A Funding Panacea for Prophecy Research

I recently enjoyed listening to Rev Dr Jane Shaw’s series of talks on mysticism on Radio 3, so I was interested to see that she has written a book on Mabel Barltrop and the Panacea Society. Frances Stonor Saunders has a review in the Guardian; the final paragraph is amusing:

A curious omission from Shaw’s otherwise exhaustive volume is any mention of the society’s finances. As it’s a registered charity this information is readily accessed on the Charity Commission’s website, which reports a long-term investment portfolio worth £20m, in addition to £3m in own use assets, presumably the Bedford properties. This represents a nice wad for Jesus when he reappears (will he go for government bonds or dip a toe into futures?). The society’s published accounts for the past five years show donations of nearly £500,000 to something called the Prophecy Project. Based at New College, Oxford, its co-director from 2003 to 2011 was Jane Shaw. She is also named on the Charity Commission website as a trustee of the Panacea Society. Oh.

Also on the list of trustees is Canon Professor Christopher Rowland; it is curious to see two academically-minded Anglican priests acting as trustees for an apocalyptic and heterodox religious group known for eccentric beliefs such as that the Garden of Eden was in Bedford (a 2001 Independent interview also describes one member expressing some racist religious views, to the embarrassment of another). Here is the full list of the “aims of the charity”:

1. Work related to the advancement of the religious beliefs of the Society as defined by its original charitable objects.
2. Sponsoring the writing, publication, and distribution of religious works associated with the Visitation.
3. Undertaking the duties and responsibilities incumbent on being the custodian of Joanna Southcott’s Box of Sealed Writings.
4. Sponsoring research by recognised academic institutions into the history and theology of the Society and its antecedents.
5. Supporting the work of the Church of England in advancing the Christian Religion especially in the Bedford area, or in aspects of theology or liturgy that relate to the Society’s specific interests.
6. Supporting recognised local organisations dealing with the relief of sickness within the Bedford area.

It makes more sense when one reads to the end of the list: it is of course sensible to have clergy and academics overseeing how money is disbursed in relation to aims 4-6, and I strongly doubt that they have anything to do with aims 1-3. A more general statement on the Society’s website downplays the Society’s distinctive beliefs in relation to the charity even more, giving as aims:

(a). To advance the Christian Religion (and in doing so the Council may have regard to the teachings of Joanna Southcott and her successors)
(b). in furtherance of Christian principles to relieve both poverty and sickness and to advance education both generally and in the production, publication, and dissemination of religious works.

In 2007, there was an acrimonious dispute about the running of the charity – lawyers were called in, as well as a certain Derek Stuart, described as a “religious detective” who operates “Sword Investigations”. Bedfordshire on Sunday has more.

Roberta Moore Steps Down from EDL Jewish Division; Complains of “Nazis Within” EDL

As Darcy Jones notes, Roberta Moore of the English Defence League Jewish Division has decided to step down, complaining about “Nazis” in the EDL:

Dear all, I have been made a great offer yesterday and therefore I am stepping down from the Jewish Division in order to take up that offer, which will take most of my time. While we are aware that the EDL is doing a fantastic job, but there are elements within that have hijacked the EDL for their own Nazi purposes…

I do wish the EDL the best of luck in this fight, as they surely need it. And I sincerely hope that the leaders will get the strength to squash the Nazis within, for they will destroy this movement if allowed to remain, and thus lose the fight against the Islamization of their countries…

It should be noted that the main EDL’s relationship with its “Jewish Division” has been strained for some time, ever since Moore made links with Victor Vancier’s Jewish Task Force.

On Saturday, Moore was due to speak for the EDL Jewish Division in Strasbourg alongside Pam Geller and Robert Spencer’s Stop Islamization of America;  the SIOA website has the details:

The human rights organizations Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and Stop Islamisation of Europe (SIOE) will hold their first-ever transatlantic summit in Strasbourg, France, on July 2.

…The confirmed list of speakers at the summit includes Pamela Geller, the popular blogger and columnist who publishes the acclaimed AtlasShrugs.com blog… Robert Spencer, a bestselling author and internationally renowned Islamic expert; the noted activist SIOE Director Anders Gravers; Roberta Moore of the Jewish Division — EDL; Conny Meier of the German human rights group Pax Europa; frontrunning Bulgarian presidential candidate Pavel Chernev; and others to be announced soon.

So, should the “transatlantic summit” (a) stick with Moore, who now apparently represents no-one except herself; (b) ask for an alternative EDL speaker, despite Moore’s claim that the movement has been “hijacked” by “Nazis within”; or (c) now decline any association with either Moore or the EDL?

Back in December, Moore promoted the theory that “Satan’s face” can be discerned within the marble patterning on the Dome of the Rock.

