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Tuesday, February 02, 2010                                                                                       View Comments

Monday, February 01, 2010                                                                                       View Comments

It's Trendy to have a Non-White Child

By Daniel Brown

The American Baptists who journeyed to Haiti in recent days to round up black kids and take them to the Dominican Republic no doubt had plans to make them available for adoption in the US. The ultimate plan was not part of “doing the right thing for Jesus”, but rather a need to feed the trendy movement in suburban, white, Christian circles to have a dark-skinned child. Once adopted, these children are held up as trophies symbolizing the parents’ religiosity. “Steven Curtis Chapman does it, so we should do it.”

Some of the children begged, “Don’t take me. I have parents!” These objections were overlooked in the name of Jesus and American chauvinism. It’s pathetic and wrong. It makes you wonder how many other non-white children adopted into Christian families were stolen.

Baptist "Human Trafficking" Update: Some Haitian Children Weren't Orphans

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (CBS/AP) As a group of American Baptist charity workers waits to hear if they will be tried on child trafficking charges for attempting to take 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the Associated Press has learned that not all of the children they were transporting were orphans.

Photo: Infant who was amongst group that Baptists wanted to move to Haiti is seen at SOS Children's Villages.

"One (8-year-old) girl was crying, and saying, 'I am not an orphan. I still have my parents.' And she thought she was going on a summer camp or a boarding school or something like that," George Willeit, a spokesman for SOS Children's Villages, said. SOS, an Austrian-based charity working in Haiti, now has custody of the children.

Willeit said the children arrived "very hungry, very thirsty." A 2- to 3-month-old baby was dehydrated and had to be hospitalized, he said. Workers were searching for their families or close relatives.

Child welfare groups expressed outrage over Friday's attempt to move the kids to a hotel in the Dominic Republic, saying some of the children had parents who survived the Jan. 12 earthquake. Prime Minister Max Bellerive denounced the group's "illegal trafficking of children" in a country long afflicted by the scourge and by foreign meddling.

But while the church workers may be viewed as "traffickers" in Haiti, they say they came armed only with good intentions. They were "just trying to do the right thing," said Laura Silsby, a spokeswoman for the Idaho church group. She conceded that amidst the chaos, she had not obtained the proper Haitian documents for the children.

The Baptists' "Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission" was described as an effort to save abandoned, traumatized children. Their plan was to scoop up 100 kids and take them by bus to a 45-room hotel at Cabarete, a beach resort in the Dominican Republic. The 33 kids ranged in age from 2 months to 12 years.

They were stopped at the border for not having proper paperwork and taken back to Port-au-Prince, where the children were taken to a temporary children's home.

The group's actions are further complicated by a view amongst some Haitian parents that giving a child up for adoption to foreigners may be their best chance for a future.

"My parents died in the earthquake. My husband has gone. Giving up one of my kids would at least give them a chance," Saintanne Petit-Frere, 40, a mother of six living outside in a tent camp near the airport said Sunday. "My only fear is that they would forget me, but that wouldn't affect my decision."

"Some parents I know have already given their children to foreigners," said Adonis Helman, 44. "I've been thinking how I will choose which one I may give."

For now, the Haitian government has halted all adoptions unless they were in motion before the earthquake. Prime Minister Bellerive's personal authorization is now required for the departure of any child.

Haiti has long been a hub for sex trafficking as well as the trafficking of children for domestic slavery within the country.

A commission will meet Monday to decide if the church members would go before a judge. They remain in custody, but not in jail.

The arrested Americans include members of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and the East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. They are part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is America's largest Protestant denomination and has extensive humanitarian programs worldwide.

The Idaho churches had elaborate plans before the earthquake to shelter up to 200 Haitian and Dominican boys and girls in the Magante beach resort, complete with a school and chapel as well as villas and a seaside cafe catering to adoptive U.S. parents.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should the Baptist group be viewed as saviors or kidnappers?


Friday, January 22, 2010                                                                                       View Comments

Irish Blasphemy Law

Books for burningImage by altemark via Flickr

By Dealdoctor

You might enjoy reading about this historic American blasphemy trial before reading the article below which points out that Ireland has brought it all back again.

I understand as well that the United Nations also wants to make it unlawful to speak against religion, supposedly in the interest of community cohesion. Can you imagine cops standing behind a preacher to insure you either say "Amen" or keep your mouth shut?! No free speech and no free press where religion is in control! Remember the time of book burnings?

