Nadine Dorries MP Reports Twitter-User to Police for “Libel”

Back in August, Nadine Dorries MP made the following statement in the Daily Mail:

One particularly obsessive man recently followed me round with a camera, whipped up online hysteria against me and eventually had to accept a police caution for harassment.

As I’ve blogged previously, the background to this claim was Tim Ireland’s invited presence to film a hustings event in Flitwick in 2010. Dorries complained to the police, and Tim subsequently spoke with the police at length voluntarily to explain the situation. Because Tim spoke to the police formally, the interview took place “under caution”. This meant that Tim’s statements could be regarded as evidence. However, there was no “police caution”, which would mean that police have judged a criminal infraction to have taken place. Dorries has elsewhere been more careful to use the “under caution” phrase, but in the above she is clearly misleading the public about the outcome of a police investigation.

Someone reminded her of this today on Twitter. Here’s the exchange:

@mrhazzers @NadineDorriesMP It’s difficult to take you seriously when you mislead about police investigations. #70%fiction

@nadinedorriesmp @mrhazzers That is libelous and an outright lie. My staff have taken a screen shot and reported your tweet to the police.

Mrhazzer’s “70%fiction” hashtag, of course, refers to Dorries’ infamous admission that her blog was “70 per cent fiction” after details published on her site put some of her expenses into question.

Her complaint against mrhazzers is nonsense: Dorries certainly misled the public about the police and Tim Ireland, and it’s not libellous to say so. And it’s certainly not a police matter either way.

Mrhazzers now joins a list of individuals whom Dorries has reported to the police. Alongside Tim, here are three others:

– Mrs Humphrey Cushion: “Mrs Cushion” is a constituent who has criticised Dorries on Twitter and on her blog. Last year, she was on sick leave from her carer job awaiting operations on her feet for arthritis – Dorries (helped by Paul Staines) tried to smear her as a benefits cheat, and Dorries’ bogus harassment complaint led to a visit from the police. Again, no further action was taken, but the police visit frightened her children, and it took place while she was in pain and lying in bed recuperating from the operations.

– Chris Paul: Paul is a Labour blogger whom Dorries accused of hanging “around outside” her house due to “sexual” interest. In fact, there was no evidence of either.

– Linda Jack: Jack had the temerity to stand against Dorries for the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 General Election, and Dorries accused her of being part of a “group” opposed to her.

Paula White “Does Not Endorse” Ralph Messer “In Any Way”

(Updated – thanks to commentators below for highlighting relevant YouTube video)

Paula White’s lawyer on White being wrapped in a Torah scroll by Ralph Messer: “My client categorically and unequivocally denies that that ever happened”

Paula White on Rabbi Ralph Messer, 2009 (or perhaps earlier):

With me today is my very special guest. He is no stranger to many of you. He is a man of God that God has gifted to this generation: Rabbi Ralph Messer. He’s an internationally acclaimed Bible teacher, conference speaker from Denver, Colorado. For over 27 years he has taught the Hebrew Roots of faith to thousands all across the United States and internationally. He’s a pioneer in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Torah to all the nations of the earth. Please welcome Rabbi Messer to Paula Today.

Paula White on Rabbi Ralph Messer, 2012:

…In the past, Pastor Paula has interviewed Rabbi Messer on her television show. However, to be clear, Rabbi Messer has not been invited to participate in any service of New Destiny Christian Center or any other service with Pastor White. She has no ties or affiliation with him. She does not endorse him in any way, and she will not be participating in any events with him. Any suggestion to the contrary is totally false.

White’s announcement follows a story in the Florida Courier that Messer (background here) was planning to “enthrone” White as a “queen”, just as he recently enthroned Bishop Eddie Long by wrapping him in a Torah scroll that had supposedly been rescued from Auschwitz. That incident – during which Messer made a number of bizarre statements about the supposed meaning and symbolism of the Torah to Jews – went viral, provoking widespread comment ranging from disgust to mockery.

The Florida Courier’s evidence for its bandwagon-jumping scoop was non-existent, although readers were assured that Orlando was “abuzz with word” about an upcoming White enthronement. However, the paper now cites a claim that such a ceremony has already taken place:

On Friday, Orlando’s WEUS-AM 860 aired a live episode of “The Don Miller Show” that harshly criticized both Long and Messer. Featured guests on the show [included] Rabbi Ira Michaelson of the Beth Tefillah congregation in Clermont, just outside of Orlando.

…Michaelson said, “He actually already did this to Paula White some years ago…this was after she was divorced from Randy White and before the scandal with Benny Henn [sic] came out. He took her and rapped [sic] her in a scroll and said the same thing – ‘She’s wrapped in the Word of God.'”