UPDATE: Geller has announced that she has ditched the EDL:

I am sure regular Atlas readers have noticed that some time ago I stopped covering their events — I was waiting to see how things would shake out. I was waiting to see if the forces of good would recapture the heart and soul of the group. Alas, it was not to be. 

Now that the person whom I most trusted in the EDL, Roberta Moore, has resigned, as she was increasingly uncomfortable with the neo-fascists that had infiltrated the administration of the group, I too am withdrawing my support from the EDL.

As ever, Robert Spencer is following her lead.

UPDATE 2: Geller’s support for the EDL is back on:

…I spoke to Tommy Robinson at length; he issued his statement to SIOA. Considering his statement, I am not withdrawing my support for the EDL, but I continue to be deeply concerned and will be watching how events unfold.

Prior to this, some of Geller’s “counter-jihad” associates had denounced her for having rejected the EDL; an “open letter” appeared on the Gates of Vienna, signed by the likes of “Eeyore” of Vlad Tepes, KGS of Tundra Tabloids, Diana West, and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff:

…To help heal the damage that has been done, we insist that you apologize in a public forum to the English Defence League.

Its leaders and members are heroes, and their organization is widely considered a beacon of hope in Europe. All Europeans who resist the Islamization of their countries look to the EDL for inspiration, and all of them stand in solidarity with it in its struggle.

We strongly request that you reconsider your deplorable words and withdraw them.

Geller responded to this aggressive demand in kind:

Ned May, who is “Baron Bodissey” of Gates of Vienna, is the Machiavellian plotter behind this attack on me – and he himself described himself as such in the EDL forum/channel. 

… he has even gone so far as to include peoples’ names who never agreed to be on the list. Holger Danske and Henrik Raeder Clausen of Europe News wrote me to assure me that their names were ill-used: they had never agreed to sign on. I am told that Hans Erling Jensen, whose name also appears on it, is angry about this Open Letter also.

One who did sign on voluntarily, however, was KGS of Tundra Tabloids. I was genuinely surprised when I saw that he had added his name to the list. To me, this is particularly galling. Without going into details, I took a lot of heat covering for KGS and maintaining confidentiality back in 2009 when “Baron Bodissey” began falsely accusing of violating that confidentiality. But I kept silent so as not to expose KGS. And this is how I am repaid.

Then there was a revealing incident, in 2010, when the “Baron” and many of the signers of this Open Letter falsely accused Spencer and me of being responsible for YouTube’s deletion of a video. They had taken video from our inaugural AFDI conference at CPAC in 2010 of Allen West’s speech and subtitled it in various European languages. They had taken the video without the knowledge or consent of the person who filmed it, Pamela Hall – who thereupon complained to them…

US Evangelist Crashed Car after Mid-Afternoon “Double-Shot Whisky Binge”

From the Australian Telegraph:

A VISITING American evangelist who claims healing powers has walked from a NSW court without even a fine despite driving 110km blind drunk and crashing into a parked car.

Self-claimed “prophet of God” Jason Hooper – touring with Hillsong protege Ben Hughes – declared God had forgiven him for his double-shot whisky binge that ended in a mangled wreck on the Mid North Coast.

…Police revealed Hooper had allegedly been drinking double shots of scotch before driving his rented Commodore to drive to Coffs Harbour. At 4pm, he slammed into the parked Hyundai on the Pacific Hwy, Macksville.

Given these cirumstances, the name of the religious ministry which brought Hooper to Australia is somewhat unfortunate:

Hooper is on a working visa and is in Australia an east coast church tour with Pour It Out Ministries.

Hooper got off lightly: he could have been sent to prison, but the magistrate, a certain Wayne Evans, called the crash “a sobering offence” and accepted that Hooper’s tearful explanation that he had acted out of character due to “financial and other pressures”. Evans’ decision has not been popular, though, and Hooper has perhaps made things worse for himself with a self-serving statement:

“I’ve worked it out with the Lord. I was wrong,” Hooper told The Sunday Telegraph.

The website for Pour It Out Ministries is currently closed and “under construction”, which again leaves an unfortunate impression. The ministry is run by two revivalists, named Ben and Jodie Hughes; Ben Hughes studied at Hillsong International Leadership College in Sydney, although this blog suggests that media reports calling him a “Hillsong protegé” are exaggerated.

Hooper has a troubled background: according to his testimony here, he was “saved” after he had been “shot in both legs” and sent to prison; he claims to have then led a mass healing revival within the prison itself. He later became a revivalist with Rick Joyner’s MorningStar Ministries, although he is currently “itinerant”. This link to Joyner could be useful, though: Joyner has played a central role in “restoring” errant evangelists such as Jim Bakker and Todd Bentley. Joyner, Bentley and Hooper appeared together in an event entitled “Power and Glory of the Kingdom” back in February.

