced any charges.

The story was was a sensation, and it was received with glee by “VIP CSA” conspiracy theorists and accusers – particularly since it had been revealed in November that some allegations about Heath relate to Satanic Ritual Abuse. As Matthew Scott noted, in an excoriating blog post:

Former BBC sports reporter and one-time Green Party leader David Icke crowed particularly loud. He had, he pointed out, said that Heath was a paedophile Satanist who sacrificed children in his book The Biggest Secret which was published in 1998 (not available from good book sellers, but very much available on his website, or Amazon). On Monday night he took to the airwaves again through his associated internet radio station – The Richie Allen show – to remind us that the former Prime Minister was not just a paedophile but a “monumental serial Satanist responsible for the death and torture of extraordinary numbers of children.”

Allen (previously discussed by me here) also interviewed Esther Baker, who has made other VIP claims of her own that are currently under police investigation. The interview has been uploaded to Youtube with the official title “Abuse Survivor Esther Baker: ‘The Police Talking About Ted Heath’s Crimes Gives Me Hope For Justice.'”.

The story has also made its way to the USA, via a derivative version of the MoS article on Heat Street. Alex Jones referred to this at the start of a video in which he claimed (based on “British sources”) that Heath’s “officers” would bring a young girl into his presence, whose throat would be slit in front of him while he “pleasured himself”. Perhaps inevitably, these girls were supposedly procured by Jimmy Savile (or someone named “Jimmy Sav-ELLE”, according to Jones’s pronunciation).

The police investigation into Heath has involved contacting many people – including the former editor of Private Eye magazine, which revelled in homophobic innuendo against Heath during the 1970s. As the Mail on Sunday noted last month:

Unmarried Heath had been jokingly dubbed ‘Sailor Ted’ in a reference to rumours that he was gay.

‘The policeman said he wanted to know whether I had any information on Mr Heath,’ said Mr Ingrams.

‘I said, “You’re talking about jokes.” They’d obviously looked through old copies of the Eye to some extent. There were plenty of “Hello, Sailor” type of jokes.’

He added: ‘I told the policeman there was a general subject of speculation about whether the Grocer [Private Eye’s nickname for Heath] was gay or not. He had a dislike of women. He was very rude if he was sat next to women at lunch parties, just ignoring them completely.

‘It did all look like he was gay. But I never heard any evidence of paedophile rumours. It’s a waste of time and public money.’

The “convicted hoaxer” now referenced by the Sunday Times is none other than Michael Shrimpton, who believes that Heath was provided with boys to abuse and murder by German intelligence (a subject with which Shrimpton is obsessed). The “sex offender”, meanwhile, is the “1961 accuser”, whom I discussed when he went public in 2015. His story refers to a property that Heath only occupied from a later date, and the Sunday Times notes the further detail that he supposedly recognised Heath from a 1965 newspaper caption that also mentioned “Margaret Roberts” – even though she had been “Margaret Thatcher” for 14 years (although Gillespie fails to note that the photo reportedly printed in 1965 dated from 1951, the year in which the Thatchers married, and so “Roberts” may have been appropriate in the caption).

The alleged “Twitter fantasist”, meanwhile, came to the Sunday Times‘s attention because he had approached Veale publicly on Twitter. According to Gillespie:

He said that his accusations were based on his own experiences and those of others who confided in him. The man is well known among paedophile conspiracy theorists on the internet and has been accused of being a fantasist. “I’m no fantasist,” he insisted. “I don’t lie, I don’t make up stories. I know what I witnessed.”

The man offers no evidence for his claims. On Twitter, he has claimed that Margaret Thatcher’s entire government knew that Heath was an abuser but held back from exposing him so it could blackmail him into obeying its orders.

On Twitter, his response to this write up has been aggrieved.

This is a story that will run and run – Wiltshire Police intend to publish a report in June (which even then may be heavily redacted). It currently feels a long way off.

Daily Caller Seeks Milo Yiannopoulos’s Catholic Priest

From the Daily Caller:

Where Is The Priest Who Sexually Abused Milo Yiannopoulos?

Lost in the crushing sound of Milo Yiannopoulos’ fall has been the revelation that he was sexually abused by a priest named “Fr. Michael.”

…Milo was raised Catholic and is open about his love for the Catholic Church. In Kent, England where Milo grew up, a Catholic priest named Monsignor Michael Smith was arrested in 2010 after sexual abuse allegations were made against him by victim who called Smith a “devious predator.” According to KentLive, a publication in Kent, the victim received compensation from the Catholic Church in a civil suit in 2016.

Kent Live is the web version of the Kent and Sussex Courier, and it’s something of a novelty to see a big-time conservative US website delve into the world of British regional newspapers.

Perhaps we should be grateful that the Daily Caller author has settled on a priest who is deceased and who was already under a cloud of suspicion for a similar crime when he died in 2011. But the deduction remains highly speculative, and it tends towards encouraging reckless identifications of individuals as having committed crimes.

