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Fanatical amateur exorcist wins GOP primary in Colorado

Yesterday, Gordon Klingenschmitt won a GOP primary race by several hundred votes, becoming the official Republican nominee for House District 15 in the Colorado House of Representatives.

With the possible exceptions of exorcist Bob Larson and psychic ghostbuster Lorraine Warren, Klingenschmitt is probably the most obsessive demonologist on the planet. After being turfed from his position as a Navy chaplain for disobeying orders, he began webcasting a religious show that makes The 700 Club look pretty sane by comparison. He attributes all of the following things to demons and/or demonic possession:

  • Alcoholism. According to Klingenschmitt, the demons that will inhabit your body if you drink are more dangerous than the alcohol itself. And the images you see while using hallucinogenic drugs are actual demons.
  • Homosexuality. Klingenschmitt has boasted about performing successful exorcisms on gay people, and has likened teaching children about gay marriage to “mind rape”. He likens transsexual people using public washrooms to child rape. Frequently, he makes the bizarre assertion that certain legislation will “enforce” pedophilia in public schools. He defends all forms of discrimination against gays, because they are not fully human.
  • Atheism. (of course)

Klingenschmitt believes that non-Christians should not be allowed any government benefits, since they will not be going to Heaven.

He is also profoundly paranoid. He predicted that federal agents would murder every last person at the Bundy Ranch and dump their corpses into a mass grave. Like Anita Bryant, he believes most (if not all) adult homosexuals are sexual predators who “recruit” children by molesting them.

Most of his claims are so wildly hyperbolic that they verge on satire. But he’s completely serious.

People of Colorado, if this is the man you want representing you – get some help.

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Updates on Old Stories

  • When Lawrence Harris Jr. of Sioux City, Iowa, murdered his two stepdaughters on January 4, 2008, the media pounced on reports that Harris had dabbled in both Wicca and Satanism. He had allegedly muttered something about a “spell gone bad” after police found the bodies of Kendra Suing, 10, and Alysha Suing, 8, in their home. Media reports and blog posts mentioned spells, LaVey’s Satanic Bible, and witchcraft at great length…but stayed away from the more pertinent issues of family violence and mental illness.
    Later, Harris claimed he had been attempting to cast the spell on his stepson Triton, who wasn’t home at the time. Just how this led to the strangulation and stabbing of two little girls has never been adequately explained. In fact, this case remains about as clear as cola. Harris pled not guilty by reason of insanity, but was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Significantly, Harris’ religious interests were never brought up by the prosecution. Rather than focusing on Harris’ alleged Satanism, prosecutors argued (successfully, it would seem) that Harris killed Alysha and Kendra because he suspected his wife was having an affair, then faked insanity. If this is indeed the case, then witchcraft and Satanism are even mooter points than they were in the first place. Naturally, that doesn’t stop Fox News: “Iowa Man Convicted of Killing Two Stepdaughters During Satanic Ritual“.
  • The prosecutor in the 2009 abduction/torture case of Joy Johnson and Joseph Craig took a completely different tack, declaring even before the start of trial that the defendants’ alleged confinement and abuse of another couple was directly related to Satanism. This came across as a transparent ploy to make the couple appear as deviant as possible (as if that was necessary). The bottom line is that Craig entered an Alford plea and Johnson pleaded guilty to committing crimes, not of practicing magick. The media’s insistence on highlighting their political and religious affiliations, rather than the nature of their alleged criminal activity, was the real scandal in this case. I don’t care if Johnson and Craig were Democrats, libertarians, or Communists. I don’t care if they worshiped Satan, Christ, or pumpkins. Creeps are creeps, and crime is crime.
  • A staple of Western conspiranoia culture is that affluent, well-connected Satanists are operating massive child-trafficking rings throughout the world for the purposes of ritual abuse, ritual sacrifice, and child prostitution (see the “Franklin cover-up” hoax for one of many examples). But as I pointed out in this 2010 post about a group of Baptist missionaries, global child trafficking is not confined to any particular religion or tax bracket.
    Whatever happened to those orphan-hustling Baptists in Haiti? Incredibly, nine of the ten people arrested were released without charge, leaving just one woman to face trial in Haiti for human trafficking. Laura Silsby was convicted, but went free after sentencing because her six-month prison sentence had “already been served”. You read that correctly. Abducting Haitian children gets you less prison time than stealing a car.
    Wow. So where are the outraged conspiracy theorists, writing books and making documentaries about the Baptist conspiracy to steal and sell kids? Don’t any of them find it interesting that 33 Haitian children were taken…the very number sacred to Scottish Rite Freemasons?
  • When I last checked in on him, in 2007, “occult expert” Jerry Johnston was in some hot water, facing allegations of financial mismanagement and other shady dealings at his Kansas megachurch.
    Here’s what happened. In February 2011, First Family Church went into receivership, owing $14.4 in loans. At that time, First Family had an annual payroll of $915,000, with over $600,000 of that going to members of Jerry Johnston’s family. On September 11, 2011, First Family Church closed it doors.
  • For a time, the Hosanna Church case in Ponchatoula, Louisiana appeared to be the world’s first authentic incident of Satanic ritual abuse. Pastor Louis Lamonica Jr. had confessed to molesting children in a ritualistic manner, and his clannish little following certainly fit the profile of a dangerous Satanic cult.
    The problem was, the Hosanna church cultists weren’t Satanists. They were Christians. And when the case finally went to trial in 2008, two of the three children supposedly abused by cult members retracted their accusations on the witness stand. The two boys first gave retractions back in 2005, but prosecutors proceeded with the case anyway.
    Far from worshiping Satan, church members attempted to expel demons from their bodies by purging and confessed their every sin to the charismatic assistant pastor, Lois Mowbray.
    Again, where are the conspiracy theorists? They were all over this case when it was about Satanism, but they seem to have faded into the woodwork now that it’s all about deviant Christianity.