Of course, humans are weak and you can find scandals involving religious professionals in any setting. However, such occurrences are particularly problematic for Joyner’s strand of neo-Pentecostalism: those who lead revivals are supposed to be empowered by God to heal the sick and to convey prophetic messages from God – Joyner himself recently prophesised an earthquake on the west coast of the USA, to be followed by a general economic collapse. That doesn’t mean that these especially-empowered evangelists are without sin, but one struggles to see how this self-image can be compatible with an act of reckless endangerment through alcohol abuse. Leaders of the movement are not shy about claiming to have supernatural insight into the future prospects and inner character of particular evangelists, as was seen when C. Peter Wagner gushed over Bentley.

Hooper’s website is currently still available, although parts of the site have been removed. Google cache, though, shows endorsements from Ryan Wyatt of Abiding Glory Church & International Ministry Base; Jeff Jansen of Global Fire Ministries International; Paul Keith Davis of WhiteDove Ministries; Bobby Conner of Eagle View Ministries; James Levesque of Engaging Heaven Ministries; and from Rick Joyner:

Jason has been a key part the MorningStar team for several years. He provided important and effective leadership in his position as manager of our Multi-media department, and was instrumental in leading two of the most powerful moves of the Holy Spirit in our history. He is a revivalist with a powerful miracle and healing ministry and helps to raise the faith barometer wherever he goes.

Hooper also lists some “pastoral recommendations”, from Tim Stevenson (Horizon Church, New Zealand), Trevor Baker (Revival Fires, UK – “Jason Hooper was recommended to our church and ministry by Rick Joyner at Morningstar”); Jacob Martin (the Hope Centre); and Andrey Shapovalov (Tranformation Center Church, Seattle – he’s an ally of anti-gay activist Ken Hutcherson). Some of these names are also listed as his “friends in revival”, alongside Todd Bentley, Robin McMillan (a MorningStar pastor), Jake Hamilton (of Jesus Culture, “a new breed of emerging revivalists”), Jerame Nelson (Living at His Feet Ministries), and Ben & Jodie Hughes. One wonders if in the Hughes’ case, “ex-friends” would now be a better description

(Hat tip: Bene Diction)

UK Head of Rosminian Order Responds to BBC Documentary

A few days ago, I blogged on a BBC documentary about sex abuse in schools run by the Roman Catholic Rosminian order; the programme explained how the head of the order in the UK, Father David Myers, had declined to participate in the programme in the following terms:

…I have decided to follow the advice given in the book of Lamentations: ‘It is good to wait in silence’ 3:16

However, Myers has now apparently had enough of “waiting in silence” and has isssued a statement:

In response to the BBC documentary programme “Abused: Breaking the Silence” some points should be clarified.

From the very beginning, attempts were made to be open and transparent. Apologies were offered, without reservation on behalf of my brethren to those who suffered. Such abuse was a grievous breach of trust to them and their families. We are appalled by what was done to them. We accept that we have moral and pastoral responsibility to the survivors for the harm done to them.

When these instances of abuse were brought, the police, the hierarchy and Church safeguarding officials in the risk management of the accused were immediately informed. Information came to light in September 2009, of abuse at Grace Dieu dating from 1954 to 1958 and Soni from 1954 to 1974. Representatives of the survivors’ group were invited to a meeting. They said that that they wanted an acknowledgment of what was done to them and an apology, and not publicity.

Regarding the following specific issues raised by the programme:

Fr Bernard Collins. After an extensive and thorough investigation, we have found no evidence in our records that Fr Collins was moved to Soni in the knowledge that he had abused boys at Grace Dieu. Indeed, the records indicate that it was a long planned move.

Fr Kit Cunningham. On 8th February 2010, writing to all those who had contacted me about abuse, the email concluded, saying that if they wanted to issue a press release, it was “their call”.

In response, one of the leaders of the survivors’ group said explicitly that they did not want any press involvement. This position had not changed when Fr Kit Cunningham died in December 2010.

When obituaries were being written about Fr Cunningham I responded truthfully to those journalists who contacted me who had heard the story that he had returned his MBE. I confirmed that he had, and the reasons why.

However, the newspapers concerned chose not to publicise this.

The tone is again somewhat unfortunate and defensive, and parts are beside the point. In fact, the victims acknowledged in the programme that Myers’ initial response had been genuine, and that they had appreciated the meeting which he arranged for them in London: the problem was that this attitude changed when the topic moved on from reconciliation to financial restitution.

