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Author Topic: Prayer and Religion in Public Life  (Read 418097 times)
Skeletor
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« Reply #675 on: August 29, 2019, 01:52:56 PM »

Ninth Circuit Upholds Verdict Against Sect-Run Arizona Town

An Arizona town that let a Mormon sect run the government deprived non-church members of their constitutional rights, a Ninth Circuit panel held Monday, affirming a federal judge’s 2016 finding.

“We conclude that because of the overwhelming evidence that Colorado City deprived non-FLDS residents of their constitutional rights, it is more probable than not that the court would have reached the same verdict on the United States’ [Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act] claim,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Milan Smith Jr., in a 21-page opinion.

The U.S. government sued the towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale City, Utah, in 2012, for letting overseers of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) appoint city leader and marshals.

Following a 44-day trial in 2016, U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland, a Ronald Reagan appointee, awarded a total of $2.2 million to apostates denied access to water utilities as well as a former city councilman wrongly arrested and charged with felony theft.

The FLDS was handpicking city marshals to “ignore violations of the law – such as underage marriage, unlicensed drug distributions, and food stamp fraud – by FLDS members,” Smith wrote in a summary of the trial.

Law enforcement on the town payroll helped church leaders duck the FBI, kept tabs on unfamiliar license plates that rolled through, hid church leader Warren Jeffs from the FBI for more than a year and destroyed evidence against him.

Moreover, the marshal’s office “selectively enforce[ed] the law based upon religion,” arresting several non-FLDS members without probable cause.

The church also employed its own security detail nicknamed the God Squad.

https://www.courthousenews.com/ninth-circuit-upholds-verdict-against-sect-run-arizona-town/

https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/FLDS-9CA.pdf
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« Reply #676 on: August 30, 2019, 03:26:52 AM »

Just imagine living in those towns as a non FLDS.  I stopped there at a diner to eat once while traveling and it was a really weird place.  People all over were staring at me and not just because of my good looks. Grin
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Skeletor
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« Reply #677 on: September 10, 2019, 11:34:04 PM »

Church Leaders Indicted in Forced Labor Conspiracy

A dozen leaders of Imperial Valley Ministries, including the former pastor, are charged in an indictment unsealed today with subjecting dozens of mostly homeless people to forced labor, coercing them to surrender welfare benefits and compelling them to panhandle up to nine hours a day, six days a week, for the financial benefit of the church leaders.

The defendants were arrested today in El Centro, San Diego and Brownsville, Texas and charged with conspiracy, forced labor, document servitude and benefits fraud. The local defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in El Centro today at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ruth Bermudez Montenegro.

“The indictment alleges an appalling abuse of power by church officials who preyed on vulnerable homeless people with promises of a warm bed and meals,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “These victims were held captive, stripped of their humble financial means, their identification, their freedom and their dignity.”

“Human trafficking robs victims of their most basic human rights,” said FBI Special Agent-In-Charge Scott Brunner.  “Victims of human trafficking are often unseen by society, left pleading in silence. Today, the FBI is proud to break up the labor trafficking alleged to have been committed by the leaders of Imperial Valley Ministries in Imperial Valley and San Diego. This investigation is an example of the tireless and dedicated work undertaken by FBI agents and our partners at the El Centro Police Department in combating this heinous crime.”

Imperial Valley Ministries, or IVM, operates a non-denominational church headquartered in El Centro, and has opened approximately 30 affiliate churches throughout the United States and Mexico, including locations in Los Angeles, Santa Ana and San Jose in California; in Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; and Brownsville, Texas. IVM’s stated purpose is to “restore” drug addicts at faith-based rehabilitation group homes and raise money to open churches in other cities to do the same.

In addition to the church and main office, IVM owned and operated three group homes the El Centro area, plus one in Calexico and one in Chula Vista. Many victims were recruited from outside of El Centro, including San Diego, and as far away as Texas. IVM leaders allegedly induced many to participate with offers of free food and shelter with the false promise that victims would be provided with resources to eventually return home.

According to the indictment, defendants checked in the victims at the IVM group homes, where they were required to sign agreements to adhere to rules. Many victims, including many who did not require drug rehabilitation services, claimed they were later held at IVM properties against their will.

The indictment alleges that church leaders locked victims inside group homes with deadbolt locks; confiscated identification documents such as driver’s licenses, passports, immigration papers and identification cards, in order to prevent victims from escaping; stole victims’ welfare benefits; and required adherence to rules such as, “you are not to discuss things of the world” and “the only thing to be read is the holy bible” and “if any of the rules are broken there will be discipline.”


