Monks Steal Movies

Via Gizmodo U.K.:

The suspicions of Limerick rental shop owner Paul Flynn were raised earlier this year, when a local priest expressed an opinion about Oscar-winning historical drama Lincoln. When questioned about how he had managed to watch it seeing as the film wasn’t yet in cinemas or out to rent, the priest said “…we have a film club once a week and we watched it up at the monastery.”

When pushed by the investigative local business owner, the priest also confessed to multiple additional counts of pirating films before their commercial release,

Abuser Priest Was in Charge of Victim Payouts

The Australian clergyman who shared responsibility for assessing claims by victims of church sex abuse now turns out to have been a serial abuser of little boys himself.

Monsignor Penn Jones, of the Melbourne archdiocese, was first a director and then the chairman of Catholic Church Insurance. CCI helps determine how much money claimants are entitled to.

The Church said it didn’t learn of Jones’ molestations until 2004, nine years after he died.


The complaints against Msgr Jones included that he abused at least three young boys at summer camps in the 1960s, touching them in showers and raping at least one.

Msgr Jones was the school chaplain at Cathedral College in the ’60s, and had regular contact with choirboys when he was based at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

“Had there been knowledge of his abuse at the time of these appointments, they would not have been made,” CCI chief executive Peter Rush told the Herald Sun.

[cartoon by Adam Zyglis via]

Breaking: At 11th Hour, Oklahoma Joe’s Nixes Fundraiser For Kids; Doesn’t Serve Atheists


As best as I can piece together by following the web and Facebook trail, this happened tonight in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, about 20 miles from Tulsa.

A state chapter of Camp Quest, an organization that runs science camps where kids from secular and religious families mix, had planned a dinner and fundraiser at Oklahoma Joe’s, a local BBQ restaurant. The group communicated with the restaurant weeks ahead of time and made sure that all comers could be accommodated. Oklahoma Joe’s said sure, and even offered to donate 10 percent of the food and beverage proceeds.

Camp Quest Oklahoma then put up flyers and began promoting the dinner on social media, touting Joe’s as the place with the best ribs in the greater Tulsa area. The group was expecting about 50-60 diners/donors to show up.

Camp Quest Fund Raiser Dinner

Today, roughly an hour after the event started, owner Joe Davidson belatedly got wind of the fact that Camp Quest is run by secular people. That was enough to make him change his mind. On the spot, the restaurant canceled the fundraiser and put the following note on the door:

Camp Quest Fund Raiser Dinner-1

“Everyone except atheists?” asked Camp Quest supporter Nicole Cook on the group’s Facebook page, addressing Davidson and his note. “Is this legal? Do you kick out Jews?”

Those are good questions. I have a call in to both Mr. Davidson and to Camp Quest to try to get some answers, and will update this story if new and pertinent information becomes available.


UPDATE, 11:45 p.m. EST: I just got off the phone with Cindy Cooper, Vice President of Camp Quest Oklahoma.

She confirmed the account above, and added that months ago, Camp Quest volunteers gave the restaurant camp literature and invited the management to visit the group’s website. Cooper also says that the flyer for the event was approved by Davidson’s wife; the flyer makes explicit mention of the organization’s humanist leanings.

That’s true, and that does make it unlikely that Joe Davidson was being completely truthful on Tulsa Fox23 News tonight, when he claimed that the group had misled him about its mission and background.

Though Cooper has already seen a backlash brewing against Oklahoma Joe’s since news of the conflict began filtering out in the early evening — with irate non-theists taking to sites as diverse as Reddit and Yelp to voice their displeasure — she predicts that the kerfuffle will benefit Oklahoma Joe’s.

“This is Oklahoma,” she says. “It’ll probably end up being played like ‘poor Christians being persecuted for their beliefs.’ It wouldn’t surprise me if Christians start visiting the restaurant just to take a stand, like they did with Chick-fil-A.”

The events of Monday night have left her and her colleagues a little rattled, but Camp Quest has no desire to become a pawn in the culture war, says Cooper. “We try to maintain a neutral image, because it’s not about us — it’s about the kids,” she says.

“By the way, we have plenty of Christian children as campers. It wouldn’t occur to us to discriminate against them. I wish it worked the same the other way around.”

Note: My call to Joe Davidson has not yet been returned.

UPDATE 2, 12:30 a.m.: Hemant Mehta has more, including quotes from Joe Davidson (via American Atheists) and, in the comments, an account by an eye witness — one of the Camp Quest diners.

