Monday Religious News Roundup

• Peter Sprigg and Chris Hill of Charisma News are upset that the Boy Scouts are probably going from bad to worse: once you let in the gays, can the wretched atheists be far behind?

• Prayerful mother kills four: “Hours before she killed her two sons, her ex-husband, and her stepmother, and tried to frame one of the slain children for the other three murders, Susan Hendricks gathered her family together to pray.”

• In Scotland, a Muslim father was spared a prison sentence even though he had produced a knife and threatened to kill his daughter after he deemed that her sexual conduct had brought shame on him. Magistrate Valerie Johnston said her “instinct” had been to send the perp to prison, but added her hands were tied in how long she could jail him. The nutcase father told the court that he keeps the knife handy to ward off “demons,” and is awaiting someone from Egypt to cast them out. This should end well.

• In an ongoing dispute over who may pray, and how, at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the rabbi in charge of the site has received threatening letters from fellow Jews. One letter included a picture of a gun. Police are investigating.

• A pastor in Thane, India, spiked a girl’s drink to knock her unconscious so he could have sex with her. He then promised to marry her, but went back on his word after she became pregnant. After forcing her to have an abortion, he threatened to release obscene photos of her on social-media sites if she told anyone. The man has been charged with rape.

• In 2005, priest Marek Maczynski was booted from the Orlando diocese after he stole $10,000 from church coffers. Now Maczynski is back in the news because he runs a passport company in Boca that has inspired almost two hundred customers to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Some of them are calling the firm, U.S. Passport Services, “a scam.”

• A Muslim suicide bomber in Sulawesi, Indonesia, intended to murder local cops, but managed to blow up only himself.

• Call of Taburteka is a new Facebook game based on the May 17 attack by a mob of priests and their followers on about 50 pro-gay-rights demonstrators in Georgia (the country). In the game you play a Georgian Orthodox priest who has to defend himself against an army of homos waving rainbow flags.

• We’ll end with a bit of good news: A federal jury decided today that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati must pay Christa Dias $171,000 because it improperly fired the unmarried teacher after she became pregnant through artificial insemination.

Jewish Fundamentalism on the Rise: ‘More Like the Sopranos Than Like Fiddler on the Roof.’

Ultra-orthodox adherents of the Torah already account for 49 percent of religious New York Jews. Given demographic trends, that slice of the population is poised to grow. In the words of the Jewish daily the Forward,  New York Jewry will soon be predominantly “fundamentalist, poor, uneducated and reactionary.”

Non-Orthodox Jews will look like the secular Persians of Iran: once the complacent majority, now a minority oppressed by fundamentalists.

The Forward’s Jay Michaelson, a contributing editor, explains:

Call them what you will — ultra-Orthodox Jews, “fervently Orthodox” Jews, Haredim, black hats. They will soon become the majority of affiliated Jews in the metropolitan New York area, and the religious majority in Israel. The results will be catastrophic.


We’ve read stories recently of Haredim in Israel comparing Israeli politicians to Hitler and throwing stones at women praying at the Kotel; of Haredim in New York fighting to restrict the prosecution of sex abuse claims; of Haredim in Germany threatening the fragile truce on circumcision by defending the practice of adult men sucking blood directly from the penises of infants.

And that is just the tip of the fundamentalist iceberg. In recent months, the Forward has depicted the coercion and ignorance prevalent in American ultra-Orthodox communities: in brilliant essays by Judy Brown and Shulem Deen, in exposés of Hasidic money laundering… And of course, “fervently Orthodox” leaders have defended, justified, covered up and explained away sexual predators in a way that would make a Vatican official blush.

What has emerged from all this is a picture of a subculture that looks more like “The Sopranos” than like “Fiddler on the Roof” — a world in which a small elite maintains power at the expense of thousands of serfs. …

Meanwhile, “modesty brigades” and families willing to disown anyone who dares to leave patrol the walls of this contemporary shtetl. Imagine you’re an 18-year-old woman in a Hasidic enclave. You’re married, with two or three kids already, and you’ve been told that “outside” everyone is evil, depraved and miserable. You barely read English. And you know that when your cousin left, she was destitute, disowned and disgraced. There is no one to help you if you leave. You’re on your own. So of course you stay.

We are abandoning thousands of our fellow Jews to this hierarchy of power and abuse. We are doing nothing to help them.

And pretty soon, the hierarchy will overwhelm us.

Contrast this castigating of Jewish fundamentalism, published in an important Jewish news medium, to the crickets we get from Islamic media on the topic of Muslim fundamentalism.

Michaelson is right to raise concerns, and brave to risk the fury of his fellow Jews. I wish he had (more) company among followers of Allah.

[Image via Thanks to FailedMessiah for the link.]

