Ex-Mormon Bishop Charged With Sexually Assaulting Two Girls From His Church

Another one bites the dust:

Murrieta (Calif.) resident Todd Mitchell Edwards, 49, is accused of sexually assaulting two teenage girls who reportedly went to the church where he was a bishop at one time. Edwards has pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted he faces up to nine years in prison. He remained incarcerated Tuesday on $65,000 bail.

“He’s been charged with three felony counts, one of sexual penetration with a foreign object by force,” said John Hall, a Riverside County District Attorney spokesman.

Former Mormon bishop charged with sexually assaulting teen girls | abc7.com

Hall says the victim in that incident was a child, and it happened last year. He says the second victim was 18 at the time, and that incident happened in 2006.

“The defendant and both victim in this case all attended the same church,” said Hall. …

The district attorney’s office says it’s possible there could be other victims. …

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said they investigated a third case of alleged sexual assault, but the statute of limitations had expired.

It’s Fish Friday in Utah!

Catholics continue their covert conversion of Mormons:

About 75,000 pounds of frozen crab meat — more than 37 tons — spilled out of a truck leaving Salt Lake City.


The trailer toppled over near dawn Friday, spilling most boxes of crab and some of the meat onto I-15 near Spanish Fork.

Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Todd Johnson says a similar spill happened about 15 years ago when a smaller truck hauling seafood dumped its contents onto a Utah road.

[image via NPR]

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

Eew, Eel! Don’t Tell the Anti-Gay-Marriage Crowd

I’ve frequently heard from rightwing Christians that if we let men marry men, and women marry women, we’ll have to let them marry chickens and dogs too, and soon they’ll all be having butt sex with hippos, or something.

Here’s a cartoon that yuks it up in that regard. Pretty sure I recognize the hand of the reliably dreadful New York Post cartoonist Sean Delonas.

Delonas artoon

In this charming worldview, gay people are on a par with molesters of livestock; and the notion of equal rights for all men and women is as preposterous as a sheep wearing a bridal veil.

The idea that this is not an intellectually legitimate way of looking at the issue was only slightly undermined the other day, when a tellingly unmarried 39-year-old man in southern China had relations with an eel. That is, he introduced the eel’s head to his rectum, and there was, let’s say, a love connection. So much so that the eel, perhaps hungry for a post-coital snack, ate through his BFF’s colon, and doctors had to operate. Here’s the story. And via the Huffington Post, here’s a picture of the eel, who, we’re told, didn’t survive the extraction:

FUNNY EELING - Porn stunt With Live Eel Backfires

Please nobody tell Sean Delonas or the Post, or we’ll never hear the end of it.

A Nation of Believers … In Just About Anything

Irrational beliefs are alive and well in the United States. For instance,

One in five Republican voters believes Barack Obama is the ‘antichrist’ and nearly a third of all Americans think a secret power elite controls the world, according to new research on conspiracy theories.

A survey by the Public Policy Polling group aimed to shed light on the link between political leanings and belief in conspiracy theories. The poll found that:

• 34 percent of Republicans polled believe a New World Order controls the world, compared with 35 percent of independent voters and 15 percent of Democrats.

• 29 percent of US voters believe aliens exist.

• 13 percent of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, including 22 percent of Romney voters.

More here.


I’m happy for people to believe whatever they want — no skin off my backside. All the same, it can be dispiriting to live in a country whose populace takes to nonsense and disinformation as a fish takes to water.

The survey steered clear of asking about delusional beliefs in various deities, but we know the picture would have been bleak indeed.

[image via Shirtoid]

Amen. I Mean, Right On.

Via BrightRock.


More Education = Less Religion

Does more education lead to less religion?

Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner says yes, and he bases that on a study by Daniel Hungerman, an economist at Notre Dame who studies religious faith. Hungerman, using an exclusively Canadian data set, concluded that

…higher levels of education lead to lower levels of religious participation later in life. An additional year of education leads to a 4-percentage-point decline in the likelihood that an individual identifies with any religious tradition; the estimates suggest that increases in schooling can explain most of the large rise in non-affiliation in Canada in recent decades.

Of course, this is not at all the same as saying that the religious are less intelligent. For those who care to wade into that minefield, there’s Prof. Helmuth Nyborg’s 2008 study. Nyborg correlated religiosity and IQ, and found that

…atheists scored an average of 1.95 IQ points higher than agnostics, 3.82 points higher than liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than dogmatic persuasions.

In a separate research project that involved IQ levels of almost 7,000 U.S. adolescents, Nyborg and a fellow academic, Prof. Richard Lynn, concluded that atheists scored six IQ points higher than non-atheists. They also found that at the international level, the nations with the biggest populations of atheists are the ones that scored highest for overall intelligence.


Fundamentalists are very often wary of children receiving a good (higher) education, and now we know that, in their own warped way, they’re completely right.

[image via pkpolitics]

Psst! Wanna Buy a Fake Car From This Prophet?