Tortured and Beheaded For ‘Sorcery’

A belief in invisible creatures and all kinds of supernatural evil produces evil of a very earthly kind:

Two elderly women were beheaded in Papua New Guinea after being tortured for three days, a report said Monday, the latest in a string of sorcery-related crimes.

“The two women were rounded up and taken to Lopele village after they were suspected of practising sorcery and blamed for the death of the former teacher, who was from Lopele village,” said [a police source].

witchcraft beheading - Google Search

They were tortured for three days, suffering knife and axe wounds, before being beheaded in front of the police who had been sent to the village to mediate, the report said.

The killings come just days after another report that six women accused of sorcery were tortured with hot irons in an Easter “sacrifice” in the Southern Highlands. …

There have been several other cases of witchcraft and cannibalism in PNG in recent years, with a man reportedly found eating his screaming, newborn son during a sorcery initiation ceremony in 2011.

T-Shirt Wars: Mother Mary vs. Santa Muerte

Blogger Elie Fares gets all up in some clothing store’s grill about a T-shirt the store sells. This one:


He’s terribly upset, because he claims that “not even with the most out-of-the-box approaches [can it] not be considered as a distortion of many Christian icons of Mary.” He says this “demonizes religious holy figures” and that it is “unacceptable,” “revolting,” and “offensive.”

Except that even your Moral Compass host knows, despite his atheism, that that’s a picture of Santa Muerte, the ever-more-popular Catholic folk saint venerated mostly in Mexico.

So can we all dial back the outrage now? Thanks.

Church of England Priest Accused of 18 Kid Rapes

From the Argus (U.K.):

A retired Church of England priest from East Sussex goes on trial today (April 9) after pleading not guilty to a string of sex attacks on 18 girls and boys dating back more than 50 years. Canon Gordon Rideout, 74, is accused of committing 38 offences over an 11-year period between January 1962 and January 1973. At Lewes Crown Court in October, he denied 36 counts of indecent assault and two counts of attempted rape.

Drunk-Driving Bishop Kills Pedestrian

A Wisconsin bishop drives drunk in the middle of the day, plows down a pedestrian, kills her.

A local bishop faces a tentative charge of homicide by intoxicated driving after a crash Sunday that killed a 52-year-old woman, according to Sun Prairie police and a local pastor.


Bruce H. Burnside, 59, of Madison, was arrested after he allegedly hit a female pedestrian at the northbound off-ramp of Highway 151 at Windsor Street in Sun Prairie. …

Rev. David Berggren of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Sun Prairie confirmed Sunday evening that Burnside is bishop for the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Burnside, a former pastor at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Monona, was elected bishop in 2007. He is up for re-election in May, Berggren added.

Oh no, you don’t think the killing of a pedestrian will hurt Burnside’s re-election chances, do you?

Probably not.


P.S. This report says Bishop Burnside tried to flee the scene after the accident, which would make his crime a hit-‘n’-run.

The Vatican’s Favorite Porn

Via Boing Boing:

TorrentFreak’s been looking at the BitTorrent video-downloading from the small pool of downloaders in Vatican City, and they’ve reported in with the Vatican’s favorite pornography:


You can type any of these titles into a search engine and see for yourself what titillates the men of the Holy See.

As a public service, and because I speak just enough German to be dangerous, I’ll translate the description and tags of movie number 14 for you:

“Bondage sado-masochism — Female slave punished in dark hobby dungeon teen games with shackles.”


Catholic Revisionism: Adoring Ponce de León

If you’d been in St. Augustine, Florida, on Saturday, you could have glimpsed Catholic priest Father Gilbert Medina peacock-strutting through the pretty streets, dressed as the Spanish invader Juan Ponce de León.

Father Medina was proud to do his part to celebrate the discovery of Florida by Ponce de León five hundred years ago, a feat that the priest and his posse re-enacted by planting a flag in a seemingly random flower bed in a local park. His pride, he said, was bolstered by his Catholic faith, just as the 16th-century explorer had found spiritual satisfaction in bringing his Catholic faith to the New World.

As Father Medina told the local news team — watch the video, below — he viewed his re-enactment of the conquistador’s supposed triumphs as “an opportunity to connect myself to Catholic history.” But when he donned the replica Spanish helmet, his vision was grander than that. He also hoped, he said, to inspire people, to whet their appetites for history, to make them delve into books and look up historical events on the Internet, and thus “explore the world.”

So I did that, as it seemed to me that Father Medina’s assessment of Ponce de León was a bit rosary rosy.