Welcome back to medieval times

By John Shelby Spong

The recently passed law in Ireland against blasphemy, which threatens $35,000 fines for any person who "publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion," is a weird throwback to the medieval mentality. It also reflects a period of Irish history in which the tie-in between church and state was so intertwined as to be synonymous. To be Irish was to be Roman Catholic. To be Roman Catholic was to be Irish. If this law is not overturned Ireland can no longer claim to be a participant in the modern world.

The existence of this law also reveals the low status now enjoyed by traditional forms of religion that needs to be examined and raised to consciousness. First, do religious leaders not understand any religion that needs to be protected from criticism by an imposed legal requirement indicates that it has no ability to stand on its own? Second, surely it must be assumed that any religious system seeking the protection of such a law is admitting that it intends to force its agenda on the entire nation and that this law will be used to mute any opposition to that agenda.

I have no problem with any religion entity requiring that its beliefs and values be honored by its own members, even by the imposition of excommunication from that faith community of those who in good conscience cannot accept those beliefs and values. No one, however, should be subjected politically or legally to the values of a religious system that is not his or her own. It seems to me that the separation of church and state was designed to meet that situation quite specifically.

We have seen the harm created in the past when this line was crossed and the legal process was used to obstruct birth control and family planning, to outlaw abortion in all situations and to make illegal any end of life counseling, including the use of palliative techniques that end suffering, but may shorten life. Such practices almost inevitably will make religion a political issue and this law would require opponents of such practices to be silent.

Did the Muslims who were being killed as infidels by Christians during the Crusades not have a right loudly and publicly to denounce Christianity for initiating these killings? What would this law have done to them? Did those Christians, atheists or the non-believers who were defined by their attackers as "infidels" and killed or who had their loved ones killed by fundamentalist Muslims not have a right loudly and publicly to denounce the religion that was destroying them? Would the existence of a law like this Irish law not have commanded their silence? Do the Jews who have suffered centuries of anti-Semitism at the hands of the Christians who have controlled the governments of most Western nations in modern history, not have a right loudly and publicly to condemn their persecutors and the religion that seems to inspire their suffering? Would not a law like this have criminal their just protest?

The assumption behind such a law seems to be that it is impossible for religion to do wrong and thus religion is allowed legally to stand above criticism. History has rendered such a sentimental judgment to be non-sensical. I was raised inside an evangelical Southern Christian tradition that taught me that segregation was the will of God, that women were by nature inferior, that it was OK to hate other religions and especially the Jews, and that homosexuality was either a lifestyle choice made by morally depraved people so that ought to be suppressed, punished and even executed. Matthew Sheppard in Wyoming is a recent victim of this reality. If homosexuality is not a choice, I was taught that it was a mental disease for which a cure should be sought. That was what their religion had taught them to believe and so they passed it on as a virtuous thing to do to me.

The leaders of my Southern church quoted the scriptures that they called "the Word of God" to justify each of these evils. Had this Irish law been in effect, members of the civil rights movement, the women's liberation movement, those who worked against anti-Semitism and the Gay Rights movement, to say nothing of the movement toward critical biblical scholarship in the life of Christianity itself, would all have been subject to these fines. Criticism of the abuses of religion is as essential to human freedom as criticism of the abuses of government is. This law would make such criticism illegal and punishable by significant penalties

If I lived in Ireland and had to face the imposition of this law, I would begin my attack on its credibility by seeking to discover and to expose the sources of support for such a law. Who is pressing for the creation of such a law? What is their agenda? How hidden are their real motives? Since the overwhelmingly dominant religious tradition in Ireland is the Roman Catholic Church, I would be compelled to wonder how and why its passage might serve that institution's needs. Would such a law, for example, be used to stop Irish citizens from criticizing the behavior of Roman Catholic leaders in Ireland as the atrocious record of child abuse on the part of its priests and nuns and its hierarchy's shameful record in covering up these overt crimes becomes public knowledge? Is this the source of the public pressure to pass this law? Would it be used to stop lawsuits that are based on both the abuse and the official cover-up that have now issued in multi-million dollar settlements as well as the resignation of several bishops and the documented fact that successive Irish archbishops were thoroughly involved in the cover-up?

Only when I see who and what would be protected under this law and who and what might be imperiled, can I make sense out of such an arcane and offensive new law. Religion, no less than any other human institution can become demonic. No state should assist in that process by making critical statements about religious practices that might be offensive to religious adherents illegal. I hope this law will be overturned by the good sense of the Irish people. To start that overturning process today would not be soon enough.