Got Ferrari taste but a Toyota budget? No problem. The good people at Super Replicas, a Panama-based company that purports to sell perfect supercar knockoffs, will gladly take your money.

But will you ever see your vehicle?

Is the Pope a Muslim?

The car site Jalopnik published an investigation of Super Replicas today. Jalopnik writer Patrick George, digging his way through the murk and the often confounding digital fingerprints left behind by Super Replicas and its founder, Daniel John Seppings, discovered that

Seppings is an Australian-born Mormon who has broken away from the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and started his own extremist religious movement. He was apparently kicked out of the United States for immigration reasons, charged and acquitted of child sex crimes in Honduras, used a number of aliases over the years, and has been accused of running other scams in Central America, according to a Honduran newspaper report.


Jalopnik says that even by the standards of the Mormon Church, Seppings is a big fat phony, though the man himself has claimed to be an honest-to-God prophet.

Seppings’ views are far outside those shared by mainstream Mormons. He writes that he believes he is the prophet of some kind of “true church” and likens himself to numerous Biblical figures, complete with miracles and natural disasters and everything.

And now, it appears that he’s in Panama, hawking knockoff supercars that never get delivered to the people who send them money and claiming that Top Gear USA host Tanner Foust is the CEO of his business. (Spoiler alert: He isn’t.)

Seppings has led a colorful life in more ways than one. He’s a known bigamist (and we all know how much the Mormon church abhors bigamy). He was involuntary committed to a mental institution for a while, though it’s not clear if this occurred before or after he began likening himself to several Biblical figures.

In the nineties, Seppings traveled from Australia to the U.S., proselytized on Indian reservations, openly denounced Mormon leaders while still preaching tenets of the Mormon faith, and spent a short time in jail for trespassing while “sharing testimony” at a Mormon chapel on a Hopi reservation. Immigration officials kicked him out of the U.S. in 1999, says Jalopnik.

The way Seppings tells it, the Mormon god

sent me on the two wings of a great eagle to Honduras, where I would be protected from the dragon.

Alllll-righty then.

According to a Honduran newspaper account, Seppings, while presenting himself as a Mormon missionary, started several questionable business initiatives in his adopted country. One apparent scam involved offering an outsized salary to thousands of low-qualifications job applicants, provided they paid the blue-eyed gringo an application fee first. The jobs never materialized.

What’s more, Honduran cops soon learned that Seppings had molested two underage girls in El Paraiso, and he was arrested and charged with sexual assault.

It’s not quite clear how he beat the rap, but five years ago, maybe more, Seppings set up shop in Panama. His new line of business: selling “perfect replicas” of million-dollar supercars at “a fraction of the price of the originals.” For instance, his company, Top Gear, promises to custom-build a 1,100-horsepower Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse (a car whose original has a price tag of about $2.6 million) for just $49,000.

Part of Seppings’ genius chutzpah is that he’s not afraid to lie big. Though his business has a shingle on the net at www.topgeartvseries.com, the BBC and the makers of the famous British automotive TV show Top Gear have precisely zero to do with the Panamanian ripoff artist.

Likewise, don’t be deceived by the fact that Seppings has shamelessly and illegally copied the U.K. car show’s logo, and uses it to enhance his non-existent credibility.

Clearly, the man has a profit motive, not a prophet motive.

Speaking of prophesies, I can safely foretell this: Considering the crowd-sourced sleuthing at both Jalopnik and Scams Online, people who try to buy a knockoff car from a knockoff Mormon might end up not being impressed by Mr. Seppings’ overall godliness.

[image via Jalopnik]

Time Discovers Faith’s Dark Side

In my lifetime, people of faith will probably always be allowed more manifestations of loopiness than non-believers.

If, as a secular American, I go around licking fenceposts every afternoon, and occasionally smash my forehead into one, it probably won’t be long until a kindly police officer takes me on a ride to the nearest mental hospital.

But if I claim that my behavior is my small congregation’s way of honoring Jesus’s sacrifice — a form of penitence that allows us to spiritually travel “nearer, my God, to thee” — chances are excellent that I will be left alone. I might even draw a bit of quiet admiration for my sefless devotional sacrifice.

That said, there seems to be an increasing awareness that not all forms of religiosity are healthy. “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS) is a pathology that’s no longer easily dismissed; and even Time magazine, which can hardly be accused of being hostile to religion, now wishes to temper its zeal in spreading the notion that faith is necessarily a force for good.


Can Your Child Be Too Religious? Time asks — and with some equivocating, the answer the magazine gives is a clear yes.

Religion can be a source of comfort that improves well-being. But some kinds of religiosity could be a sign of deeper mental health issues. …

Your child’s devotion may be a great thing, but there are some kids whose religious observances require a deeper look. For these children, an overzealous practice of their family faith — or even another faith  — may be a sign of an underlying mental health issue or a coping mechanism for dealing with unaddressed trauma or stress. …

Some children suffer from scrupulosity, a form of OCD that involves a feeling of guilt and shame. Sufferers obsessively worry that they have committed blasphemy, been impure or otherwise sinned. They tend to focus on certain rules or rituals rather than the whole of their faith. They worry that God will never forgive them. And this can signal the onset of depression or anxiety, says John Duffy, a Chicago area clinical psychologist specializing in adolescents. “Kids who have made ‘mistakes’ with sex or drug use,” he says, “may have trouble forgiving themselves.”