That’s not uncommon among followers of the faith. When you check out the Catholic Encyclopedia, the entry on Ponce de León uses the most wonderful euphemisms. During his conquests of the Caribbean and beyond, Ponce didn’t slaughter the natives; he “reduced” them. He didn’t wage war on indigenous tribes or brutalize uppity slaves; he had “encounters” with them.

Other sources, which I read thanks to Father Medina’s kind encouragement, provide perhaps a fuller account of Ponce’s record.

From Wikipedia:

Back on his island [Puerto Rico], Ponce de León parceled out the native Taínos amongst himself and other settlers using a system of forced labor known as encomienda. The Indians were put to work growing food crops and mining for gold. Many of the Spaniards treated the Taínos very harshly and newly introduced diseases like smallpox and measles took a severe toll on the local population. By June 1511 the Taínos were pushed to a short-lived rebellion, which was forcibly put down by Ponce de León and a small force of troops armed with crossbows and arquebuses [early firearms].

Encomienda, which comes from the Spanish verb for “to entrust,” has a nice ring to it, but that didn’t keep the natives from being treated worse than dogs.

The difference between encomienda and slavery could be minimal. Many natives were forced to do hard labor and subjected to extreme punishment and death if they resisted.


The Florida Frontier reminds us that

Ponce de León carried a contract from his king “to settle the Islands of Bimini and the lands discovered.” This contract stated that the native people must be given the option of becoming serfs or, when they didn’t comply, they could be taken as slaves.

It’s good to have options.

The Spanish conquistadors carried with them a religion whose defining symbol is an image of intolerance and torture — the cross. … Their method of gaining control of their lives was through the accumulation of personal wealth and by the subjugation of others.

Sure, but that still does not get to the heart of the Ponce de León legacy. The explorer’s enthusiasm for spreading Catholicism and his callous treatment of his enslaved inferiors were as legendary as evidence of his vaunted accomplishments is flimsy and even fake. Most notably, by 1513, the year he “discovered” Florida, the peninsula had in fact seen so many Europeans that some native Americans greeted him in Spanish.

I’ll quote from the recent New York Times article “Ponce de León, Exposed”:

Contrary to what our school books taught us, Ponce did not discover Florida. He never did much of anything here except get himself killed. …

Ponce never went anywhere near St. Augustine, the city where he is said to have discovered the Fountain of Youth. … Ponce was after gold, but Florida had none to be found. He left and might never have returned but for the news that Cortés had found gold in Mexico. In 1521 Ponce — envious, vigorous, avaricious — made the fatal mistake of trying his Florida luck again.

After sustaining an arrow wound to his leg, which led to an infection,

…he died of fever in Havana, having discovered nothing, founded nothing and achieved nothing.

The Spanish never named anything after Ponce de León.

In America, we often enjoy myth-making more than truth-telling — a bit like Chicagoans invented deep-dish pizza (which, I hasten to add, is tasty enough) and pretend it’s Italian food. We treat history as some cheap fake of an imitation of a facsimile, a theme-park-ready cubic zirconium version of truth that lets us substitute slavery for bravery and plunder for pluck.

Pay no mind to the bodies, make way for the Walt Disney Company. Stuff those skeletons into the closet, here comes the Catholic Church. It’s perfectly understandable, and perfectly depressing, all at once.

Did Grand Rabbi Lie About His Sorbonne Degree?

As we’ve seen, France’s highest Jewish religious authority, Grand Rabbi Gilles Bernheim, got in hot water last week when it emerged that he’d

• plagiarized a deceased author, then
• tried in vain to make it seem that the dead guy had plagiarized him, then
• blamed the whole affair on either a careless student assistant or a ghostwriter.



But over the weekend, the story got even better. Via Agence France Presse:

Bernheim’s Who’s Who entry, based on information he provided, says he was awarded from Sorbonne University an “agrégation de philosophie”, a prestigious but extremely difficult to obtain achievement that permits the teaching of philosophy in French institutions. However university “agrégation” lists from 1972 to 2000 have no entry for Bernheim. The head of the association managing the lists, Blanche Lochmann, said the Grand Rabbi’s name was not in the agrégation lists kept by the French education ministry either.

“It is very difficult for a public figure to try to fool people as to whether he has an agrégation,” she said. “This is the first instance that is so blatant.”

Bernheim’s spokesman, Rabbi Moche Lewin, told AFP that the Grand Rabbi was not available to respond to the latest developments in the scandal.

[image via Jean Marc Morandini

Orthodox NY Jews Won’t Disclose Name of Herpes-Spreading Cleric; More Babies May Die

Talk about burying the lede.