Thursday, January 21, 2010                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor Convicted of Killing Wife

WACO, Texas — After convicting a former Texas minister of killing his wife, jurors on Thursday were to hear new evidence — possibly about sexual advances toward other women — as the punishment phase began.

Matt Baker, 38, faces up to life in prison for drugging and suffocating his wife, Kari, then faking her suicide note in 2006. Jurors deliberated more than seven hours before finding him guilty late Wednesday.

Prosecutors notified defense attorneys before the trial began that they planned to present evidence that Baker made sexual advances toward at least a dozen women, including some underage girls, over the past 18 years. Testimony about the allegations could come during the sentencing hearing, as they were mentioned during trial only in a vague comment by Baker's ex-mistress.

The case almost never went to trial. Kari Baker's death was originally ruled a suicide, but authorities reopened the case several months later after her parents shared evidence obtained for their wrongful death lawsuit against Baker.

"We did it," a sobbing Linda Dulin, Kari's mother, said late Wednesday as she left the courtroom and embraced relatives and friends.

Baker did not testify during the seven-day trial and showed no emotion when the verdict was read. After the judge revoked his bond, Baker shook his attorney's hand and said "thank you" before a sheriff's deputy took him into custody.

A gag order on attorneys was to remain in effect until after sentencing.

Jurors were instructed that to find Baker guilty, they had to agree on two things: that Baker drugged his wife and that he suffocated her with a pillow.

Earlier Wednesday, jurors asked whether they could find Baker guilty without agreeing he smothered her. State District Judge Ralph Strother told them in a note to follow the original instructions, but he did not repeat the wording.

Jurors also found themselves at odds over the testimony of Vanessa Bulls, Baker's former mistress.

They sent the judge a note saying there were disagreements about her testimony regarding "what went on" between her and Baker at his daughter's birthday slumber party two weeks after his wife's death, and what she told investigators last year.

Bulls had testified that during the party, she stayed up all night talking to the girls and did not have sex with Baker. Bulls also testified that she told investigators last year that she and Baker had sex that night. Jurors requested and were given part of the trial transcript.

During closing arguments, Susan Shafer said Baker had told a "web of lies" since his wife's death in their home in Hewitt, a Waco suburb.

She said Kari's upbeat e-mails about a new job just before her death contradicted Baker's story that she killed herself because she was depressed over their middle daughter's 1999 cancer death.

Bulls, who was granted immunity, testified that Baker told her he slipped his wife the prescription sleep aid Ambien, handcuffed her to the bed under the guise of spicing up their marriage, and smothered her with a pillow after she fell asleep. Baker then typed a suicide note and rubbed his wife's lifeless hand over it in case authorities tested for fingerprints, Bulls testified.

The medical examiner overseeing the autopsy testified that signs of smothering were hard to detect and that he did not see any trauma to Kari's body. But another medical examiner who reviewed the autopsy results said he saw an abrasion on Kari's nose consistent with being smothered.

Shafer also urged jurors to note Baker's contradictory statements in his civil lawsuit deposition and in television interviews.

"She was in the way of the life that he had envisioned for himself, and he was a Baptist preacher and he couldn't divorce; he'd lose his job, and he'd have trouble getting another one," Shafer told jurors.

Defense attorney Guy James Gray said Baker was on trial for murder only because he had lied about having an affair.

Gray said an autopsy report listed the cause of death as undetermined, and the partial palm print on the suicide note could have been Kari's because an expert ruled out Baker and investigators who may have touched it.

Kari Baker's fingerprints and palm prints could not be obtained. Her body was exhumed for the autopsy three months after her death amid suspicions she did not kill herself.

Defense attorney Harold Danford said many prosecution witnesses were brought in "to make you mad at Matt" and urged jurors not to vote with their emotions.

Gray also said Bulls was not credible and "may be pathological" because she repeatedly lied to police and others during the investigation.

Prosecutor Crawford Long said Bulls eventually told the truth about her affair and knowing how Kari died, even though "everything she said makes her look worse and worse, and that's why you know it's true."


Related Story: LINK

Wednesday, January 20, 2010                                                                                       View Comments

Bible Band-aide

By Ayhwh

What do you do when praying for the Haitian disaster just does not seem to be enough? When you feel like you should do something more concrete to help? No, don’t send aid money . . . that would be just stupid. You should send solar powered audio Bibles called Proclaimers.