As for Myers’ willingness to explain why Cunningham had returned his MBE, that appears to have come after the obituaries had appeared, not “when they were being written”. According to Peter Stanford, who wrote the Guardian‘s obituary (here):

In my obituary of him in January, I wrote as I found. A week after publication I received an email. “It is good that he is remembered for his good,” my correspondent began, “but there are many who will remember the other side of Kit… a sexual, physical and mental abuser. It would be good if you just let him rest in peace, but I finally reacted as there was too much praise going on for this deviated creep.”

…My first (shameful) instinct was to wonder if my correspondent might be mistaken, but he had included in his note a means of testing his claim. “Suffice it to say,” he wrote of Fr Kit, “he returned his MBE to the Queen last year when his past demons came to haunt him.” That was something I could check easily. It was true.

According to the BBC documentary, the issue of Cunningham’s MBE first came up after an abuse victim left a comment under a blog-post on the Daily Telegraph website on 12 December; that paper’s obituary was published the next day, and so the comment wouldn’t have been chased up there in time for that.

And it seems that while Cunningham may have been willing to explain when asked about the MBE, he was less frank when dealing with general enquiries. According to the Telegraph‘s Damian Thompson:

Fr Cunningham received warm obituaries when he died last December aged 79. That’s not a surprise: many a party was enlivened by his benevolent, boozy personality and he set high standards of liturgy at Ely Place. I myself have been the recipient of his kindness; when vague rumours of unspecified misbehaviour began to circulate immediately after his death, I advised the Catholic Herald that he should not be judged guilty without evidence. The paper scaled down its planned tribute to this “legendary” priest while it tried to find out what the fuss was about; it contacted the Provincial of the Rosminians in England, Fr David Myers – but he said not a word about any paedophile offences and, as a result, neither did the Herald or the rest of the media. We were quite deliberately kept in the dark.

The author of the Herald‘s obituary, Francis Phillips, apparently knew nothing until he listened to BBC Radio’s Sunday programme two days before the documentary aired.

As for Collins’s sudden departure for Africa following a complaint of sex abuse, the  BBC documentary stated the order’s archives are closed to outside scrutiny, so we can’t judge for ourselves whether this was indeed simply a coincidence –  that’s not to suggest that Myers is being dishonest, but sometimes documents can be interpreted in more than one way.

Delta Air Lines Marketing Alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines Fuels New Shariah Hysteria

From USA Today:

Some travel industry experts say Delta Air Lines is being treated unfairly — and is the victim of misinformation — because of its pending marketing alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Delta was criticized by some Jewish and Christian leaders Thursday after a Religion News Service story hit the Internet questioning the two airlines’ partnership because Saudi Arabia, like some other Mideast countries, has some restrictive visa and entry policies.

…Delta doesn’t fly into Saudi Arabia, but critics expressed concern that its SkyTeam marketing alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines — which flies between the USA and Saudi Arabia — would develop into a code-share agreement. That would enable each airline to sell one another’s tickets.

…”Delta does not intend to code share or share reciprocal benefits, such as frequent flier benefits, with Saudi Arabian Airlines,” said Delta spokesman Trebor Banstetter.

According to the Religion News Service report (which has since been pulled):

U.S. Jews not able to fly on Delta flights to Saudi Arabia

JERUSALEM (RNS) Jews and Israelis, or passengers carrying any non-Islamic article of faith, will not be able to fly code-share flights from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia under Delta Air Line’s new partnership with Saudi Arabian Airlines that is set to begin in 2012.

…Saudi Arabia bans anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport from entering the country, even in transit. Many Jews believe the kingdom has also withheld visas from travelers with Jewish-sounding names.

Religious items such as Bibles that are not related to Islam may be confiscated at the airport.

Colby M. May, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, said his office is trying to determine if the agreement runs afoul of U.S. law…

The story was also whipped up into a ludicrous hysteria by WorldNetDaily, via help from actor-turned-politician-turned talk-show host Fred Grandy:

…The issue first was presented to Congress, the public and others by talk radio host and former U.S. Rep. Fred Grandy,whose own battle against discrimination was documented when his former radio station demanded he tone down criticism of Islam on his program. He then left the station.

Grandy and “Mrs. Fred,” – Catherine – recently were interviewed by Talk 1200 show host Jeff Katz about the controversy, which was described as “outrageous.”

“Creeping Shariah? Now [it is] jetspeed Shariah. Hat’s off to Delta. It looks like Delta will be the first Shariah-compliant airline in the United States,” Catherine Grandy said.

Katz noted, “As a Jewish man, I might not be able to fly on Delta Air Lines in the future.”

…”This creeping Shariah, economic jihad, gets you everywhere you turn,” Catherine Grandy said. “This is just not right. I’m sure this will be tested.”