In the News

Radio preacher Bryan Fischer, while talking about demonic possession in the Bible, suddenly switched gears and declared that the full moon has a diabolic influence on us because (for some reason) that is the time Satan chooses to exert his control over us. Source: Right Wing Watch

Walter Slonopas of Clarksville, Tennessee resigned from his job as a maintenance worker at Contech Casting LLC only because his W-2 tax form was designated with the number 666. He feared that if he continued his employment, he would go to Hell. This is not the first time Slonopas has resigned over that number. Two years ago, Contech changed its time clock system and Slonopas was assigned the number 666. He quit his job, but apologized and returned to work a few days later. Source: Newsday

An Alabama Congressman, Shadrack McGill, is sponsoring a personhood bill for an interesting reason: He fears that unborn babies who are aborted might go to Hell, since they are considered (by his interpretation of the Bible) to be extensions of the mother’s body…and if the mother has an abortion, she’s probably destined for Hell. Source: The Daily Sentinel

The Devil in Massachussetts

I know that at this moment, many Americans are deeply upset over Scott Brown’s election to the Massachusetts Senate. A Republican in that swing state will almost definitely spell the end of the new health care plan that could – if properly administered – transform U.S. health care from the “privilege” it is today to the basic human right it should be. This is tragic.

However, Pollyanna that I am, I’m going to point out a couple of things about the Democratic contender, Martha Coakley, that aren’t so great:

1. She didn’t try hard enough. Wasn’t she on vacation for part of her campaign?

2. Coakley has a very mixed track record when it comes to common sense, and her handling of the Amirault case is as good (er, bad) an example as any.

