Church and State Archive

You'll find articles about this subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

Pastor’s lawsuit against ‘Rain God’ license plate approved

A pastor’s lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma over its license plate can proceed, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has ruled.

Religion News Services says that Keith Cressman of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Bethany, Oklahoma, contends the license plate image of a Native American shooting an arrow into the sky to bring down rain compels him to be a “mobile billboard” for a pagan religion — and thus violates his religious liberty.
Oklahoma license plate
The lawsuit was thrown out by a judge, but the appeals court says the suit contains a “plausible compelled speech claim.”

The image on the license plate is a rendition of a sculpture called “Sacred Rain Arrow,” by the late Oklahoman artist Allan Houser. The artwork is based on a Native American legend in which a warrior persuaded a medicine man to bless his bow and arrows during a time of drought.

The statue is on display in the entrance circle garden of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa.
Sacred Arrow at the Gilcrease Museum
“It is depicting a young Apache warrior who was selected in a time of drought to shoot a rain arrow into the sky, into the heavens, to bring his people’s prayers to their gods so that they would get rain,” Gilcrease Museum public information officer Anne Brockman told the Tulsa World.

Note that the state of Oklahoma offers a variety of specialty license plates that do not carry the ‘Sacred Rain Arrow’ design — including an ‘In God We Trust’ plate, but Cressman objects that he would have to pay an extra fee for those plates.

Read the Court’s ruling PDF file

Jehovah’s Witnesses force tenants to move out

If you think having Jehovah’s Witnesses ring your doorbell in order to try and sell you on their false ‘gospel’ is bad, consider the plight of some tenants in Suffern, NY.

They’re looking for new homes after their building was sold to the Watchtower Society, the religious cult’s legal entity.

The deal also could mean a loss to the village of $56,000 in annual property taxes if the new owner secures a religious tax exemption — which it is interested in, spokesman Richard Devine said.

The cult says the housing will be used by their members and workers who are helping to be their new headquarters in Warwick.

Suffern Mayor Dagan Lacort says he doesn’t like the way the tenants were treated, and he will closely monitor the situation.

There are many reasons why this movement, which theologically is a cult of Christianity, is considered by many to be a destructive cult.

Suggested research resource:

Captives of a Concept: Understanding the illusionary concept that holds millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses captive by controlling how they think and act without them realizing it — written by a former member.

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Affinity fraud, Rabbinical courts, Abused Missionary kids, More…

Affinity Fraud

“Religion is the biggest trust-based group that gets fleeced by their own flock.”

So says Brent Baker, an attorney at Clyde Snow & Sessions in Salt Lake City who specializes in fraud and securities law.

He is quoted in a Deseret News article on affinity fraud, titled In faith communities, fraudsters prey on trust.

The paper — owned by the Mormon Church — writes, that “[w]hile investment fraud is occurring in communities across the country, Utah has a reputation for being home to a high concentration of these schemes,” and notes that in 2010 “the FBI ranked Salt Lake City in the top five “hot spots” for Ponzi scheme-related fraud.”

Examples of affinity fraud (articles)
You Won, Now Give It Back: How Ponzi schemes work (article)
Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legendoffsite (book)
What is a Ponzi Scheme? (article)
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man: How Ponzi Schemes and Pyramid Frauds Work… and Why They’re More Common Than Ever (book)
Religion-based scams take Lord’s name in gain (article)
Affinity Fraud: How To Avoid Investment Scams That Target Groups U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (article)

Missionary kids speak out about abuse

August, 2011 report by CBN

“In recent years, dozens of adults, known in evangelical Christian circles as “MKs,” or missionary kids, have come forward to report decades-old abuse at the hands of other missionary families or boarding school staff,” writes the Chicago Tribune.

Evangelical mission agencies have only recently taken action, prompted by victims who started speaking up in greater numbers after Roman Catholic Church leaders began addressing their scandal more than a decade ago.

The paper says that Rev. Rich Darr, a Methodist pastor who endured severe beatings as a child at a Guinea boarding school, has founded the victim-advocacy group MK Safety Net.

Since 2006, about 50 of the more than 200 evangelical mission agencies around the world have worked with an umbrella group to collectively address abuse. Member agencies receive training in child safety and how to keep potential predators from joining their ranks.

But Darr and others say the efforts of that group, the Child Safety and Protection Network, aren’t enough. Victims and advocates want to see even more reforms and accountability from the evangelical mission agencies that sent their families overseas in the first place.

Among other resources the article mentions “Fanda Eagles, a blog run by a Chicago woman under a pseudonym to expose the abuse she said she suffered at a boarding school in Fanda, Senegal, miles from her parents’ mission,” saying that the blog has become a forum and source of encouragement for missionary kids who are abuse victims.

Also mentioned are the dangers of so-called Recovered Memory Therapy.

Prayer in Schools

50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court banned school prayer, there is probably more presence of religion in public school environments than ever before.

The Christian Science Monitor says nobody has yet studied the phenomenon, but offers some examples to illustrate its case.

Meanwhile, the Deseret News has an interesting, long-read story on what led up to the Court’s decision.

Losing her religion – and her children

Here’s a sad and disturbing story from Ha’aretz, which happens to be Israel’s oldest daily newspaper: A rabbinical court granted ‘Ayala’s’ husband custody when she lost her faith, and now she’s fighting to get her children back.

Having been raised in an Haredi family, at the age of 18 she entered an arranged marriage. Haredi is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox.

She lost her faith largely as a result of her insatiable curiosity for knowledge. In Haredim households women are told it is forbidden to ask questions. But she did anyway, and in the process slowly “lost God.”

Two years ago she started reading a Hebrew-language Internet forum called “Haredim against their will.” Ha’aretz explains, “The writers are religiously observant people who have lost their faith, but do not want to break up the home. The result is that they live as Haredim against their will.”

A while later she received a scholarship and started studying sociology. But her husband and the community were leery, and a neighborhood functionary offered her money to stop studying.

She refused, and was subsequently ostracized by the community. Then, when her husband discovered she was in touch with the internet forum, he demanded a divorce.

This was the start of Ayala’s still-ongoing legal saga…

The article goes on to describe the woman’s ordeal, and serves as a good warning against religion-based courtsrabbinical courts, in this case — particularly when it involves a high-control movement.

To read the entire article you can register (and read 10 stories a month for free) or subscribe to Ha’aretz.