U.K. Rabbi Breaches Bail, Flees to Israel on a False Passport After Charges of Child Rape

Just one in an endless parade of holy-man childfuckers.

A British Jewish man, who has applied for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, had his application rejected after the Israeli government deemed his presence in the country a danger to the public, according to court proceedings in Israel.

Rabbi Todros Grynhaus fled to Israel with a false passport shortly after pleading not guilty in a British court to seven counts of sexual assault involving three children.

Greater Manchester Police, who had been looking for the 48-year-old in the U.K. and abroad since he disappeared two weeks ago, confirmed that the man they believe is Grynhaus had been arrested in Jerusalem, Israel, where he lived under a false identity.

British law enforcement now awaits his extradition.

[image via Your Jewish News]

Gender Cleansing: Women Now Eerily Absent From Religious Zionist Kids’ Entertainment

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz shines a spotlight on a disturbing trend, and describes a religious-Zionist kids’ TV show called Asi & Tuvia to illustrate the point:

The show is actually pretty relatable, even for a secular audience. The language is contemporary; each episode is pleasant and entertaining. It’s only when watching a whole batch of episodes in a row that one notices something startling: None of them feature a single girl or a woman.

Arutz Meir caters specifically to families from the religious Zionist sector, a population which has moved more and more in recent years toward gender-segregation and the exclusion of women (both of which are already common among the stricter, ultra-Orthodox communities).


But it’s not just TV.

The absence of women has become especially prominent in illustrated Jewish texts, such as the Passover Hagaddah and the Megillat Esther for Purim. “It’s absurd that there are now Hagaddah books in which it looks as if only men left Egypt,” says Rachel Azaria, a Jerusalem councilwoman who represents the Yerushalmim Party and is one of the leading figures in the struggle against gender-segregation and the exclusion of women.

“Our religious Zionist kindergarten had a Passover Hagaddah in which Pharaoh’s daughter is pulling Moses out of the water. Only her hand could be seen; her face was hidden behind bushes,” says Azaria. “And this is the lenient version of such books. They only show women with their heads lowered or facing away.”

Religious texts, partly on account of how old they are, excel in misogyny and in marginalizing women. It’s tempting to think that equality marches ever onward, and it’s good to see that sexism becoming less draconian in most major faiths. Too bad that some fundamentalists, on the other hand, are succeeding in squeezing the toothpaste back into the tube.

[image via]

Seeing God, Clearly

Because god cares deeply about which style of glasses you wear, one Hasidic school in Brooklyn has decided to ban frames from category two, on the right.

Orthodox Brooklyn yeshiva bans ‘hip’ thick-framed glasses -

An Orthodox Jewish school in Brooklyn has forbidden thick-framed retro glasses favored by the likes of Woody Allen.

“We are asking that everyone buy simple glasses,” reads a letter written in Yiddish that was recently issued to parents of students at Borough Park’s Bobover Yeshiva B’Nei Zion, which caters to members of the Bobov sect.

“What we have to commit ourselves to is we have to stand on top of this and not tolerate the new modernism.”

[image via the New York Post]

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Attack Women Over Prayer

A growing group of progressive Jewish women demand the right to pray at Jerusalem’s Western Wall in the same way as men — carrying holy texts and prayer shawls. An Israeli court recently sided with the equal-righters, affirming that nothing should prevent women from participating in the same rituals performed by ultra-Orthodox men.

But today, when the women turned up to pray in the hours before the Jewish Sabbath, bands of protesting men bombarded the women with trash, water, and chairs. They also stoned the women’s buses.

Three or five ultra-Orthodox men (accounts differ) were arrested for disorderly conduct.

The protesters might have been extra enraged by the government’s plan, announced yesterday, to stop Jewish zealots from trying to enforce gender segregation in public, such as relegating women to the back of public buses.

“Discrimination against women in public places, in public services, cannot be allowed,” [Justice] minister Tzipi Livni told Army Radio. … “Today, I instructed the Justice Ministry to draft legislation … that will make any segregation of women and their humiliation in a public space a criminal offence,” Livni said on her Facebook page. …

The separation of women and men on bus lines through religious neighborhoods, and incidents in which Jewish zealots have spat at schoolgirls they deemed to be dressed immodestly, have raised public pressure on the government to act.

More on the patriarchal venom of ultra-Orthodox Jews here.

Self-Styled Rabbi Treated ‘Possessed’ Children With Suffocation, Burning, Hammers, Knives

Self-styled rabbi and former international fugitive Elior Chen did unspeakable things to young Israeli children he suspected of being possessed by demons.

He wasn’t the only one to suffer sadism-inducing delusions; about a half dozen of his devout followers did too. Together, they abused and tortured eight children who they thought were under Satanic spells.

The abuse was uncovered in 2009, when a child previously under Chen’s care lost consciousness and had to be taken to the hospital. Once the authorities caught on to the abuse, Chen fled to Brazil, which extradited him back to Israel.

