• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Neo-Pentecostal Tea Partiers and the “Knights of Malta”

Last September, a “Knights Hospitallers Alert” was sent out by email, warning against Muslims in the USA in boilerplate style:

The Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security recently swore in two devout Muslims in senior posts…. Was it not “Devout Muslim men” that flew planes into U.S. buildings 9 years ago? Was it not a Devout Muslim who killed 14 at Fort Hood?

…Read Sura 18:21 and you will know WHY Muslims insist on building a mosque over Ground Zero (they also built mosques, as symbols of victory, over Spanish churches in Cordoba and Seville and Segovia, and Agia Sophia in Constantinople)

…2. Kill Non-Believers. Sura 9:5, 9:3, and 9:29 of the Koran effectively commands Muslims to kill the non-believers

…Our Order and its predecessor going back to the 11th century AD, always made protection of Christians and our Judeo-Christian culture its main purpose. Will you help us with your contribution, so that we can help those in the United States who can raise awareness of the danger confronting us and our Constitution?

…It’s not just about ONE mosque being built near the 9-11 catastrophe, it is about Sharia Law not stopping until they overtake each and every government on this earth. That is what their own Qur’an orders them to do! Thank you so very much for your concern. Thank you for taking time to genuinely care about this world-ALTERING situation that we are confronted with. I pray that you, too, will have the compassion of Christ…

The “Alert”, which was written to tie-in with the Center for Security Policy‘s “Shariah: The Threat to America” report (discussed here), was signed by two men: Nicholas F. S. Papanicolaou (described as “Grand Master”)  and LTG (Ret.) William G. Boykin. Both men are also involved with a Christian Right organisation called the Oak Initiative, which is presided over by the neo-Pentecostal evangelist Rick Joyner. According to a recent post by Joyner there:

Last week I sat on a small panel discussing Shariah Law that was open to the Christian media at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention in Nashville. Also on the panel was James Woolsey, former Director of the CIA, and Frank Gaffney, Jr., former Asst. Sec. of Defense for International Security Policy and the acting President of the Center for Security Policy. We were also joined on the panel by Tom Smith and another lawyer who are on the frontlines of the battle against Shariah in the U.S., and a remarkable rabbi who had been an ambassador from Israel.

…We will soon have in stock Nicholas Papanicolau’s new book, Islam vs. the United States. This is a hard-hitting analysis of this issue from one of our Oak board members, and one whose international experience is vast. Nicholas is a co-host of The World Public Forum on Civilizations and Religions, which draws top government, religious, and academics from the major nations of the world each year, and had one of the top Islamic scholars read and authenticate his thesis.

As I blogged a few days ago, Joyner is also a member of of the “Knights Hospitallers”. However, Papanicolaou’s association with Joyner and Boykin is curious; the purpose of the World Public Forum on Civilizations and Religions is to promote interreligious dialogue, not to scaremonger against Muslims. Here’s Papanicolaou writing in 2009:

President Obama’s speech at Cairo University on June 4 is indeed historic for its open and unifying message. He referred to the fact “all people yearn for certain things” such as freedom of religion, the rule of law, the equal administration of justice, government that is transparent and accountable, freedom to speak one’s mind, the safety of their families and the opportunity to educate their children. He admonished the world with his message that “faith should bring people together”, that Jerusalem must be a city where “all the children of Abraham will mingle peacefully together”, that we must “turn dialogue into interfaith service.”… The World Pubic Forum is our modest effort to implement these ideals and to “share the world”, as President Obama dared us to do, by re-imagining the world.

This is a million miles away from Boykin and Joyner’s anti-Islam and anti-Obama rhetoric. Papanicolaou’s work with the WPF also takes place at a different level, attracting international politicians, scholars, and religious figures. One of the WPF’s co-founders – and a continuing active participant – is Vladimir Yakunin; Yakunin is a close associate of Vladimir Putin and described just a few days ago in the Moscow Times as “the Kremlin’s model ‘Orthodox businessman'”. The Times notes that in 2004 the WPF awarded Yemeni dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh “its International Prize of the Holy Apostle Andrew”. Other figures associated with the WPF include Diana Orlova, who runs its HQ in Vienna, and the executive director is a certain Vladimir Kulikov. The WPF is also associated with a organisation called the National Glory of Russia, which exists to contribute “to the important work done by the President of the Russian Federation, the Russian Orthodox Church and many other public associations”.

As for the “Knights Hospitallers”, the proper name of this organisation is the “Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, the Ecumenical Order”. It has no association with the better-known Roman Catholic Knights of Malta. Members can be browsed here. Rick Joyner claims that he joined the Order after discussing it with the late Eugene K. Bird, who as commandant of Spandau prison had (against military regulations) interviewed Rudolph Hess with a view to publishing a book. According to Joyner:

I saw many parallels in the history of the Knights of Malta, who are also called the Order of St. John (OSJ), with what I had been shown prophetically in the vision I was given about the coming harvest and the struggle that much of the world was about to face.

…I began telling Col. Bird about my recent study of the interesting history of the Knights of Malta. To my surprise Col. Bird told me that he had recently been knighted by this Order, and that I too had been recommended for investiture by an Austrian baron. He also told me about a spiritual renewal that was taking place in the OSJ, and that some of this had come about because of my books which were being read by the knights.

About a week later I was standing in a Nuremberg hotel lobby with some friends, when one of them announced the entry of the Austrian baron who Col. Bird had just told me about…

I quoted this in my previous blog entry. Joyner is described as a “Deputy Member of the Supreme Council”, while Jerry Boykin is the “Grand Chancellor”. The “International Headquarters of the Order, and Seat of the Supreme Council” is given as “Castello Dei Baroni Wardija SPB 07, Malta GC”, although the contact address is the less imposing “Grand Magisterial Chancery, 700 South Dixie Hwy, Suite 107, West Palm Beach, Fl. 33401”. The “Lieutenant Grand Master” is Prince Anton Esterházy de Galantha, or, more properly, “Anton II Esterházy de Galantha“.

The organisation has an Italian-language website here, and two English-language websites here and here; the second one of these concentrates more on the OSJ’s charity work. The second one is registered in the name of Bill NeSmith, who runs Harvest Light Ministries in South Carolina;  NeSmith is also the Oak Initiative’s manager, in which capacity he has appeared on “US Tea Party Radio”, with “hosts Bill Gruber and Caz Taylor”. In January, NeSmith had “Ceremonial oversight” at the Grand Priory of The Carolinas’ “Solemn International Investiture” for 2011. The event included a “Briefing” entitled “Update on Islam”, and took place at the Heritage Grand Hotel. This is owned by Heritage International Ministries, which is run by Joyner’s MorningStar church; the site previously formed part of Jim Bakker’s doomed Heritage USA project, and Bakker is a friend of Joyner.

(UPDATE: Joyner’s statements on the Knights of Malta were recently moved to a new page on his website; the original page now has a ” page not found” message, and I incorrectly thought this meant the article had been scrubbed. Apologies for the error, which has been fixed in the above text)