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

    Previously at:
    blogs.salon.com/0003494
    barthsnotes.wordpress.com

    Email me
    (Non-commercial only)

  • Archives

  • Twitter

  • Supporting

  • Recent comments

US Faith Healer Says He Raised Man From the Dead in Northern England

From Charisma:

[Robby] Dawkins, author of Do What Jesus Did: A Real-Life Field Guide to Healing the Sick, Routing Demons and Changing Lives Forever, saw a resurrection from the dead at his April meeting in Northern England. In fact, he was leading the prayer.

The drama started just as he announced the title of his message. That’s when congregant Matt Catlow’s face contorted. His hands withered up and he starting twitching. Sitting next to him, Catlow’s mother started screaming for an ambulance.

…It looked hopeless as Catlow’s pupils become fixed and dilated. According to Dawkins, he heard the death rattle—the sound a dying person makes when fluids accumulate in the throat and upper chest—and then it stopped. Dawkins says the doctor was checking his pulse while he had his hand on the man’s heart. The mother screamed out: “He’s dead. He’s dead.” The doctor confirmed no pulse.

“As I continued to pray I began to bind the spirit of death and say, ‘You can’t have him!’ I began to declare the resurrection life of Jesus Christ over him. People were beginning to get a bit restless but then I could hear his breathing start to recover and his color started to return,” Dawkins says. “His lips that were purplish black started to get less dark. His eyes stopped being fixed and dilated and started to move. We rolled him onto his side at that point to allow his tongue to fall forward, but he was starting to come round.”

Dawkins is from Aurora in Illinois, and he is a pastor with the Vineyard network of “Third Wave” neo-Pentecostal churches. His ministry is endorsed by Bill Johnson, a leading figure in neo-Pentecostalism, and his book is published by Chosen Books, an imprint of Baker Publishing.

The story of Catlow’s “resurrection” has been doing the rounds for a few weeks, but a the puff-piece from Charisma has brought to wider attention. On Facebook, Dawkins boasts (and that’s not too strong a word):

So the Charisma article on the resurrection in England has official gone viral on Social media. 43,000 shares (FB alone has 24,000 likes) since it came out 24 hrs ago. My book Do What Jesus Did shot to number one in 3 best sellers categories. It’s at Number on in Evangelism.

I’ve had cessationist and atheists send messages of unbelief and hate. So everyone knows I have a full Dr.’s Report of that night in my possession (but because of threats the Dr. Received, I took it down from social media). But far out weighing that are people feeling empowered to raise the dead. Thank you Jesus!

On Twitter, Dawkins has also thanked a publicist at Chosen Books for bringing the story to Charisma.

It’s unclear what the doctor’s role could have been; clearly, he would been able to provide only a very informal assessment at the time, so one wonders about the nature of the “full Dr.’s Report”. But by invoking “cessationist[s] and atheists”, it seems that Dawkins wants to focus on the philosophical argument over whether such a story might be true, rather than the actual evidence of what occurred at the church on the night in question.

An alternative account, also on Facebook, has been posted by someone who says that she is Catlow’s sister; although her name is not given, the page includes a photo of Catlow with what appear to be family members:

…Although i wasn’t there at the meeting, my mother and many extended family and friends were. We come from a Christian background, my father is married to a pastor and the family attends church regularly….

Matthew had a stroke about a year ago….

Regarding the ‘death’… what Robby is telling everyone is not true. It has since been MEDICALLY proven that Matthew had suffered an epileptic seizure which often can display similar signs of someone dying. TWO nurse family friends of ours both had their hands on Matthew throughout and not once lost his pulse. So no, Matthew did not die…

The author also says that the pastor of the church (Inglewhite Congregational Church) has since “apologized to his congregation for allowing Robby into their church”, and so has the doctor for his part. For some reason, the Charisma report declines to mention the name of the church.

