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

    Previously at:

    Email me
    (Non-commercial only)

  • Archives

  • Twitter

  • Supporting

  • Recent comments

Larry Jacobs on the WCF: “We’ve Never Said we’re Against Anything”

The Deseret News reports on a planning meeting for next year’s World Congress of Families event in Utah:

The managing director of the World Congress of Families said the group has no animosity toward anyone but simply wants to affirm and defend the natural family.

“We’ve always focused on the positive,” Larry Jacobs told the Deseret News. “We’ve never said we’re against anything. Our focus is about why the natural family is better for society.

“We never go in with an agenda of, ‘We’re against this.’ It’s always about what we’re for, which is beauty, goodness and truth, and the natural family is where those start.”

That would be same Larry Jacobs who is infamous for his support for authoritarian anti-gay measures in Russia. Here he is in 2013, expounding on his theme with “End Times” conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles:

Jacobs: The Russians might be the Christian saviors to the world; at the UN they really are the ones standing up for these traditional values of family and faith.

Wiles: Well look the city government of Moscow passed a 100 year ban on gay parades.

Jacobs: And the homosexual propaganda—the law in the Russian Duma it passed on first reading, it would ban propaganda to minors, preventing them from corrupting children. What a great idea and the rest of Europe is going the other way, legalizing LGBT propaganda.

How could anyone have formed the impression that Jacobs not in fact “always focused on the positive”?

The Deseret News also has a quote from the CEO of the Utah-based Sutherland Institute, which will be hosting next year’s meeting:

Acting Sutherland CEO Stanford Swim said the planning and the efforts of the World Congress of Families is “about as important a work as is being done anywhere.”

Swim took charge of the Sutherland Institute after “different visions” led to the departure of Paul Mero in August; Mero previously co-wrote The Natural Family: A Manifesto, with the WCF’s founder, Allan C. Carlson. Stanford is the son of the late Gaylord Swim, who founded the Institute, and he is the President of the GFC Foundation (“serving God, Family, and Country”), which provides grants to the Sutherland Institute. SourceWatch has some further background here, noting links to the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity; there’s also a rather more positive profile at Philanthropy Roundtable.

The WCF’s plan to meet in Utah has generated some controversy.

Abuse of Children Accused of Witchcraft in UK Cited in USA as Evidence of Witchcraft

From Jennifer LeClaire, news editor at Charisma News:

It started a little later than usual, but spiritual witchcraft is rising—and rising rapidly—in South Florida this October. My community is home to a large population of witches, pagans, Wiccans and other heathens who practice one form of witchcraft or another. Your community may not have palm trees and beaches, but it’s likely got a few witches, pagans, Wiccans and heathens practicing witchcraft.

A quick scan of the latest news reveals that reports of witchcraft-related child abuse are on the rise in London; two children were tortured and dumped on the streets over witchcraft in Akwa Ibom; a pastor who runs several churches in Kiambu and Meru was found practicing witchcraft; authorities have tied Texas drug smugglers to witchcraft, cartels and a house explosion; and seven people accused of witchcraft were burned to death in Tanzania.

It’s shame that LeClaire’s “quick scan” apparently didn’t involve any actual absorption of content, since  several of those articles are actually salutary warnings against the kind of scaremongering that she’s promoting.

Anyone who simply takes LeClaire at her word will come away from the article believing that witches are abusing children in London and Nigeria, when in fact what’s actually going on is that children are being abused and abandoned after being falsely accused of witchcraft. Further, many of these accusations are the result of teachings that have gained ground within African churches (most famously in Nigeria through the “ministry” of Helen Ukpabio). LeClaire would be better employed dealing with this urgent problem among her co-religionists, rather than attempting to whip up suspicion against harmless Wiccans in South Florida.

However, it is possible that LeClaire has been misled by some regrettably confusing headlines in the UK media. These include “Rise in cases of ritual child abuse linked to witchcraft beliefs reported, say police” (the PA); “Witchcraft and ritual child abuse cases rise in London” (the BBC); and “Ritual child abuse linked to witchcraft on the rise in the UK” (the Daily Mail).

Such headlines are accurate, insofar as children are indeed being subjected to abusive “deliverance” rites to supposedly “cure” them of witchcraft; but a casual and uninformed reader will assume that such statements in fact refer to rituals that are being performed by witches. Among LeClaire’s core readership, this in turn risks resurrecting the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” panic of the 1980s that caused so much needless suffering.

But even if we allow an honest mistake here, what about her example from Tanzania? According to the source she cites (an AFP report):

A local rights group, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), has estimated as many as 500 “witches” are lynched every year, based on reports that counted some 3,000 people killed between 2005 and 2011.