Haredi _Rabbi_ Elior Chen sentenced to 24 years in prison for child abuse Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper

In February 2011, an Israeli court sentenced Chen to 24 years in prison, but he’s back in court now, insisting he didn’t get a fair trial because his lawyer allegedly had a conflict of interest. Yesterday, the child torturer argued his appeal before the Israeli Supreme Court.

If he does receive a new trial, let’s hope the judge gives him more than 24 years. Consider, courtesy of the Jerusalem Post, precisely what this fine “spiritual mentor” of a Haredi-like Jewish cult did:

Chen and his followers were convicted of abusing young children with hammers, knives and other implements over a period of several months. One child suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the abuse to which he was subjected by his mother and her companions, all under Chen’s orders. He is expected to remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. Chen gave his followers instructions on how to “fix” the children’s behavior, and “cleanse” them of their satanic possession.

The chilling and gruesome child-abuse case included a mother who forced her children to eat feces, locked them in a suitcase for three days and letting them out for only brief periods, repeatedly beat, whipped, and shook them, burnt their hands and gave them freezing showers. The abusive mother and the “educators” also poured salt on the burn wounds of one of the children, stuffing his mouth with a skullcap and sealing it with masking tape.

Chen’s disciples had “blind admiration” for him, the court found. Whatever Chen decreed, his followers happily carried out. Their abuse of the children occurred because he commanded it, but Chen wasn’t above doing a little torture himself; the cult leader was convicted in part for having actively participated in the abuse.

Four of Chen’s accomplices were sentenced to jail terms of up to 20 years each. The mother of the eight children was sentenced in May 2010. She got five years in prison after pleading guilty to shaking, burning, and tying up her brood.

[photo by Daniel Bar-On via Haaretz]

Religious People Score Embarrassingly Low on Knowledge of Their Holy Texts; Atheists Excel

I remember reading about this study when it came out, in 2010, but I’d never seen this illuminating CNN interview with the chief authors. Tip of the hat to reddit.

Also, per the screenshot below, I somehow managed to be the 666th viewer of that YouTube video. Cross yourself!

CNN_ Do agnostics know more than believers? - YouTube

God’s Chosen People Choose to Steal NY Bus Stop


Yahweh wanted it that way.

A furious bus driver says two Hasidic scofflaws have moved a city no-parking sign, cementing it into the sidewalk in front of a Williamsburg yeshiva — and squeezing out an MTA bus stop.

“There was no way I could park at the bus stop,” fumed Jamar Perry, who spied the sign heist on Franklin Avenue while driving the B48.

“Two Jewish guys were moving the pole. I saw them resetting it. They had fresh cement and made it look professionally done.”


The relocated sign stands about 30 feet from the bus stop on Franklin just north of Flushing Avenue. It prevents cars from parking in front of Yeshiva Bnos Ahavas Israel so the religious school’s yellow buses can illegally park at the curb.

Fresh concrete can be seen as a yeshiva bus sits near an allegedly relocated sign in Williamsburg.

But what burns Perry, 39 and a four-year MTA employee, is the obstacle course it has created for his riders. Because of the parked yellow buses, city buses can’t pull into the stop and instead must idle in the middle of the street.

“When you’re in the middle of the street, bicyclists and motorcycles fly through there,” he said. “You’re also unable to pick up a wheelchair at that stop because you can’t pull in.”

P.S., May 10: A fellow blogger thinks the New York Post story has holes and may be untrue. Thanks to commenter Hasid for the link.

[Story via Failed Messiah; image by ChrisGoldNY via Flickr]

My Husband the Biblical King

Good judgment and intelligence took a 10-year leave of absence:

Tracey Sharp was induced to live for more than a decade in a menage of seven ‘wives’ who shared a single ‘husband’. Moreover, she was persuaded to believe the absurd fiction that Philip Sharp, once a Messianic Jewish rabbi, was a Biblical king who had been instructed by God to have multiple wives and a brood of children.

‘I do question how I got involved,’ says Tracey, 46, who has two daughters, Naomi, nine, and Mischa, three, by the self-styled king. She left his Sussex harem in November after their relationship disintegrated into a succession of blazing rows.


Why did all these women fall under a deluded man’s spell? All it took was Philip Sharp invoking the will of god.

“He said he’d had a visitation from God and was about to be a king, and I think he genuinely felt God had decreed he should take many wives and that what he was doing was right. … I was in love with the man and he is very powerful and persuasive. He assured us everything was sanctioned by God and he quoted passages from the Bible to back this up. He could have told me the sky was luminous orange and I would have believed him.”