Windows were nailed shut at some group home locations, leading a desperate 17-year-old victim to break a window, escape, and run to a neighboring property to call police. The teen was brought to the El Centro Medical Center for cuts sustained from the escape.

Defendants are alleged to have extorted the surrender of participants’ Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards obtained through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), administered by the CalFresh Program, by using actual and threatened fear of economic loss. The IVM leaders allegedly then used the SNAP benefits for improper purposes, including providing them to ineligible persons, and improperly instructing the intended recipients to not seek or accept outside employment.

Leaders of IVM, including former Pastor Victor Gonzalez, refused to return the confiscated EBT cards and personal property to participants who asked to leave. IVM members also allegedly used various means to coerce participants to stay and continue panhandling for IVM’s financial benefit by saying their children would be taken away if they left, that they would not receive transportation home, or that loved ones had rejected them and they must stay because “only God” loved them. Punishments for violations of home rules, including talking about the outside world, allegedly included the withholding of food.

In another instance, church leaders allegedly refused to allow a diabetic victim to obtain medicine, medical supplies and even food in response to low blood sugar. She was able to escape and get help.

All of the identified victims are now free. Victim specialists have been on standby to provide immediate assistance to any additional victims we find in order to provide them with shelter, transportation or any necessary support services.

“This is the most significant labor trafficking prosecution in this district in many years,” Brewer said. “These cases are few and far between because many victims live in captivity and fear, powerless to report the crimes against them. My office wants victims to know that we are here to help you.”

Brewer praised the FBI and prosecutor Christopher Tenorio for their excellent work on the case. And he expressed appreciation for the assistance of the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office, the El Centro Police Department, the Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Border Patrol and Imperial County Social Services, for their assistance with this case.

To report suspicions of labor trafficking, please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324) or https://tips.fbi.gov/. If you know someone who is a victim of human trafficking, resources can be found at National Human Trafficking Hotline – 1-888-373-7888.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Tenorio is prosecuting the case with assistance from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Conspiracy – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 371
Maximum penalty: Five years in prison and $250,000 fine

Forced Labor – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1589
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine

Document Servitude – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1592
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine

Food Stamp Act (Benefits Fraud) – Title 7, U.S.C., Section 2024(b)
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine (If the benefits were $5,000 or more)

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/church-leaders-indicted-forced-labor-conspiracy
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« Reply #678 on: September 11, 2019, 06:38:44 AM »

Good movie material.
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« Reply #679 on: September 19, 2019, 02:41:50 PM »

A few decades too late as usual.

Catholic Priest Arthur Perrault receives 30 years for molesting altar boy

Former Albuquerque priest Arthur Perrault is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison for aggravated sexual assault of an altar boy in the early 1990s, after a riveting hearing Friday in which a federal judge imposed a 30-year sentence and insisted Perrault stand and face one of the multiple victims he abused decades ago.

“I have to say Mr. Perrault that this is the worst case that I have ever handled and ever seen,” said U.S. District Judge Martha Vázquez, noting that she has presided over many sexual abuse cases in her 26 years as a judge in Santa Fe.

In a rare federal criminal prosecution, Perrault was convicted by a jury in April of seven counts of sexual abuse related to a former altar boy at St. Bernadette’s parish in Albuquerque who once considered the priest his “best friend.”

Perrault, who admitted to at least one earlier molestation of a boy, fled Albuquerque in the fall of 1992 “knowing he would soon be outed as a serial pedophile,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office. He was charged with the molestation of a single victim, with supporting trial testimony from six other men who said they too had been sexually abused by Perrault as children.

Perrault came to New Mexico from Connecticut in the 1960s to be treated at a religious center for sexual pedophiles and other troubled clergy. Prosecutors alleged he preyed upon and sexually assaulted dozens of minors for decades as a teacher and parish priest in the Albuquerque area and fled in 1992 as he was about to be “outed” for his crimes.


Trial testimony showed at least two clergy or church employees at St. Bernadette either helped Perrault leave or were in contact with him when he relocated to Morocco.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1365775/perrault-sentenced-to-30-years-for-molesting-altar-boy.html
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« Reply #680 on: October 04, 2019, 08:51:02 AM »

Almost 1,700 priests and clergy accused of sex abuse are unsupervised

Nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement, decades after the first wave of the church abuse scandal roiled U.S. dioceses, an Associated Press investigation has found.