 

Libertarian Accuses Critical Blogger of Causing “Alarm and Distress”

Over at Zelo Street, Tim Fenton (recently profiled by the Guardian) reveals details of a nastygram from Griffin Law, sent on behalf of free-speech “libertarian” and commentator Harry Cole:

We are instructed by Harry Cole… We refer to various untrue, defamatory and malicious statements made by you about our client online that have caused and continue to cause our client to suffer damage to his reputation such that those statements amount to actionable libels and malicious falsehoods. As those statements include statements of fact as to criminal wrongdoing on the part of our client, those libels are actionable per se. This gives rise to a claim in damages and a right to interim injunctive relief against you.

Moreover, your course of conduct with regard to our client is manifestly contrary to the provisions contained in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. You have unreasonably and wantonly caused and continue to cause our client to suffer from considerable alarm and distress. This also gives rise to a claim in damages and a right to interim injunctive relief as against you.

The libel angle here is nothing new – Paul Staines and his associates have been using Griffin Law to send out such threats for years, while simultaneously striking a free speech pose and railing against the spectre press regulation. Staines, who is Cole’s boss, justifies the hypocrisy by explaining that his reputation is his property. However, the complaint of “harassment” appears to a new strategy.

First, as regards the alleged libel. Although the letter refers to “various untrue, defamatory and malicious statements”, the missive focuses on one particular item: that at the start of March Tim had posted a photograph that appeared to show that Cole had illegally killed a swan with a hunting rifle. It turned out that the photo had in fact been mocked up by a parody site, and so Tim withdrew the post and his commentary on the subject. As Tim now shows in his new post, Cole and Staines had themselves linked to and promoted the parody photo, and at the time seemed to think that it was all a bit of a laugh.

And second, as regards the supposed harassment: I do not for a moment believe that Cole has experienced “alarm and distress” by anything that Tim has written. Tim’s regular jibes and debunkings may have prompted annoyance, and perhaps even anger, but there is nothing on Zelo Street that comes close to the vicious smears and creepy intrusion that are the regular stock-in-trade of Staines’ operation.

However, vexatious complaints of harassment do have advantages over libel threats: bringing a libel action remains extremely expensive, and victory does not always mean vindication as regards public opinion; by contrast, filing a civil claim for harassment is much cheaper, and the accusation carries a stigma of unreasonable behaviour. Alternatively, one can make a complaint to police, which is free, and then cite the resulting police procedure as spurious evidence of criminality (examples of this practice here and here).

It seems to me that a reasonable person in command of the facts as they relate to a particular case will be able to make a sensible judgement about whether a particular behaviour crosses the line. One example of actual harassment might be, say, sending someone anonymous bullying letters as a way to inform them that you know where they live. Tim has received several of these, posted from EC1 in London and sent in the name of a mysterious “Blog Complaints Commission”. The letters refer to posts concerning Staines and his associates, and the name reflects a phrase that Staines used as far back as 2010.

Wiltshire Police Withdraws Misleading Webpage on Police Information Notices

From the “Your Journey to Justice” section of the website of Wiltshire Police, as of March 2015:

Harassment Information Notice

This is a written notice showing who the offender has been harassing and how. The piece of paper with the information on has to be signed by the accused person to say they have been harassing someone.

It is explained to them that continued harassment will lead to a criminal investigation.

If someone does not follow the harassment information notice, a statement would be taken from you and the police would investigate, which may result in an arrest.

[Screenshot here; also Google cache here]

This rather alarmingly oppressive and ignorant notice has now been removed, following a complaint by me to the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police. Here is what I wrote:

Dear Sir

I write to draw your attention to a serious misrepresentation of the law on the Wiltshire police website, concerning the “Harassment Information Notice” (also known as “Police Information Notices” [PINs]). If your officers have been using this information as the basis for operational decisions, I believe they have been acting unlawfully.

> This is a written notice showing who the offender has been harassing and how.

No it isn’t. It’s a record of a complaint. Also, given that at this stage no investigation has occurred, let alone a conviction, it is inappropriate to refer to “the offender”.

>The piece of paper with the information on has to be signed by the accused person to say they have been harassing someone.

No it doesn’t. A person who receives a notice may choose to sign it to indicate that they understand its contents. If your officers have been telling people that it “has to be signed”, then they have been engaging in oppressive conduct. And if signatures are being used as confessions, your officers are taking evidence without reading suspects their rights. This is a very serious matter.