The women were instructed to keep their heads covered — Sharp wanted to be the only one to see their hair — and were called to prayer at 6:30am every day. Says his estranged wife,

‘The hardest thing was recognizing that he wasn’t a king. He wasn’t called by God. He was just a man with a giant ego.

No shit hon. They all are.


P.S. Think seven wives is impressive? At last count, this Islamic faith healer had 86.

[image via Daily Mail]

Setting the Holy Land on Fire

Burning faith:

Bonfires lit throughout Israel in honor of Lag b’Omer burned out of control. … Hot, dry and windy conditions in Israel contributed to several heat-wave-related fires …

A large fire broke out at moshav Kfar Uria near Beit Shemesh, causing the evacuation of 200 people from their homes and damaging about 500 acres of forest. Several serious fires also burned out of control in the Jerusalem area after Lag b’Omer bonfires were not properly extinguished.

Fires also burned out of control in Netanya and Rosh Haayin in central Israel.


Observant Jews have long had an uneasy relation with religious flames. In 2005, in Brooklyn,

A fire official said that the Orthodox Jewish custom of leaving a flame burning during Sabbath and holidays has caused 35 kitchen fires at Bedford Gardens, the 600-unit apartment complex in Williamsburg, in the last several months.

The faithful, you see, would just leave their stoves on for religious reasons, sometimes burning themselves and their neighbors out of their homes.

Injuries and deaths occurred frequently as a result of Passover conflagrations. In 2004, also in New York, five people, including two young children, sustained horrible burns when a rabbi’s son and Darwin Award candidate tried to keep a pre-Passover flame going by pouring paint thinner on it.

The situation has since improved, thanks to city officials and NYFD staff waging a yearly campaign to remind devout Jews that flames are hot and fire burns.

[image via Wildfire Today]

Not Sparing Devout Jews From Draft? That’s the Devil; Haredim Advise Suicide, Invoke Holocaust.

Orthodox-Jewish yeshiva students in Israel have been exempt from serving in the country’s military pretty much since the nation’s founding. Military service is mandatory for both the irreligious and the moderately devout; but ultra-Orthodox Jews claim that when their kids study the scriptures, they’re doing more important work for the country’s safety than those who serve as Hamas fodder.

“Let the other families sacrifice their children instead,” has been the thinking in these circles. “Ours are just too godly.”

As reported in USA Today,

The exemption, which involved only a few hundred top rabbinical students in 1949, has mushroomed into an exemption that has allowed 60,000 able-bodied men to forego military service each year.

Military service in Israel is serious business, requiring years of sacrifice.

Most Jews are drafted into the military at age 18, with men serving three years and then decades of yearly reserve duty, and women serving about two years, the Associated Press reports.

That the pious kids can just bury their noses in the Torah and call it good has long led to grumbling among the general population. Last year, the government sought to end the exemption, but the political and theological backbiting continues to this day.

According to an article in today’s Haaretz, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar says that it’s misguided and evil to support universal military in Israel. ‘Cause guess who’s behind such a draft? This guy:


The devil has prompted people “jealous of religious study” to become “confused,” the rabbi warned.

Torah study is thriving like it did in the past,” he said. “The devil, jealous at seeing this, put it into the minds of some people to fight against the Torah.”

The notion that all citizens should be treated equally by the state also doesn’t fly with the rabbi:

“This equality is the last thing we need.” … [Amar] called the effort to draft yeshiva students “madness” and asked God “to have mercy on us.”

Equality is good — but as always, some are more equal than others.

Meanwhile, the country’s biggest Orthodox sect, the Haredi (previous Moral Compass coverage here and here), is getting positively rabid in its opposition to a draft for the devout.

A new draft resisters’ guide tailored for haredi yeshiva students reportedly compares the draft of those haredi yeshiva students to the Holocaust and reminds them that, like in the Holocaust, sometimes suicide is preferable to complying with the decrees of an evil government.

The 32-page guide was printed under the auspices of a new haredi organization called Fortress – The Center for Protection from Draft Issues. Ynet reports that the guide explains possible ways to dodge the draft. …

The guide goes on to discuss the obligation for total sacrifice [suicide], giving several historical examples to prove its point. One of those examples is the story of 93 girls at a Bais Yaakov school in Krakow, Poland  in 1942. All 93 of the girls committed suicide when they found out that Nazi soldiers were on their way to the school to rape them.

“We must learn from previous generations about the pride and intensity with which they gave their souls for the sanctification of God,” the guide says.

Such extremist language is matched at the highest theological levels. Last month, a hard-line Orthodox rabbi put the military draft of haredim in the category of ye’hareg v’bal ya’avor, a commandment that Jews must die rather than transgress:

Haredim being drafted into Israel’s military “means the uprooting of our religion” and Jews must be willing to be killed in order to prevent it from happening, a senior haredi leader, Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach said.

The headline on that article reads: Army Service Means Eradication of Judaism.