Many of those killed were elderly women, the centre said.

The rights group said some are targeted because they have red eyes — seen as a feared sign of witchcraft, even if they in fact that is the result from the use of dung as cooking fuel in impoverished communities.

It’s grotesque that LeClaire would promote news of these deaths, not as a warning that witchcraft accusations are an absolute bane, but as evidence that “Your community… [has] likely got a few witches, pagans, Wiccans and heathens practicing witchcraft.”

No, 4-Year-Olds in Canada Are Not Being Taught “How to Behead”

A lurid headline at WND:

Canada Mosque Teaches 4-Year-Olds How To Behead

The obvious implication is that very young children are being recruited to perform what has now become the most notorious killing method of Jihadi fanatics in Syria and Iraq. As WND hack Chelsea Schilling explains:

Video footage of the Islamic Jaffari Center in Thornhill, Ontario, shows children as young as 4 years old watching and learning to conduct beheadings in a play that reportedly took place two years ago.

The video was featured on the Canada’s Sun News Network television program, “Byline with Brian Lilley.”

…News of the mock beheading comes only a week after a Muslim convert beheaded a woman at an Oklahoma company.


Toronto Sun columnist and liberal activist Tarek Fatah, author of “The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism,” explained that the play depicts the martyrdom of Muhammad’s grandson and brother.

In other words, the character carrying out the beheadings is the villain of the story. And it’s clear from the video that the child actor has not in fact learnt “to conduct beheadings”: he stands poised next to the victim with a toy sword or stick, but the act itself is not depicted. This makes as much sense as saying that children playing Roman soldiers in a Passion Play have been taught how to nail someone to a piece of wood.

Fatah knows that the report’s premise is nonsense, but he doesn’t want to disoblige his conservative interviewer. As a compromise, he instead focuses on the general sanguinary nature of the subject matter:

Fatah said he doesn’t believe the parents and teachers at the Islamic Jaffari Center were “trying to make the kids into radicals.”

“After all, these are the victims of radicals,” he said. “Most Shiite Muslims today are being slaughtered by fellow Muslims. So that context has to be there. This was not some ISIS or al-Qaida or Taliban type of people”

Lilly interrupted, “They are acting out history. But you can see from Canadian eyes, though, why you look at this and go, this is strange, especially considering the history of this mosque.”

Fatah replied, “I know. I think – how do I put it most kindly? – I think somebody needs to talk to them and try to make them understand that celebrating death, no matter of whom [sic], is a bizarre experience. It desensitizes bloodshed among kids.”

That’s a valid opener for a debate – but it doesn’t support the headline’s claim. And the problem of “desensitization” is actually more in evidence in comments below the article:

 I suggest we take thousands of pigs and infect them with the Ebola virus and send them to all the muslim communities of the world and some goats too. They like goats and sheep, espescially the males. Hopefully the virus will spread throughout the muslim world. It’s the only way to get rid of them.


Chinese “Angel” Used To Promote Nigerian Witch Hysteria

Nigerian sceptic Leo Igwe has drawn attention to a Facebook post by a certain Pastor I.C. Ezeugwu, in which Ezeugwu describes an event he held in “a remote village in Edo State”:

I titled the crusade “Operation Kill the Witches”. This title was necessitated as a result of the activities of witches in that village which included destroying the destinies of young people.

…Ladies and gentlemen, JESUS rules the world. By the anointing of God upon my life and by the power in the Blood of Jesus, I release your destinies and your glory, and I command any hand holding your progress and advancement in life to wither in the name of Jesus. Any witches/wizards and any wicked uncle/aunties, any man/woman holding your destiny and glory, let the fire from heaven consume and destroy them one after the other in the mighty name of Jesus.

The post is dated from August 2013, although it continues to garner “Amen” comments. As of today, the post has 9,631 “Likes” and 3,775 “Shares”

Ezeugwu’s post is illustrated with a photo of what appears to be a dead human figure with wings; presumably, this is supposed “evidence” of the existence of witches:

Angel I.C. Ezeugwu

That’s not an image I have seen before, although apparently it’s been doing the rounds for a while; in May 2013, Pulse234 published it under the heading: “PHOTO: Witch Woman With Wings: Real or Fake?

It  in fact shows an art piece called Angel. It was created in 2008 by two Chinese artists, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu. The photo was taken while the model was on display at the Saatchi Gallery in London. It’s a “life size sculpture in fibre-reinforced polymer and silica gel”.