>It is explained to them that continued harassment will lead to a criminal investigation.

This shows that police are undertaking investigations on the presumption of guilt, which is again inappropriate.

Wiltshire Police’s approach is open to gross abuse by vexatious complainants. It is also inconsistent with the approach of other forces. In particular, I draw your attention to recent comments from the Metropolitan Police after a journalist was issued with a “harassment warning” on behalf of a fraudster:

[Link]

Yours sincerely

The link leads to a news report about a PIN that was given to Gareth Davies, chief reporter at the Croydon Advertiser. The report ended with the following quote:

Scotland Yard said: “When a harassment warning letter is issued, there is also no implication that the alleged harassment has taken place.”

That quote was met with some surprise; many people are under the impression that such “warnings” at the very least reflect the considered opinion of professional law-enforcement officers that criminal conduct has occurred, and at worst that they amount to the same thing as a police caution, in which an offence is admitted. But this is a complete misunderstanding: PINs are issued on the basis of complaints received rather than of evidence obtained, and they have no legal force.

This is a subject of some interest to me; this is an investigative blog, and as such I occasionally get attempts to intimidate me from writing about various subjects (as I discussed just yesterday). One such attempt occurred last September via a vexatious complaint to police which led to me receiving a PIN; I discuss the background to this incident here, including the false claim made by the complainant (and promoted in bad faith by his associate, the bullying and dishonest Nadine Dorries MP) that its delivery amounted to evidence of criminal conduct on my part.

A reply to my email to the Chief Constable came the next day:

Dear Mr Bartholomew,

I reply to your email on behalf of Chief Constable Pat Geenty. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. I can confirm that the pages of information you refer to in your email below have now been unpublished from the force website and have been deleted.

Kind regards,

xxxx
PA to Chief Constable Patrick Geenty

So there. But one wonders whether the advice on the webpage reflects bad practice that may have had real-world consequences for individuals who have been falsely accused.

(H/T- the webpage first came to my attention via a Twitter feed called @ArrestThePIN)

Nadine Dorries: Her Accusations in Context

Introduction
Why this is of interest to me: The “terror trackers” and abuse
Enter Tabloid Troll
Dorries renews her accusations
The 2015 election
A threatening “peace offer”
IPSO Ruling on the Sunday Mirror

Introduction

Election results in from the constituency of mid-Bedfordshire show that Tim Ireland, the independent anti-corruption candidate, received 384 votes, or 0.7%. It was a creditable showing for an independent with a progressive perspective: in 2005, a certain Saqhib Ali (more recently standing elsewhere for Labour) polled 301 votes (0.6%) in the same constituency. It was also achieved despite a campaign of vilification by the Conservative candidate, Nadine Dorries, and a biased approach by the local media.

Mid-Bedfordshire is a safe Conservative seat, so it is no surprise that Dorries was returned: she actually increased her majority (32,544 votes in total, up from 28,815 in 2010), reflecting a wider trend in the election as a whole, her brand recognition as a celebrity, and perhaps also the continuing recovery of the Conservative vote in the constituency after it was slashed from 40,230 in 1992 to 24,176 in the 1997 bloodbath.

Why this is of interest to me: The “terror trackers” and abuse

My own interest in all this is a good example of one thing leading to another. To explain: in 2009 Tim found out that several dubious individuals describing themselves as “terror trackers” had been passing false information about supposed Islamic conspiracies to the now-disgraced buffoonish MP Patrick Mercer, from whose office they were then passed to the media. Tim’s work led to the Sun newspaper withdrawing a front-page splash about a supposed terror threat against Alan Sugar; it turned out that this sort of thing had been going on for several years, with Newsnight and even the police being hoodwinked. Given my own interest in religion and the media, I began looking into the subject in collaboration with Tim.

Unsurprisingly, Tim’s efforts were not appreciated by everyone, and the self-described “terror trackers” (who appeared to have  fallen out with each other) hit back in the way that came naturally to them: by telling lies and making threats. Anonymous comments appeared on websites, accusing Tim of paedophilia; a pdf was sent to him by someone who wanted him to know that he knew where he lived and what his house looked like (and this was before Google Street View existed). There were also menacing and goading messages on social media, some of which were also directed at me.