…When asked directly about whether Michaelson’s charge was true, [Daniel] Beirute, Paula White’s attorney, wrote to the Florida Courier, “I don’t know where Rabbi Michaelson gets his information, but my client categorically and unequivocally denies that that ever happened.”

I originally suspected that Michaelson’s “information” was a garbled account of an appearance which Messer made with White’s ex-husband Randy in 2007. This was just after the Whites announced their intention to divorce; according to Tampa Bay Online

Messer hugged [Randy] White, telling him, “I love you. I love you so much.” White, a prayer shawl draped over his shoulders, stood clutching a Torah scroll, head bowed, with a pained expression on his face.

However, as seen in the photo above, Michaelson’s account is in fact quite correct.

UPDATE: Eddie Long is also backing away from Messer; the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

Bishop Eddie Long has apologized for last Sunday’s service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church that drew the ire of Jewish groups and religious scholars.

“The ceremony was not my suggestion, nor was it my intent, to participate in any ritual that is offensive in any manner to the Jewish community,” Long wrote in a letter sent Saturday to Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

…Long “[denounced] any action that depicts me as a king, for I am merely just a servant of the  Lord.”

Some Notes on Rabbi Ralph Messer

The recent “enthronement” of Bishop Eddie Long by “Hebrew Roots” Rabbi Ralph Messer continues to garner journalistic fascination. The Florida Courier reports:

Orlando, Fla. is abuzz with word that Rabbi Ralph Messer is allegedly coming to New Destiny Christian Center, founded by the late Zachery Tims, to make Paula White a ‘queen’ during a Super Bowl Sunday service.

No evidence is forthcoming, but Messer is certainly known to Paula White and her ex-husband Randy – in 2007, Messer was on hand with his Torah scroll when Randy White returned to the pulpit of Without Walls International Church following the divorce announcement. On that occasion, though, White merely “clutched” a Torah scroll (according to Tampa Bay Online) – unlike Eddie Long, he wasn’t wrapped in it. There is a popular trend towards the use of Jewish devotional items in evangelical Christian worship, as I discussed here.

Messer’s links to the Whites show that Messer is more than a marginal figure, despite his eccentric religious teachings. In his presentation at Long’s church, Messer made a number of bizarre assertions that owe little to either Judaism, Christianity, or science: these have been systematically debunked by Wil Gafney, and include the claim that a Torah scroll is kept hidden from view and that only one with “great authority” is allowed to touch it; that the scroll’s cover is known as its “foreskin”; that scrolls are only given to cities “in need of anointing”; and that DNA chromosomes look like Hebrew letters. Clearly, Messer’s religion is centred around the notion that a Torah scroll  is essentially a fetish object, imbued with magical and phallic power.

However, these strange beliefs have not isolated Messer from larger religious currents: rather, he has carved an exotic niche for himself. According to his Simchat Torah Beit Midrash (STBM) website:

For more than 30 years, Rabbi Messer has facilitated inter-faith discussions between denominations, cultures, and various groups, across the country, and internationally as a popular keynote conference speaker and minister. In addition, Rabbi Messer is a frequent host on cable/satellite networks such as Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), God’s Learning Channel (GLC), and Daystar Television Network. 

Other versions of this blurb reference particular evangelists:

…STBM has ties with other international ministers including Rev. Kenneth Copeland, Pastor Paula White, and Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Messer also has links with churches in the Caribbean,and an advert posted by Messer’s organisation to Youtube urges Jamaicans to “Learn more about your Hebrew Roots”. However, this is not some kind of Black Israelite theology – these Hebrew Roots are “something greater than bloodlines”, and come from a proper understanding the Torah. This will lead to personal empowerment prosperity, “thriving and becoming the true kings and priests of this kingdom on the earth”.

Messer’s Torah-wrapping antic with Eddie Long caused particular offence because of his claims about the scroll’s provenance – he asserted that it had been rescued from Auschwitz-Birkenau (or “Auschwitz-Burkendau”, according to his pronunciation), having been thrown from one of the transport trains by Jews as they were being led in. Messer claims to “collect” such scrolls, which he  says are too valuable to be insured – a video here shows him presenting another scroll, also supposedly rescued in the same way, to Bishop Keith Butler of Word of Faith International Christian Center. According to a comment on another site:

was there when they gave him the SCROLLS. The last time I was there theey were kept in a secure case in the lobby.

The Florida Courier article carries a quote from Keith Johnson; Johnson (formerly NFL Minnesota Viking chaplain) is a United Methodist pastor who also has a interest in the Hebraic origins of Christianity, but he is scathing of Messer and of his associations with black Christians:

“Ralph Messer has been exploiting African-Americans and making a mockery of the Hebrew roots of the faith for years…” 

“For the past ten years, I have seen Messer continue to throw around Hebrew terms he does not fully understand and misuse holy objects such as Torah Scrolls to manipulate people and bring them under his authority as a “rabbi” and a supposed ‘representative of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.'”