In an echo of the biblical story of Joshua and the destruction of Jericho. After, according to Pat Robertson, God destroyed Haiti, a group called the Faith Comes by Hearing Organization has stormed in to convert the sinners. USA Today reported:

“Amid the massive effort to ship tons of food, water and medicine to quake-ravaged Haiti, one U.S. religious group is rushing in hundreds of solar-powered Bibles. The Bibles, sent by the Faith Comes by Hearing organization, can broadcast the holy scriptures in Haitian Creole to 300 people at a time.

Jon Wilke, a spokesperson for the Albuquerque-based group, says 600 audio Bibles, called ‘Proclaimers,’ are en route and there is an ‘immediate need’ for another 3,000 Proclaimers.”

How in the world does Wilke come to the conclusion that there is an “immediate need” for another 3,000 of his groups audio bibles. Buildings are collapsing, people really do need food and water, there are thousands and thousands dead and dying, but what they really need is an audio bible. It is beyond ridiculous.

"We want to equip short-term groups, disaster relief teams, church teams and other ministries with the Word of God in a format the people can use," Wilkes says in a statement on the group's website.”

Because that is what people going down in disaster relief teams should really be concerning themselves with. This shows the complete and utter insensitivity of these people. With over 100,000 people sleeping on the streets, they are attempting to proselytize.

This kind of profiteering on such a horrible disaster makes me sick. If Jesus could bring any sort of help to these people, then there would have been no earthquake in the first place. It just goes to show you that Christians don’t really care about the victims and what they have gone through. The only thing they care about is proselytizing. The virus must be past on, and who better to infect than the weak?

Friday, January 15, 2010                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor indicted on child pornography related charges

LUBBOCK, TX - A federal grand jury indicts a former Lubbock pastor for his alleged involvement in child pornography.

Fifty-seven year old Dean Richard Tarkington, who was arrested last month, is indicted on two counts of attempted enticement of a child, two counts of attempted production of child pornography, and two counts of attempted possession of child pornography.

If convicted on all counts, Tarkington would face up to life in prison and a $2.25 million dollar fine.

Tarkington was pastor of Word of Faith Christian Center in Lubbock Texas.

More on this story at

Thursday, January 14, 2010                                                                                       View Comments

Christian Hypocrisy

Topography map of Hispaniola.Image via Wikipedia

By Yellowcat

I was watching "Hardball with Chris Matthews" when I witnessed what might be the most offensive thing I have ever seen or heard in my life. While discussing the tragedy unfolding in the impoverished nation of Haiti, Mr. Matthews played a clip from Televangelist giant Pat Robertson. Mr. Robertson, one of the most vile humans to ever draw breath, gave an "explanation" for this disaster.

During the colonial days of Haiti, the people, suffering under the tyrannic rule of Napoleon, (he actually said it was Napoleon the 3rd. I am not familiar enough with the history of Hispaniola to judge accuracy) asked Satan to deliver them from the rule of their oppressors. So, according to Robertson, Satan agrees and drove the French from the Island. Feeling betrayed, God, that pillar of compassion and benevolence (sarcasm mine) has been punishing the people of Haiti ever since for their fall from Grace.

Besides the obvious depravity of Pat Robertson, using human suffering on such a scale to score cheap brownie points with his creator, he may have said something he never intended. By his own recount, the people of Haiti were suffering under a tyrant. God did nothing to held the oppressed, but Satan did lend a hand, for which God has been trying to get even for generations. By his own account, God is a monster, apathetic to suffering and petty in posterity, and Satan is the only member of the divine echelon to give a shit about poor, suffering people under the thumb of a cruel dictator.

Of course, the reason for this grotesque rationalization: why does God allow horrible things to happen to good people. There is no satisfactory answer to this question for the Christians, so an excuse must be manufactured. Furthermore, Mr. Robertson is setting on a tax-free empire worth billions; he could solve all the problems in Haiti with a single check, but that would make him less intensely wealthy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010                                                                                       View Comments

Oregon City trial raises new questions in faith-healing debate

Jeff Beagley (center) reacts minutes after his son-in-law, Carl Brent Worthington (right), was sentenced to two months in jail for criminal mistreatment in the faith-healing death of his 15-month-old daughter, Ava. Beagley, the father of Raylene Worthington (left), and his wife, Marci, now face trial in a similar case, the faith-healing death of his 16-year-old son, Neil.

When an Oregon City couple go on trial this week in the faith-healing death of their son, the case will raise a new wrinkle in Oregon's debate over religious freedom:

Online coverage
For same-day coverage of the faith-healing trial of Jeff and Marci Beagley, visit The Oregonian will provide  coverage of the trial once a jury is selected, a process expected to take up to a week. The entire trial could take three weeks or more.
Can a juvenile's right to obtain medical treatment absolve parents of responsibility for providing health care to a sick child?