…Already, in the United Kingdom, Shariah courts are given authority to resolve certain issues outside of ordinary judicial proceedings. Islamic law, as it is practiced in many Muslim countries, includes penalties such as the chopping off a hand for thievery and execution for adultery and abandoning Islam.

Yes, one minute Delta Airlines has a marketing alliance with Saudi Arabian Airlines; the next people in the USA will be being stoned to death for adultery. There’s a lot to be said for keeping  critical pressure on companies doing business with repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, but this kind of hyperbole is self-defeating (I recently blogged on the UK situation – which the above also misrepresents – here).

The claim that Saudi Arabia bans Jews derives from material posted on the official website of the Saudi Supreme Commission for Tourism in February 2004. The Jewish Virtual Library has more:

…The site says the policy of the Saudi Arabian government is to deny visas to “Jewish People.” After this anti-Semitic language was discovered and publicized by the media and Congressman Anthony Weiner, the Saudi government removed the offensive language claiming that it was a “mistake.” Rep. Weiner noted that the Saudi record of anti-Semitism suggests otherwise and subsequently sponsored a bill that would control the distribution of visas to Saudi citizens until the President certifies that the Saudis do not discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation or heritage when issuing visas.

According to the USA Today report:

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, says he’s known a lot of Jewish-American business men with Jewish-sounding names who were provided visas to enter Saudi Arabia and were not “harassed” during their stay.

“But I think the far more significant problem is that, according to the State Department, no religious practices other than Islam are allowed to be practiced openly in Saudi Arabia,” he says...

But while the Religious News Service has pulled the story, WorldNetDaily and its allies smell blood:

…Larry Klayman, founder of the government watchdog Judicial Watch and now of Freedom Watch USA,was succinct.

“I, for one, will sue Delta Air Lines,” he told WND. “This is outrageous, repugnant and illegal.”

He said Delta has joined President Obama in “kowtowing” to “nefarious Muslims.”

His reference was to the famous image of Barack Obama greeting the Saudi king with a bow.

In contrast to George W. Bush, who in 2006 wrote to King Abdullah appealing for Saudi Arabian Airlines to buy 43 Boeing jets.

(H/T Get Religion)

Ruth Gledhill Claims Fr Kit Cunningham was Part of “Campaign of Vilification” over Reporting of Paedophile Priests

Ruth Gledhill’s column in the latest Church of England Newspaper makes a disturbing allegation about the media influence of Father Kit Cunningham. Cunningham was a popular figure and known as the “unofficial Roman Catholic chaplain to Fleet Street”, and there has been much shock and distress at revelations that shortly before his death in December 2010 he had privately admitted to paedophilia and had returned an MBE. Cunningham’s predations at a school in Tanganyika in the 1960s were outlined in a BBC documentary a few nights ago – he was not only an abuser himself, but allowed others to abuse as well.

Ruth’s column is behind a pay-wall, and so mindful of that I will provide a short quote only:

…Father Kit was unofficial chaplain to the Catholic Herald and also ran a club for journalists, The Keys. About a year or so ago, I was subjected to an extremely nasty campaign of vilification, after The Times ran a series of stories exposing paedophiles in the Catholic Church. A website was set up to attack me, nasty stories appeared in other publications…

One of those responsible for whispering poison against me was Father Kit. I never liked him and I knew he did not like me… But I never once suspected Father Kit to be a pedophile…

I am trying to forgive those who tried to destroy my life and work. There has been no apology to me from these people and of course there never will be…

Ruth has also left a comment about this on my blog here.

Together at Last: Pastor Terry Jones and Rabbi Nachum Shifren

As has been widely reported, last week saw Pastor Terry Jones protesting in Dearborn. Jones and his predictable stunts are of little interest in themselves, but it is perhaps worth keeping a note of the various characters who are willing to ally themselves with him. In April 2010 there was a short-lived flirtation with Fred Phelps, and last year Jones showed an interest in coming to the UK to meet the English Defence League and the National Front, although both plans fell through. Further, his anti-Islam book Islam is of the Devil was published by Creation House, which is owned by the influential neo-Pentecostal media empire Strang Communications (it was later withdrawn, but not publicly repudiated), and the book came with a foreword by Jack Coe Jr, son of the 1950s-era faith healer of the same name. In April, Jones and “Surfing Rabbi” Nahum Shifren appeared together in April, after Jones was briefly arrested.

Shifren and Coe were also part of last week’s protest; Abby Ohlheiser of the Revealer was there:

Shifren reveled in the crowd’s anger, almost immediately calling the protesters “Low-level scum” and “communist rabble.” Something was yelled back, Shifren repeated, “Yes! Fuck the Jews. That’s right, they said it,” and went on to say that earlier, crowd members had told him to go to Auschwitz.   Almost the entire content of his speech was insults, a repeat of insults thrown at him, a return of the lobs with some of his own.  “These rappers and gangbangers, these low-level ne’er do wells,” he said. These are lede-grabbing quotes, if not for the protests later.