Meanwhile, Tim was also scrutinizing and satirizing the conduct and credibility of Nadine Dorries; I had also written about her a couple of times due to her work with the lobby group Christian Concern (an association which appears to be no longer active). Dorries found being held to account by Tim to be uncongenial, and after storming out of a hustings event in Flitwick (pron. “FLIT-TICK!”) ahead of the 2010 election when she found out that Tim was being allowed to film the event, she began to accuse him of being a “stalker”. Dorries even went to the police, who advised Tim that because of her supposed aversion to his presence, he ought to keep clear of her. Dorries misrepresented this as being a police “caution”, implying criminal conduct.

For the “terror trackers” abusing Tim – and, to a lesser extent, me – this was something of a godsend: their abuse aimed at Tim was now justified as retaliation against a stalker, rather than being self-serving attempts at intimidation and revenge. As a consequence, I now had an interest of my own in holding Dorries to account. As I looked into the subject, I became astonished at the extent of her bullying dishonesty. She was making wide-ranging accusations of “stalking” against anyone she saw as a political threat; it was also clear that she had private arrangement with Paul Staines (Guido Fawkes), by which he would promote smears against her critics. I logged a number of these instances, while the abuse from the former “terror trackers” continued sporadically.

Enter Tabloid Troll

The subject of Mercer and the “terror trackers” came up again in 2012, when Tim was looking into the identity of “Tabloid Troll”, an abusive Twitter user involved with the UK tabloid newspaper industry. “Tabloid Troll” gave a distorted account of the affair, which I then corrected, much to his anger. Tabloid Troll decided to “investigate” Tim and myself, resulting in the publication of intrusive and scurrilous anonymous websites about us and our families (discussed here and here). For the first time, Dorries deigned to acknowledge my existence, as she gleefully promoted a site that was self-evidently unhinged, and plainly the work of an actual on-line stalker and troll.

Dorries renews her accusations 

Some months later, Tim’s personal circumstances changed and he found himself living in Dorries’ constituency. Dorries says she was alerted to the fact by an email from a constituent (although her version of the story, typically, has inconsistencies), and she then decided to brand herself as a high-profile “victim of stalking”. I discussed her renewed media campaign in my previous post.

The 2015 election

Unsurprisingly, Dorries did not respond well when Tim announced his decision to stand for election earlier this year. It should be noted that this wasn’t a campaign fixated on Dorries – his theme was against corruption in politics, as manifested, for example, by the failure of the Conservative Party to remove activists who had smeared a Liberal Democrat as a paedophile in earlier election, and by the dishonesty of the Conservative Party chair, Grant Shapps.

However, Dorries claimed that Tim was standing in order to stalk her: she lobbied for him to be excluded from hustings events, and when she was rebuffed by Churches Together in Shefford she declined to appear. She did, though, send supporters and a leaflet – the events that transpired at the Shefford hustings have been described by Tim’s partner Sue, who blogs and Tweets as Humphrey Cushion, here.

Dorries also laid out a series of allegations on her blog, in which she named me as Tim’s “accomplice”. Much of her post consisted of claims made by other individuals, although nothing was documented properly and these other accusers remain anonymous (those of us in the know, though, are aware that the accusations are without substance).

The election night count was attended by Tim Fenton of Zelo Street (recently profiled in the media here); Tim F. writes:

As Bedfordshire Today has told, she says she cannot be in the same room as the man”. It’s clear from the article who the man” is.

…As the count for the Parliamentary Election got under way, all the candidates – except the fragrant Nadine – were present and, with their agents and counting agents, were watching as the piles of white ballot papers were separated out and tallied. Only as the declaration approached did the Dorries presence appear… Would she be unable to be in the same room as “the man”? Surprisingly not: time after time, she was within two metres of TI, yet no wobblers were thrown. There was no adverse reaction.