There are probably many “Fr Michaels” who were based in the Catholic Diocese of Southwark (a more useful geographical unit here than “Kent”) in the late 1990s to early 2000s, and all of them (whether alive or dead) are now at risk of being pursued by paedo-hunters thanks to Yiannopoulos’s semi-disclosure about alleged incidents that he has not apparently ever reported to the police. Fr Michael Smith was based in Tonbridge from the early 1990s until his death – this location is more than 20 miles from Chatham, where Yiannopoulos grew up, and nearly 45 miles from Canterbury, where he went to school. There are also other large towns in the vicinity, in particular Ashford and Maidstone.

There should also be some caution about taking Yiannopoulos’s story at face value. Focus on his provocateur antics has overshadowed the fact that he has a dubious relationship with the truth, and it does seem remarkable that someone who enjoys causing outrage just happens to have a stock of outrageous anecdotes from his youth – one of which is a stereotypical story about priestly abuse.

In fact, it’s not clear to what extent Yiannopoulos can truly lay claim to a Catholic upbringing, although it was a useful identity for his first journalism job, which was at the Catholic Herald. Yiannopoulos was raised by a part-Greek father, and Greek Roman Catholics are a tiny minority; and he went to Simon Langton school in Canterbury rather than a Roman Catholic school. Perhaps the chance of a place at a grammar school won out over a Catholic comprehensive (1), but it does lead one to wonder how it was exactly that he came to form an association with a Catholic priest. But in the current climate, perhaps it’s better not to encourage further speculation.

Footnote
1. Note for non-Brits: grammar schools are state schools that select pupils by ability following an entrance exam, while comprehensives accept any pupil within a particular geographical area. Most grammar schools became comprehensives in the 1960s and 1970s, but the older system remains partially in place in some parts of the country.

Bill Maher Under Fire Over Long-Known Views on Female Teachers and Statutory Rape

A headline from the Boston Globe:

Bill Maher, who aided Yiannopoulos’ fall, also defended sex with children

While from USA Today:

Like Milo Y, Bill Maher once defended sex between adults and minors

And so on.

Allegedly “soft” views on the subject of underage sex, in some instances dredged up from some time ago, are now regularly weaponized in public controversies; a few weeks ago Piers Morgan opportunistically denounced the actor Ewan McGregor as “paedophile-loving” for having expressed sympathy when Roman Polanski was arrested in 2009, but the trend has become turbo-charged this week with the fall of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yiannopoulos reacted to criticism of his own views as expressed a year ago by referring to old comments by George Takei, and Maher has now come under focus because of Yiannopoulos’s recent appareance on Maher’s show. At the time, Maher lauded  Yiannopoulos as a “young… Christopher Hitchens”, but he has since claimed to have exposed him as an “Ann Coulter wannabe”.

The lurid headlines give the impression that Maher was formerly some sort of NAMBLA advocate or an American Tom O’Carroll. In fact, he had made comments on his Politically Incorrect talk-show in 1998 defending Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who had been convicted of having had sex with a 12-year-old pupil in the state of Washington. Maher, to studio laughter, said that she was in prison simply for having fallen in love and not conforming. This wasn’t just a case of being provocative to make the show lively: Maher made similar comments at later dates, and also lewdly lamented that Debra Lafave, a glamorous teacher convicted in Florida after sex with a 14-year-old student in 2005, had not been videoed in the act.

Maher’s attitude is commonplace, and the Daily Show dug up comparable material about Donald Trump in September. Such views reflect the sexist idea that a boy engaging in sex with a woman has achieved a precocious maturity of which he can be proud, while a girl in a similar situation with a man has been taken advantage of and seduced. Age may have something to with it: although we now take it for granted that age of consent laws should be gender neutral, even in the 1980s California law excluded the possibility of a female perpetrator of statutory rape. This was confirmed as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1981 (the case of Michael M.), on the grounds that such laws were designed to protect girls from unwanted pregnancy.

However, Maher’s 1998 comments were challenged at the time by Celeste Greig (a California Republican who later came to grief due to a comment of her own about rape), and it doesn’t take much reflection to understand why Maher’s dismissive attitude is wrong. Of course a boy in such a situation cannot give informed consent; such experiences may be emotionally damaging and adversely affect psycho-sexual development; and in the Letourneau case, the boy became a child-father.

When Yiannopoulos was poised to address CPAC, his conservative enemies were able to present his January 2016 comments as a pernicious threat to the general consensus on consent – but using old quotes to whip up a never-ending stream of outrage about alleged “pro-paedophile” views once expressed by this or that public figure is tabloid politics and does not seem to me to be a sensible way forward for public discourse.

Incidentally, incidents of female teachers having sex with male students is an odd obsession of the conservative news website WND.