Shifren, it should be recalled, is also a popular figure with the English Defence League – he attended a rally in London last October, and the EDL’s financial backer Alan Lake has attacked me for examining Shifren’s anti-gay views (somewhat strangely, Lake claimed that my original post amounted to “masturbating in public”).

One wonders whether Shifren has ever asked Jones about his appearance on Mark Dankof’s anti-Jewish Ugly Truth Broadcast in August 2010:

Dankof: Dr Jones, I would hope, I would at least hope that you would give some consideration to the things that we discussed here today. You have been given a job to lead the flock, and I think at this point the real danger that is facing Christian America isn’t from a bunch of third world people who do not have the ability to influence the minds of our young people. It’s the people sitting in offices in New York and in Washington DC and Tel Aviv and in Hollywood who literally are infecting the minds of our young people with the same leaven of the Pharisees which Jesus warned us about.

Jones: Oh, I would definitely agree. There’s no doubt about it.

Dankof: And listen, when you’re burning these Korans on Septmber the 11th, throw a couple of Talmuds in with it, would you please?

Jones: OK. (1)

(1)theuglytruth.podbean.com/2010/08/07/the-ugly-truth-podcast-special-edition/ at 41:30

Walid Shoebat’s “Rescue Christians” Org Claims to be Protecting Families in High-Profile Blasphemy Cases

Last month, I wrote a blog entry about an organisation called “Rescue Christians”. According to the organisation’s blurb:

…Our work will involve providing safe houses, food and medical care for persecuted Christian families with direct one and one support, with no administrative costs or waste. Our work will also involve the gaining of visas for these families to restart their lives in Western countries so they can rebuild their lives. Full details of the program detailed on www.rescuechristians.org. We are already helping two families with many more on a waiting list for assistance…

That was written by Keith Davies, who is better-known as Walid Shoebat’s handler, and the Rescue Christians website heavily promotes Shoebat and his anti-Islam screeds.

Rescue Christians also uses the name “The Raoul Wallenberg Project”, and it goes on to explain:

The Raoul Wallenberg Project is working with people on the ground who are well connected in the Christian community. They have reached out to us for our support to help alleviate their suffering, and in certain situations, help with their escape. For their protection we cannot expose their names publicly. In the future, large donors who are concerned about the transparency of funding, we can provide the names and details privately.

…. We are working behind the scenes with members of Congress, in particular the staff of Congressman Allen West, who has kindly offered his help on Capital Hill… We’ve assembled a group who have been involved in running a charity, and are aware of working with activists.

I expressed some concerns about this at the time: the names of the Christians they are supposedly helping are either confidential or they are not – leaking them to “large donors” is an amateurish way to demonstrate “transparency” and would anyway show very little about how efficiently or competently the organisation is being run. Why is there no formal board structure, or any trustees? Why haven’t Shoebat and Davies established a 501(c)(3), with all the checks and balances which would come with that? Who is going to look after these “safe houses”? How will their safety be assessed? What protocols are in place should emergencies occur?

Rescue Christians claims to be working on some high-profile cases:

Less than two weeks ago on March 15th, Qamar David, 56 years old, was found dead in his prison cell… His wife and children are also been pursued by extremists – they are in hiding.

On September 2009, Fanish Robert was arrested, accused of throwing a Quran. Two days later he was found dead in police custody… His families have also received threats – they are in hiding.

…These are just the initial cases that our organization has been asked to support. These case histories come from our very reputable contacts in Pakistan.

Because of our background of having already rescued one family, the contacts are in place and we are ready to continue with our next rescue mission.

In May, Davies published an update on Rescue Christians’ work, introducing an unnamed “contact in Pakistan”:

…Currently there are about nine families which are associated with Rescue Christians.org (RC). We are trying to provide them Safe Houses,food, Visa’s and Transport. RC has observed that the victims of the blasphemy laws are usually killed in police custody, sometimes even in the court room as well as in Judicial custody.

Rashid Emmanuel , Sajid Emmanuel, Qamar David , Fanish Robert were all were murdered in police custody or in court rooms. Their families are till today hiding to save themselves from the Religious Zealots, which are trying to find them and kill them.

Qamar David’s family are regularly been threatened by the Islamic extremists, therefore they are kept in hiding by RC. Same in the Case of Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Emmanuel and Fanish Robert…

Rescue Christians is a new organisation. It is remarkable that it is already playing a central role in the aftermath of four especially high-profile cases, particularly given that three of the deaths occurred a while ago: Fanish Robert died in police custody in September 2009 in circumstances that the the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan described as “judicial murder”, while Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel were gunned down in court premises in July 2010 while on trial for blasphemy. Qamar David died in suspicious circumstances in prison in March this year, having been convicted in February 2010.