Meanwhile, the events at the Shefford hustings are currently the subject of a police complaint. The Sunday Mirror ran an article on the subject, which has since been removed; Dorries said that it was withdrawn because it contained “misinformation” (or, as she puts it, “mis information”) although she didn’t elaborate what this meant (see update below for more on this).

A threatening “peace offer”

Dorries’ renewed media campaign against Tim in September 2014 also saw the creation of a new troll account on Twitter, devoted mainly to abusing and threatening Tim, but also focusing on other targets, including me and others who have criticised Dorries. Some of the Tweets were crude or intrusive – Tim’s partner was described as a “skank”; another woman was mocked as an “old nag”; and a third person saw his photograph uploaded from another site, with an abusive comment attached (“bellend”).  The account went so far as to accuse Tim of being a “nonse” (sic), meaning “sex offender”.

The account was apparently created without Dorries’ collusion, although as soon as it came to her attention she began interacting with it and RT-ing various Tweets. She also sent at least one direct message (announced on her Twitter feed). The owner of the account was aware within minutes of the removal of the Sunday Mirror article, and this prompted a stream of abusive and mocking tweets claiming that this proved that Tim had lied to journalists.

As the election approached, the account counted down to, and then linked to, an anonymous website warning Tim not to contest the election result: a case can be made that Dorries’ behaviour in attempting to discredit Tim amounted to a breach of election law, which could form the basis for a petition. The anonymous abuser sought to “discourage” Tim from this course of action, in a long and rambling screed that included the following:

We will continue to watch your behaviour 24/7. We will never break the law but we assure you we will continue to affect your ability to live contentedly amongst us. We will not let your lies stand.

…. You are politely advised to take this last chance. We offer peace. Take it.

Tim has written about this here. [UPDATE: And the election petition is now a reality; see here for details and context]

IPSO Ruling on the Sunday Mirror [added 23 July]

It turned out that the Sunday Mirror article had been removed from the internet because Dorries had lodged a complaint with IPSO, the independent press regulator. It appears that Dorries drew a distinction between police “looking into” the incident, and a formal “police investigation”, which (she claims) can only happen after an election – obviously, it was not in her interest to clarify this flimsy basis for her “mis information” claim publicly.

Dorries also complained that the article contained a quote from police relating to the outcome of a complaint that Dorries had made against Tim, which is that he

has not committed any offence, and is purely holding the complainant to account.

Dorries argued that this assessment referred only to events up to 2010, rather than more recent allegations. However, according to IPSO:

The Committee noted the complainant’s assertion that in fact, this did not reflect the police’s current position on the conduct of the other candidate. However, in circumstances where the article had made clear subsequent legal developments in relation to the other candidate’s conduct and where it was not in dispute that the CPS had not taken further action against him, any potential discrepancy over the date of the report was not significant, and the inclusion of the statement from it was not misleading.

Tim maintains that the quote is in fact valid for later events, in any case.

This ruling follows IPSO’s rejection in June of a complaint brought by Dorries about a profile of Tim published by Bedfordshire on Sunday. The two rulings are straightforward documents that anyone can assess for themselves fairly quickly.

There are two interesting asides to this resolution:

(a) The complainant’s representative

First, the ruling makes reference to the “complainant’s representative”. No name is given, but there is reason to think that this is none other than Dennis Rice, the journalist formerly responsible for the “TabloidTroll” Twitter account. If so, this is a remarkable development in Rice’s vendetta against Tim for exposing his trolling and sockpuppeting – Rice was at one time Acting News Editor of the Sunday Mirror (in the late 1990s), yet here he is attempting to suppress a completely valid news article published by his former employer, motivated by personal spite and for the benefit of a politician.

It should be recalled that last year Rice made a complaint of his own to IPSO, against the author Peter Jukes – the outcome was discussed by Peter here and by me here. We know that Dorries has been in private communication with Rice since at least September 2014, perhaps longer.

(b) The troll account kicks off again

Second, the source of the anonymous “Peace Offer” threats and abuse aimed at Tim just after the election had a new outburst just hours before IPSO’s ruling was published.

These are scandalous associations for a Member of Parliament.