Johnson also accuses Messer of dishonesty, after charging a friend for Hebrew lessons that never materialised:

“I then challenged Messer to read from my Hebrew Bible and he responded by making excuses for an hour about why it was ‘dangerous’ to learn the language. I continued to insist he read from my Bible in Hebrew and with great effort, Messer managed to slowly sound out the first verse of the Bible one syllable at a time. It was obvious to everyone present that Messer did not possess the knowledge to read the Hebrew language let alone to teach it.”

Messer’s website biography gives no indication of his personal background or of how he came to be a “rabbi”. However, some purported details can be gleaned from hostile religious websites. A certain Kathryn Kern presents a convoluted backstory about a dispute within the wider “Hebrew Roots” movement, which includes the following detail:

Also, the situation of the conversions of Michael and Joyce Detwiler, their sons, Boaz and his wife, and Ralph Messer and his wife, was told to me, directly by the man that gave them their conversions, Nathan Lerer.

That a Christian would feel the need to be “converted” by Rabbi may seem rather unorthodox; however, according to Kern:

None that were converted had to deny Jesus/Yeshua/Yehoshua/Yahushua/etc., directly, since Lerer never asked.

Lerer was the subject of several critical articles in the Intermountain Jewish News in the 1990s. A later story from 1999 which references these articles has been reposted elsewhere:

Nathan and Temima Feldman came to Denver’s Orthodox Jewish community, a youthful couple professing a search for deeper, more meaningful Judaism.

…Feldman says the desire of he and his wife to become authentic Jews came despite the fact that his wife’s father, Danny Miller, leads the Congregation of the Living G-d, which, like all Messianic or Hebrew-Christian groups, is based on belief in the divinity of Jesus.

…They went through what they believed was a formal conversion to Judaism under the auspices of a man who had served as a consultant to the Congregation of the Living G-d, Nathan Lerer, Feldman says… In 1991 and 1992, the IJN ran two long investigative articles on Lerer (“Temple New Israel,” Jan. 4, 1991; “Temple New Israel includes ‘Beth Messiah,’” March 13, 1992). These investigations revealed that conversions performed by Lerer — formerly the leader of the Conservative congregation Mt. Sinai in Cheyenne and the Messianic Temple New Israel in Denver — were not recognized by Israeli or American rabbinical authorities.

The IJN also revealed that Lerer’s own ordination to the rabbinate was suspect. 

It should be noted that the IJN takes a polemical tone against alleged “missionaries”, and the claim that Lerer’s ordination was “suspect” leaves the matter dangling.

Lerer died in 2002, and his father in 2004. The IJN carried an obituary of his father:

Rabbi Samuel Lerer, who some say converted more people to Judaism than anyone in the past two centuries, has died at age 89.

…The Conservative rabbi reached out to Mexicans who believed they were descended from Spanish Jews forced to convert to Catholicism during the Inquisition.

….The rabbi’s son, Nathan Lerer, who became a familiar face and name in Colorado and Wyoming, had a similar penchant for conversion but in a considerably more controversial sense. The younger Lerer, who passed away in 2002, was accused by the regional Jewish community of improperly mixing Judaism and Christianity in his congregations and in the way he conducted conversions. He was also charged with claiming rabbinical credentials under false pretenses.

Eddie Long Declared “King” in Hebrew Roots Torah Scroll Ceremony

This one has been widely reported – from the Christian Post:

A 14-minute video clip showing Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church being crowned by Rabbi Ralph Messer during one of the church’s televised services has gone viral, with members of the Christian community expressing complete confusion over the video.

….Messer offered Long on air what he claimed was a 312-year-old priceless Hebrew scroll saved from the Auschwitz death camp after World War II. He then wrapped the New Birth minister in it as mood-enhancing music played in the background, and called for Long to be lifted up on a chair, similar to a throne. While Long was being carried across the podium, Messer spoke of biblical kingship, which Long was supposed to represent.

…New Birth’s charismatic preacher has battled accusations of sexual misconduct and financial shenanigans. In December, Long’s wife, Vanessa, filed for a divorce, which led the bishop to announce that he was stepping down for a brief time to focus on his family.

I blogged on the allegations against Long (who once declared that “the job of the preacher is to bring fresh sperm!”) here and here.

Messer’s own organisation is called Simchat Torah Beit Midrash (STBM), and he is an adherent of “Hebrew Roots” theology. “Hebrew Roots” theology is distinct from Messianic Judaism; from the AP:

Rabbi David Shiff of Congregation Beth Hallel, a Messianic Jewish synagogue in Roswell, condemned the actions in the video.