Of course, if Rescue Christians is “working with people on the ground”, it could be the case that activists who were already helping various families chose to become associated with Rescue Christians when the organisation was formed last month. But if so, how did this come about? Why choose to partner with someone like Shoebat, an absurd figure who purports to believe that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim working for al-Qaeda? Why not turn to an organisation such as Open Doors or Release International, which have a track-record in this area, rather than a man known only for anti-Muslim punditry?

And why is there no apparent liaison with groups such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide or International Christian Concern, which have both worked on the specific cases mentioned by Rescue Christians? All of these cases have received international attention, yet the involvement of Rescue Christians has apparently gone completely unnoticed.

It should also be possible to report more information about the threats against the families without compromising security. There are a few details in other sources: in the case of Robert, it was reported that following his death his family had left the village of Jethikey “for security reasons”, but that they had returned two weeks later. Regarding the Emmanuel brothers, some details about their family were provided by an Australian evangelist named Steve Cook: in an an email update sent to a blog just before their murders, he wrote that “Rashid and Sajid’s family is in hiding and moving from place to place,” and after their funeral that

Rashid and Sajid’s family are safe and there is astrong police presence in the Christian areas to prevent riots or further violence. However, they are concerned about what will happen once things settle down and the police presence is reduced or removed.

The killer was sentenced to death in April – a report about this here does not mention the brothers’ family’s current circumstances.

In the case of David, a family member quoted in this report “refused to give his name”, but there is no indication that the family is in hiding. The claim does not appear in a report by ASSIST Ministries, either, despite references to the family:

Andrew Johnston, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Advocacy Director, said, “We are shocked to hear this sad news and our thoughts and prayers are with Qamar David’s wife and children. The last nine years of this family’s life have been utterly ravaged by the consequences of a vindictive blasphemy accusation that would have very likely been dismissed by the High Court in time. It is yet another tragic example of lives needlessly destroyed by the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and the inability of the government, court system and prisons to prevent this. Given the threats known to be faced by blasphemy prisoners, it is imperative that the true cause of his death be investigated properly and independently.”

…Joseph Francis, National Director of the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), in Pakistan, told the ASSIST News Service, “Hopefully we will get the full details about his unexpected passing away and will up-date accordingly with the cause of Qamar’s death as the family is in contact with CLAAS.”

Of course, it’s possible that the continuing plight of the men’s families has simply been overlooked, but that seems rather strange given the wide interest in the situation.

UK Rosminian Head on Sex Abuse: “Morally Speaking Compensation would be Wrong”

…I will not be video-ed and edited for the programme, about Soni and Grace Dieu.

…I have decided to follow the advice given in the book of Lamentations: ‘It is good to wait in silence’ 3:16

So writes Father David Myers, Provincial Superior in the UK of the Rosminian Fathers (or Institute of Charity), concerning his decision not to participate in a documentary about clerical abuse that was broadcast on BBC television last night. St Michael’s School in Soni and Grace Dieu were two schools run by the order – the former in Tanganyika and the latter in Leicestershire – where children were terrorised by sadistic and paedophile priests forty to fifty years ago.

The documentary, Abused: Breaking the Silence (produced and presented by Olenka Frenkiel), explained that a group of victims contacted Myers in 2010 (although he had received at least one complaint prior to this, in 2007, according to a screenshot of a letter in the programme at 20:57); Myers arranged a meeting at St Etheldreda’s Church in London, and for the elderly abusive priests to write letters of contrition. Myers assured the victims that the priests concerned “are not allowed to represent themselves as priests in public”; that they had signed a document “stating that they are not priests in good standing”; that they would receive six-monthly visits from a child protection officer; and that local police had “been informed” and would perform “spot checks”. Other members of the order would also be informed. One of the guilty priests was Kit Cunningham, himself the former priest of St Etheldreda’s Church and a popular public figure; Cunningham quietly returned an MBE, asking for no publicity, several months before he died at the end of 2010.

However, Myers’ subsequent decisions all appear to have be the most convenient courses for action for himself and for the order: the order’s archives have been closed to public scrutiny, and he provided Kit Cunningham with a celebratory memorial service that buried the true facts about him and consolidated his public reputation. As well as the passive-aggressive response to the BBC’s request for an interview (“I will not be video-ed and edited”), Myers also chose to lecture the victims on the morality of their wish for compensation in a similar tone:

I have always acknowledged that in civil in civil law, you have a right to seek compensation. I would be blind not to. But it is another matter whether you have a moral right to so so. No-one has yet attempted to answer my question why innocent people today should be made to suffer by the wrongs done by somebody else in some cases. Until someone is able to give me a convincing moral argument on this point, I remain of the opinion that that morally speaking compensation would be wrong.