Seems self-evident, but it’s nice to see the psychological downsides of faith acknowledged in a mainstream publication.

Such fastidiousness to religious practices may not seem so harmful, but extreme behavior such as delusions or hallucinations may be a sign of serious mental illness. Seeing and hearing things that are not there can be symptoms of manic-depressive, bipolar disorder, or early onset schizophrenia. But parents may be less attuned to such unhealthy behavior when it occurs under the guise of faith.

Whole story here.

[image via aclj.org]

Is ‘Religious Trauma Syndrome’ (RTS) For Real?

I’m of two minds when it comes to the existence of a mental affliction that some psychiatrists and psychologists, like Marlene Winell and Valerie Tarico, have been banging the drum about. It’s called religious trauma syndrome (RTS).

Explains Winell,

RTS is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group.

On one level, it seems like just another made-up pathology. The latest version of the U.S. psychiatrists’ manual, the DSM5, is rife with questionable disorders and syndromes. A whole gaggle of shrinks (and the pharmaceutical companies who love them) are never shy about dreaming up new ones.

Then again, it doesn’t seem at all far-fetched that many children who grow up under an authoritarian belief system that threatens them with a horrible snuffing if they engage in bad behavior (“The wages of sin is death,” Romans 6:23) are eventually going to have problems, perhaps many years later. So, notwithstanding my skepticism about the ever-growing thicket of mental disorders, I’m fairly open-minded about RTS.


Winell is well aware of the naysayers’ reservations, and she’s ready with a counter-argument.

Saying that someone is trying to pathologize authoritarian religion is like saying someone pathologized eating disorders by naming them. Before that, they were healthy? No, before that we weren’t noticing. People were suffering, thought they were alone, and blamed themselves.  Professionals had no awareness or training. This is the situation of RTS today. Authoritarian religion is already pathological, and leaving a high-control group can be traumatic. People are already suffering. They need to be recognized and helped.

She understands, too, that many people are surprised by the idea of RTS,

because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. …

But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. … Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging because of 1) toxic teachings like eternal damnation or original sin 2) religious practices or mindset, such as punishment, black-and-white thinking, or sexual guilt, and 3) neglect that prevents a person from having the information or opportunities to develop normally.

To be clear, much as it would please some atheists, neither Winell nor Tarico is saying that belief in God is itself evidence of a mental disorder. They are talking about specific unhealthy family and social environments that are created by strict religious edicts and the unbending, dogmatic enforcement thereof.

Religion causes trauma when it is highly controlling and prevents people from thinking for themselves and trusting their own feelings. Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth. With constant judgment of self and others, people become alienated from themselves, each other, and the world.

More here and here.

[image via wisegeek]

P.S. I edited this post a day after it was published, to correct the source of the quotes. Several quotes attributed to Tarico were in fact Winell’s. My apologies for the error. — T.F.

The Curious Case of the Mormon Penis Biter

Here at Moral Compass HQ, we’ll be keeping an eye on the upcoming trial of Mormon penis biter Efrey Antonio Guzman, 47.

Last May, Guzman, a branch president of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, knocked on the door of a family friend whose 13-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son were home alone.

When Guzman learned that the brother was in the shower, “the defendant suddenly grabbed [the girl], hugged her tightly and would not let her go,” the charges state. The teen said Guzman started kissing her and grabbed her buttocks, but left when her brother entered the room.

In August, however, the church official returned to the home, allegedly pushed his way in, and

…began to assault the mother. During a struggle, Guzman ripped her shirt, then grabbed her exposed breast, the charges state.


The woman’s son attempted to come to her rescue, whereupon Guzman decided to explore the contents of the boy’s boxer shorts. With his teeth.

Guzman grabbed and then bit the son’s genitals, “causing severe damage that required surgery,” according to the charges.

Kind of a dick move.

Guzman was president of the LDS Union Park 9th Branch in Midvale. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said after charges were filed that Guzman no longer holds that position.

[image via Mormonism Unveiled]

AA Still Asks, ‘Your Liver or Your Brain?’

If you have a serious drinking problem, you turn to AA, right? But what if you’re an agnostic or an atheist? Can you still climb those famous Twelve Steps if you don’t believe in God?

Six of the steps have strong religious connotations, to say the least:

2) (We) came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
5) Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6) Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7) Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Quite the litany. Turn our will and lives over; admit the nature of our wrongs; remove our shortcomings and defects of character; pray for God’s will for us.

Sounds like a sect to me. A pretty brainwashy sect, at that.


So would you rather ruin your liver or your brain? Some choice.

[image via Roger Fields]