… Fellowship of Friends decry fed’s pot busts: The Fellowship of Friends in Oregon House, California, is “a sect of Mystical ‘Fourth-Way’ Christianity based upon the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff,” says a Federal search warrant,
The group was founded by Robert Earl Burton in the 1970s. Critics call the group a cult; members say it’s a school of spiritual development.
The Appeal-Democrat (California), reports
The search warrant states that a confidential source said it was common knowledge in the foothills that several Fellowship members supported themselves, and paid the required tenth of their income or $400 a month, by cultivating marijuana on properties surrounding the religious compound.
The paper also quotes Gregory Holman, President of the Fellowship of Friends, Inc. denying the claims:
Holman said Fellowship members aren’t required to contribute the sums outlined in the search warrant and questioned the source of the federal drug agency’s information.
“Their confidential source is probably a former member of our church,” Holman said, “who is probably taking advantage of the DEA.”
“We don’t allow use of marijuana,” Holman said. “We don’t even allow smoking.”
“It makes for very curious reading,” he said of the 27-page federal court filing.
Holman said the allegations in the warrant, and the September arrest of three Oregon House residents on suspicion of conspiracy and cultivation of marijuana for sale, has “nothing to do with us a religion.”
In a lawsuit filed and settled in 1996, a former member claimed the Fellowship was being used to further Robert Burton’s “voracious appetite for perverted sexual pleasure and elegant lifestyle.”
The suit portrayed Burton as a leader who considers himself “an angel in a man’s body” who communicates with up to 44 angels, including Benjamin Franklin. Burton claimed to be second in spiritual power only to Jesus Christ, said former members and cult experts.
Other than that, the group is also known for operating an award-winning winery.
Robert Earl Burton and The Fellowship of Friends: An Unauthorized Blogography of “The Teacher” and His Cult
… Shut up and play nice: How the Western world is limiting free speech: Opinion piece in the Washington Post. Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University, gives some examples and says
Such efforts focus not on the right to speak but on the possible reaction to speech — a fundamental change in the treatment of free speech in the West. The much-misconstrued statement of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes that free speech does not give you the right to shout fire in a crowded theater is now being used to curtail speech that might provoke a violence-prone minority. Our entire society is being treated as a crowded theater, and talking about whole subjects is now akin to shouting “fire!” [...]
Ironically, while some religious organizations are pushing blasphemy laws, religious individuals are increasingly targeted under anti-discrimination laws for their criticism of homosexuals and other groups.
… The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True Life and Trials of Nicholas of Myra: Adam C. English, Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Campbell University in North Carolina, has always been fascinated with Santa Claus. But not until he traversed the Atlantic and visited the tomb of St. Nicholas did he discover what was truly fascinating about Mr. Claus.
We haven’t read the book, but in the Netherlands, where Religion News Blog is located, we love Saint Nicholas — referred to in Dutch as Sinterklaas. In fact, Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of Amsterdam, our home town.
Here’s the official story about the real Saint Nicholas, as told by PBS:
And here’s how a Dutch girl explain the Feast of ‘Sinterklaas’ as celebrated in the Netherlands:
… Attorneys for cult leader Tony Alamo again appeal a lawsuit alleging he ordered the beatings of two young boys in his ministry.
Alamo, who is serving a 175-year prison sentence for taking young girls across state lines for sex, again claims that a three-judge panel of the court was wrong to deny his appeal of faulty jury instructions.
The two men testified that Alamo ordered his enforcer, John Erwin Kolbeck, to beat them.
The verdict was initially upheld, but last August a federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered punitive damages against Alamo to be reduced from $60 million to $24 million. It upheld an additional $3 million award each for the two men.
At the beginning of this month a federal appeals court rejected Alamo’s request to take a second look at the civil case.
In its opinion the 8th Circuit Court clearly analyzes the arguments by Alamo’s lawyer about the lack of an instruction on corporal punishment, says Lynn LaRowe in the Texarkana Gazette.
“The new opinion states if it was an error to refuse the defense’s request for the instruction, it didn’t make any difference in the outcome,” she says.
Kolbeck, Alamo’s enforcer, died in January, 2011 while on the run from authorities.
… Washington Times Gets First President And CEO Who Is Not A Member of Unification Church: Elizabeth Flock says that “the paper has long been perceived as the centerpiece” of the Unification Church but that questions about the future of the paper have been floating around since the church’s founder, cult leader Sun Myung Moon, died last September.
The new guy, Douglas Joo, was the paper’s chairman. Thomas McDevitt, a Unification Church member who had been running the day-to-day operations at the paper, has now been moved into Joo’s old position.
… NY judge says couple can’t change name to ChristIsKing: A judge has ruled that Michael and Angela Nwadiuko, a pastor and his wife, cannot change their last name to ChristIsKing.
The Associated Press says
The couple’s request six years ago to change their son Jeremy’s first name to JesusIsLord also was denied by the same judge.
The reason? Separation of church and state — plus, says the New York Daily News, the fact that some people would be offended to hear the name:
What if a court clerk or a classroom teacher would be forced to call out “JesusIsLord ChristIsKing” or “Rejoice ChristIsKing?” Straniere asked in his ruling issued this month, referring to the couple’s children.
“Not only is the speaker being forced to say something which might be repugnant to the speaker, but the general public would be subjected to this unwanted intrusion of the petitioners’ religious beliefs,” he concluded.
Straniere had also asked the couple what if their son played basketball in college and a newspaper headline read “ ‘JesusIsLord ChristIsKing’ misses shot to cost team championship?” or what should be done “should a devil worshiper seek to have his name changed to ‘SatanIsLord’ and ‘TheDevilIsKing?’ ”
Their response was that the former won’t be a problem and the latter would be unfathomable.