Myers’ choice of Biblical passage to take as guidance is of a piece with this general attitude. I’m sure we can all think of some more appropriate alternative verses.

(All quotes taken from screenshots in the programme)

Telegraph Dusts Off 1980s Right-Wing Newsletter to Attack Rowan Williams

At the weekend, the Daily Telegraph ran a lengthy non-story about Rowan Williams:

MI5 labelled the Archbishop of Canterbury a subversive over anti-Thatcher campaigns

When he launched a stinging attack on the Coalition government over policies “for which no one voted”, the Archbishop of Canterbury put himself squarely in the centre of a political storm.

Critics accused him of political bias, claiming it was a throwback to the days when his predecessors regularly clashed with past Conservative administrations.

But perhaps they should not be too surprised, as it can be revealed that the Archbishop has a long-standing left-wing political past.

The young Rowan Williams was once labelled ‘a subversive’ by a senior MI5 officer over his involvement with a group of Marxist, Trotskyite and socialist campaigners…

The group under discussion is the Jubilee Group; however, the Telegraph has hardly “revealed” the association – as the report goes to on acknowledge (much further down), Williams “edited a series of essays ‘Catholic and Radical’ for the group” with Kenneth Leech. The Jubilee Group is also discussed in sources such as Rupert Shortt’s biography of Williams.

Careful readers will also note the slight discrepancy between the headline “MI5 labelled” and the text’s “labeled… by a senior MI5 officer”. As the Telegraph goes on:

The Jubilee Group was identified as a “problem” neo-Marxist organisation in confidential intelligence documents drawn up by MI5 officer Charles Elwell.

…Mr Elwell, who died in 2008, spent much of his career investigating left of centre politicians, charity workers and trade unionists, first in MI5’s now defunct counter-subversion F branch and then privately for the shadowy Institute for the Study of Conflict, which was allegedly part funded by the CIA and MI6.

He delivered his warning warned about Dr Williams’ group in 1989 in the privately-funded British Briefing, a newsletter circulated to a secret list of politicians, including Baroness Thatcher, and selected journalists… Its contents were believed to have been approved at a high level in the Security Service.

However, according to Elwell’s obituary in the Times, that supposed “approval” did not in fact not come from MI5:

After his retirement from MI5 in 1979, he joined the Institute for the Study of Conflict, where he wrote and researched on subversion, producing regular briefing bulletins. In 1983 he published Tracts Beyond the Times – a Brief Guide to the Communist and Revolutionary Marxist Press. His former employers at MI5 regarded his views on the threat posed by subversion as exaggerated, which was a source of frustration for him.

The Guardian adds:

MI5 declined Elwell’s suggestion that it should be the custodian of British Briefing’s archive when it stopped in 1990.

The Telegraph explains that

Details of confidential briefing from Mr Elwell, nicknamed the ‘MI5’s Witchfinder General’, were uncovered by a Canadian PhD student researching Rowan williams and the Church’s left-wing traditions.

Given that this is the hook on which the whole story hangs, why not give the “Canadian PhD student” proper credit? Could it be, perhaps, that this is in fact old information which is only being used now for David Cameron’s benefit? Or that there’s some extra context that the Telegraph‘s hacks don’t want us looking into?

The Telegraph also notes that alongside the alleged CIA and MI6 links:

The Briefings were also funded by David Hart, an adviser to Baroness Thatcher and to National Coal Board boss Ian MacGregor during the miners’ strike in 1984. Hart, who died earlier this year, founded the Committee for a Free Britain, a right wing pressure group.

British Briefing wasn’t just “funded” by Hart; he actually oversaw its publication on Elwell’s behalf. Hart also ran a companion newsletter, World Briefing, which was overseen by an ex-CIA agent named Herb Mayer.

One person who worked on these titles for Hart in the late 1980s was was none other than Paul Staines, now better-known as the on-line smear-merchant “Guido Fawkes”. An interview with Staines in Altered State: The Story of Ecstasy Culture and Acid House by Matthew Collin and John Godfrey (page 105) has further details:

“…I used to think that World Briefing was a bit funny. The only scary thing about those publications was the mailing list – people like George Bush – and the fact that Hart would talk to the head of British Intelligence for an hour. I used to think it was us having a laugh, putting some loony right-wing stuff in, and that somebody somewhere was taking it seriously. You’ve got to understand that we had a sense of humour about this.

“…[Hart is] completely charming and can charm senior people like Thatcher and appear sane for a while. But any close proximity to him for a prolonged period of time, you know he’s completely off his fucking head.”

(Hat tip: Andrew Brown)