These priests, deacons, monks and lay people now teach middle-school math. They counsel survivors of sexual assault. They work as nurses and volunteer at nonprofits aimed at helping at-risk kids. They live next to playgrounds and daycare centers. They foster and care for children.

And in their time since leaving the church, dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault and possessing child pornography, the AP’s analysis found.

A recent push by Roman Catholic dioceses across the U.S. to publish the names of those it considers to be credibly accused has opened a window into the daunting problem of how to monitor and track priests who often were never criminally charged and, in many cases, were removed from or left the church to live as private citizens.

In addition to the almost 1,700 that the AP was able to identify as largely unsupervised, there were 76 people who could not be located. The remaining clergy members were found to be under some kind of supervision, with some in prison or overseen by church programs.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/nearly-1-700-priests-clergy-accused-sex-abuse-are-unsupervised-n1062396
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« Reply #681 on: October 10, 2019, 04:57:20 PM »

Brad Pitt no longer identifies as atheist, says he was just being ‘rebellious’
By Leonardo Blair, Christian Post Reporter| Monday, September 30, 2019

After years of publicly declaring himself an atheist, award-winning actor and film producer Brad Pitt says that he was just being “rebellious” when he kept telling the world he didn’t believe in God.

“Oh, man, I've gone through everything. Like, I cling to religion. I grew up with Christianity. Always questioned it, but it worked at times. And then when I got on my own, I completely left it and I called myself agnostic. Tried a few spiritual things but didn't feel right. Then I called myself an atheist for a while, just kind of being rebellious. I wasn't really. But I kinda labeled myself that for a while. It felt punk rock enough. And then I found myself coming back around to just belief in—I hate to use the word spirituality, but just a belief in that we're all connected,” Pitt, 55, said in an interview for the October issue of GQ.

In a 2009 interview with Bild, when asked if he believed in God, Pitt who was raised Southern Baptist, replied: “No, no, no!”

When pressed on whether his soul is spiritual, he said: “No, no, no! I’m probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows. You’ll either find out or not when you get there, until then there’s no point thinking about it."

Two years later in 2011, the 55-year-old actor told Extra how stifled he felt by his religion.

"I got brought up being told things were God's way, and when things didn't work out it was called God's plan. I've got my issues with it. Don't get me started. I found it very stifling," he said.

It was that stifled feeling, he told The Hollywood Reporter, that led him to turn away from his Southern Baptist tradition.

"I grew up very religious, and I don't have a great relationship with religion," he said at the time. "I oscillate between agnosticism and atheism."

The discussion of Pitt’s faith comes as he promotes a new movie called “Ad Astra.” It’s a paranoid thriller in space that follows character Roy McBride, played by Pitt, “on a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.”

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In the film, faith is presented as something that can often be a distraction from self.

“Yeah. Escape. A looking outward instead of looking inward. Looking beyond, not seeing what's right in front of you,” Pitt said, noting that “it's more comfortable.”

When GQ writer Zach Baron tried asking Pitt what he does to escape from himself, he explained that he is always aware of what’s happening in his life.

“No, I always — I'm aware when I'm doing something in an obsessive way. Like, my friend right now, he's just obsessed with watches, and he looks them up and studies them. And I know he's avoiding something in his … in his domain,” Pitt said.

“I'm very aware. I could feel that from an early age. I knew I was avoiding something. But then once you're aware of it, then what? I mean, the people I'm really drawn to, they just have no filter. They have no protection. They have no filter on their thoughts. They sometimes get in trouble because of that, but I adore them. I adore that they're just so open and raw about their feelings at any moment,” he said.

When asked if he appreciates candid people because his own life is so controlled, Pitt said, “Well, I think we're drawn to what we are trying to change or improve in ourselves. I grew up in the Ozarks, and I've come to learn that we're pioneer stock. We're people who get things done. Don't talk about much; get it done. And we don't complain. Complaining is really looked down upon.

“And it's not true. We're always kind of ‘Woe is me.’ But this idea of if you get hurt, you break an arm, you cut yourself, you just deal with it. You don't make a big fuss about it. And there's a positive side to that that I appreciate. But it works the same way internally — what I've described as not taking inventory of yourself. How are you feeling at this moment? What's really going on? We just don't deal with it, and get on with it. And that, I've found a real hindrance.”

https://www.christianpost.com/guy-identifies-as-atheist-says-he-was-just-being-rebellious.html
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