“Ralph Messer in no way represents Messianic Judaism,” Shiff said. “He is not affiliated with any legitimate branch of Messianic Judaism. His actions in no way reflect the position of Messianic Judaism. I found the presentation to be repulsive and inappropriate.”

(Another “Hebrew Roots” adherent is Jim Barfield, a former fire investigator from Oklahoma who received some attention in 2009 after he claimed to worked out the burial place of the treasure from the First Temple in Jerusalem; see here)

This is not the first time Messer and his scroll have come to the rescue of a beleaguered evangelist; in 2007 Tampa Bay Online reported from Randy White’s Without Walls International Church, following White’s split from church co-founder Paula White:

[Randy] White preached for a few minutes before turning over the pulpit to Ralph Messer, a Messianic rabbi from Denver who teaches about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith.

Messer preached about the Torah and Jewish entrepreneurship and spoke again at the 11 a.m. service, where he led the congregation in a prayer that ended emotionally for White.

“I declare today that my bishop has entered into a new season, a new season, a new season,” Messer intoned, prompting White’s followers. “Now, give him glory. Praise God.”

As emotions in the sanctuary reached a high point, Messer hugged White, telling him, “I love you. I love you so much.” White, a prayer shawl draped over his shoulders, stood clutching a Torah scroll, head bowed, with a pained expression on his face.

Alas, the “new season” was decidedly wintry – within two years the church was facing foreclosure and Randy had stepped down due to “stress”. His ex-wife Paula then returned to the pulpit.

UPDATE: At her blog (and at the Huffington Post), Rev. Dr Wil Gafney, Associate Professor of Biblical Hebrew and Jewish and Christian Scripture at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, has a comprehensive 27-point debunking of the various claims made by Messer at Long’s church. Her corrections include the following:

The Torah cover is not a “foreskin.”

Boykin Withdraws from West Point Event, Warns Against “Leadership of the Country”

From OneNewsNow:

A retired Army general and terrorism expert says he decided it was in the best interest of all parties involved to voluntarily withdraw from speaking at an upcoming prayer breakfast at the U.S. Military Academy.

…In an interview Tuesday morning, Boykin told OneNewsNow that the pressure on the Academy regarding his scheduled participation in the prayer breakfast was overpowering.

“It became very obvious that the stress on West Point was getting out of control to the point that was being a distraction for them,” says Boykin. “And I withdrew from the event, realizing that it had become so overpowering for them that quite frankly they couldn’t deal with the continued pressure from these organizations … so I withdrew.”

Boykin, who is both a retired general and a neo-Pentecostal minister, is primarily controversial for statements regarding his military career, which he apparently saw in terms of spiritual warfare against Islam; more recently, he’s called for all mosques to be banned in the USA. He is also a conspiracy monger, warning against Obama’s “Health Care Brownshirts” and the machinations of George Soros. In 2010, he co-signed a letter warning about Muslims taking over the world:

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?

…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. 

That letter was sent to supporters by email as a fund-raiser for “the Knights of Malta – the Ecumenical Order”; this is a chivalric order of which Boykin is “Grand Chancellor” (more here).

There was a similar controversy a few days ago when Boykin spoke at the Ocean City Prayer Breakfast, although he took that opportunity to present an apparently more moderate message.

OneNewsNow is not the only Christian Right media outlet which Boykin has since spoken to since pulling out of the West Point event; he also appeared on Bryan Fischer’s radio show. Right Wing Watch has a transcript of Boykin’s statement:

First of all remember one of the tenets of our form of government is civilian control of the military, so a lot of what you see coming out of the military in terms of policies and procedures are because of the influence of the administration. I don’t think there is any question that the administration has shown favor to Islam at the same time that they have denigrated both Christianity and Judaism, for example, having an Eid dinner in the White House in the same week that they would not have an event for the National Day of Prayer. So I think that the military reflects the leadership of the country…. It’s a bad situation now that we are seeing so much effort to not only destroy the identity of the roots of the nation which is the Judeo-Christian base upon which were founded, but also the growing influence of Islam.

This isn’t anything much more than bluster: Boykin’s difficulties are caused not by “the administration”; rather, they are due to the  fact that when an individual engages in public controversy, other groups may find that offering a platform or entering into an association is itself a controversial decision best avoided. Sometimes this is unfair, but in other instances perfectly reasonable.

And as for the White House denigrating “both Christianity and Judaism” – if that is the case, why is Christmas at the White House recognised by carol singing and the lighting of a tree, and why is there is now even a White House Seder?