ABC News devotes 900 words to explaining that two more babies have contracted herpes through a highly unsanitary circumcision procedure that involves a Jewish cleric putting his mouth on an infant’s bloody penis and sucking away the blood. We wrote about this on Moral Compass a couple of days ago (and prior to that, here).

Incredibly, the ABC editors, in their written coverage, hid the most explosive revelation way down, in the very last paragraph, on page 2:


The health department could take no action against the rabbi who performed the circumcision, because the parents would not reveal his identity.

So: Not only did the Yahweh-fearing couple not bother to prevent its own child from contracting herpes (the circumcision practice, and the virus it transmitted, has already killed two infants, and caused brain damage in two more); Mommy and Daddy feel they must now protect their bloodsucking holy man at the expense of other children who may well die or suffer from lifelong medical consequences.

Future victims galore:

About two-thirds of boys born in New York City’s Hasidic communities are circumcised in the oral suction manner, according to Rabbi David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America.

The number of young victims may be under-reported; there are credible allegations from within the Jewish community that hospitals like New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center habitually suppress the real number of circumcision-related herpes infections.

Meanwhile, New York City’s Health Department says its hand are tied. The department has been fighting to implement a measure aimed at having Jewish parents sign a consent form for a ritual circumcision. The piece of paper would inform the parents of the risks, and make them acknowledge that they’re aware of what might happen. Never mind that children as young as eight weeks will continue to die even if such forms are presented and signed.

But as weak and ineffectual as the consent-form initiative is, various rabbis oppose it “on religious grounds.”

“This is the government forcing a rabbi practicing a religious ritual to tell his congregants it could hurt their child,” Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of the Hasidic United Jewish Organization of Williamsburg, told “If, God forbid, there was a danger, we would be the first to stop the practice.”

Except that they’re fucking not, as more tiny corpses may soon attest.

[image via Failed Messiah]

Yogi Bare: How a ‘Hot Yoga’ Guru Gets His Kicks

We learned last week that 67-year-old Bikram Choudhury, the guru and promoter of “hot yoga,” is being sued for sexual harassment, discrimination, and defamation. Former student Sarah Baughn says Choudhury was her hero until he began propositioning her rather relentlessly. She accuses him of pressing his body against hers while adjusting her pose in classes, whispering sexual innuendos into her ear, ordering her to kiss him in front of other trainees, and assaulting her in a hotel room in Mexico.

Baughn says she resisted his advances. He found others easier to enthrall: Choudhury makes fawning students brush his hair, give him massages, and invites them to have sex with him, according to Baughn.


This weekend, former Choudhury acolyte Benjamin Lorr provides some insights into the yogi’s cult ardent following. Lorr wrote a book about extreme yoga and the physical and spiritual pains its followers endure on the path to enlightenment.

In an article in the Daily Beast, he calls Choudhury “a dark prince of America yoga” who approaches his students “in Speedo and Rolex, barking orders at his following of millions (19 studios in New York City alone) as they struggle to contort to his demands.” Lorr says the master “charges upward of $11,000 to attend his trainings. He has 40 Rolls Royces in his garage.”

Trappings of obscene wealth aside, let’s ponder the similarities between sex abuse allegation from one cult or religion to the next. Lorr writes:

“Observing emotions,” “working through pain,” “refusing to become a victim” — all potent pieces of advice, cornerstones of a yoga practice built on personal empowerment — can easily be turned into weapons of silence. At the same time, community exhortations to just “focus on the positives” and “remember all the good he has done” provide the justification for their use.

That second part, at least, is how it seems to work in many Christian churches, too.

In Choudhury’s case, the alleged sexual harassment seems to go hand in hand with verbal abuse.

“He once shouted at me, ‘Hey you! Do you have boobs or do you have a dick? I can’t see it!’ ” recalls Naveed Abidi, the owner of a Chicago-based Bikram yoga studio who studied under Choudhury five years ago. He’s still a fan, and an avid defender of the man, because the insults are made with good intentions: “The reason he’s saying it is he just wants to have people get over their egos.”

Calling students all kinds of names, then, is all in a day’s work for the millionaire teacher of  ancient yogic truths? Abidi confirms it:

“Every [yoga] teacher knows that Bikram calls his wife bitch. People who know Bikram know it’s nothing new. If he calls you a bitch, you should be happy he’s calling you something.”

Previous yoga-world scandals here, here, and here.

[photo by Rebecca Greenfield via the Daily Beast; tip of the miter to Erik Sherman]