Jeff and Marci Beagley are charged with criminally negligent homicide for failing to provide adequate medical care for their 16-year-old son, Neil, who died in June 2008 of an untreated urinary tract blockage.

The Beagleys are also the grandparents of Ava Worthington, whose 2008 death prompted last year's high-profile trial of Ava's parents, Raylene and Carl Brent Worthington. Raylene Worthington, who is the Beagleys' daughter and Neil's sister, was acquitted in that case. Her husband was convicted of criminal mistreatment.

The entire family belongs to Oregon City's Followers of Christ Church, which shuns medical care in favor of prayer, anointing with oil and laying on of hands.

Oregon law once allowed parents to avoid homicide charges if they relied solely on spiritual treatment and their child died. The law changed in 1999, mainly due to the church's long history of children dying from untreated medical conditions.

The Beagley trial will cover some of the same ground as the Worthington case, such as the clash between a parental rights and child-protection laws. But Neil Beagley's age presents a new challenge for prosecutors.

Under Oregon law, children 15 and older are allowed to obtain medical treatment without parental permission. That fact raises compelling questions for jurors in the Beagley case.

How can teenage children make informed decisions if they've never been to a doctor, have no understanding of their condition and have been raised to reject medical treatment? Do children have the right to refuse medical care? How much responsibility do parents have for the health of teenage children?

Lead prosecutor Greg Horner and the Beagleys' attorneys, Wayne Mackeson and Steve Lindsey, declined to be interviewed for this story.

At a hearing last month, the Beagleys' attorneys said that Neil knew he could go to a doctor at any time but decided to rely on the faith-healing practices endorsed by his family and his church.

Mark Cogan, who represented Brent Worthington but not involved in the Beagley case, offered an analysis from the defense perspective.

"Oregon law gives him (Neil) the authority to have medical care or not," Cogan said. "It's not for the government to decide. Neil was old enough to make his own decision, and he very clearly made his own choice."

Church members offer a circular argument that prosecutors must crack.

Since Followers rarely go to doctors, most have no medical records, which makes it hard to document the progression of an illness. Their lack of medical experience, they argue, also leaves them unaware of symptoms that may indicate a medical emergency.

The Worthingtons, for example, said they thought their daughter had a bad cold rather than a life-threatening blood infection. The 15-month-old child also had a growth on her neck that would swell to softball-size lump, but it was never evaluated by a doctor.

If the Beagleys contend that Neil also showed no signs that he was nearing death, prosecutors will be challenged to show otherwise.

An autopsy determined that Neil had a constriction where his bladder empties into his urethra, a typically painful condition that caused his kidneys to stop extracting urea from his bloodstream and triggered heart failure.

Dr. Cliff Nelson, Oregon deputy state medical examiner, said the condition may have been congenital and that Beagley had suffered repeated episodes of blockage and pain, probably throughout his life. The condition was treatable, Nelson said, but there was no apparent medical intervention.

Yet no one outside the tight Followers of Christ circle got close enough to assess Neil's condition during the weeks before he died.

Neil was home-schooled. His world and personal relationships revolved around the church. There were no teachers, Boy Scout leaders, sports coaches or outsiders who would have routinely observed him.

It will be left to the prosecutions medical experts in pediatric urology and kidney disease to describe the symptoms a reasonable person would have noted as the boy's condition deteriorated in his final months.

The Beagleys also are expected to say they relied on statements from an Oregon Department of Human Services worker who met with the family more than two months before Neil died.

The state's child welfare hot line received two calls about the Beagleys' children in March 2008. The callers reported that Kathryn Beagley, then 14, had serious health problems, including a kidney infection and that Neil had been ill with a possibly life-threatening condition.

Jeff Lewis,  a DHS worker, met with the family twice and determined no intervention was necessary. Neil said he was getting over a cold and did not want to see a doctor, Lewis testified at hearing last month.

After talking to Lewis, the Beagleys said they believed they were providing adequate care for their son and not violating the law, the Beagley's attorneys said last month.

It is unfair to penalize the couple for following the advice of a government employee and, in fact, it is entrapment, said the lawyers, who asked Clackamas County Presiding Judge Steven L. Maurer  to dismiss the charges.

Maurer denied the motion and said the question should be posed to jurors.

That process started Monday with jury selection.