Let me take you back to 1985. Almost exactly 25 years ago, Violet Amirault and her two children, 31-year-old Gerald and 28-year-old Cheryl, were charged with abusing and molesting children in the daycare run by Violet in Malden, Massachusetts.
Violet Amirault opened Fells Acre Daycare as a single parent and had been running it since the mid-1960s without any complaints. In fact, it was considered one of the best daycares in the community, and there was always a waiting list.
Then, in the autumn of 1984, the family of a 4-year-old who attended the daycare considered the boy’s sex play with his cousin to be a troubling sign. They questioned him about bad touching by adults. He said that Gerald Amirault (known as “Tooky“) had removed his pants one day. This was true; Gerald helped the boy change his clothes after he wet himself on one occasion.

Somehow, this incident mushroomed into a vast array of bizarre accusations. On September 12, 1984, more than a hundred parents attended a meeting to discuss the issue with police. Gerald had just been arrested, two days before the birth of his third child, and police were interviewing all of the daycare’s 70 or so children with the help of a pediatric nurse named Susan J. Kelly. Parents were encouraged to question their kids at home, as well. Soon, they were eliciting stories of secret rooms, clowns, sodomy with a butcher knife, a murdered baby, biting robots, witch and “bad lobster” costumes, and something about an elephant. One child said, “Tooky was sorry for chopping me into little pieces.” Another said that 16 fellow preschoolers had died.

Jurors at Gerald’s trial didn’t hear about clowns and monsters, but they did hear about secret rooms where child pornography was produced. These rooms were never located. At Violet and Cheryl’s trial, the allegations were more outlandish: a child lashed nude to a tree on a busy street, robots, butcher knives, etc. The prosecutors made an unusual decision to face the child witnesses directly toward the jury rather than the defendants, ostensibly for the children’s peace of mind.
There was no physical evidence in the case. The prosecution rested solely on interviews of the children. Video recordings of these sessions reveal that if the kids denied being abused, Kelly prodded until they disclosed something – anything. Officer John Rivers referred to the process as “getting blood from a stone”.
No one had ever heard screams of terror coming from the daycare, nor seen any naked children tied to trees. No Malden toddlers had mentioned Satan at the dinner table until after Gerald Amirault was arrested.

Nonetheless, Gerald Amirault was convicted of raping and abusing 9 children, and was sentenced to 30-40 years in prison. His mother and sister each received sentences of 8-20 years for raping and abusing four children. The women’s lighter sentences were clear indicators that the prosecution and jury considered Gerald to be the head of the family’s Satanic Robot Clown cult.

Violet’s and Cheryl’s convictions were overturned in 1995, when a judge ruled that they had been denied their Constitutional right to face their accusers in court. Then the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reinstated the overturned convictions, and the Honorable Isaac Borenstein granted motions for separate trials. However, he ultimately ruled that “grave errors” in the original questioning of the children had irrevocably tainting their testimony, rendering it inadmissible as evidence. He believed the case bore the earmarks of ritual abuse hysteria, noting that none of the kids showed signs of abuse prior to the arrests of the Amiraults.
In 1997, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Violet and Cheryl would be reincarcerated until their new trials. Violet passed away during this time, having spent close to a decade of her golden years in prison.

Here’s where Ms. Coakley enters the picture. In October 1999, as the Middlesex district attorney, Coakley struck a deal with Cheryl Amirault: In exchange for being released, Cheryl would receive 10 years probation – as long as she gave no TV interviews and had no unsupervised contact with children.

For Coakley, this deal wasn’t about getting some leniency for a woman almost universally considered an innocent victim of “Satanic panic”. No, for her it was about keeping Gerald Amirault in prison. Early in negotations, she demanded that the long-serving Amirault family attorney, James Sultan, pledge to drop Gerald as a client in return for Cheryl’s release. Sultan refused.

In July 2001, the parole board unanimously recommended that Gerald’s sentence be commuted. The final decision would be up to Governor Jane Swift.
Coakley, acting as advocate for the victims and their families, began lobbying Swift on their behalf.

While it’s commendable for Coakley to offer assistance to victims of child abuse, this particular case wasn’t a good place to start. Either she isn’t well-acquainted with the facts of the case, or she’s harebrained enough to believe that a Satanic Robot Clown cult operated a Hell Hostel for toddlersin plain view of a small town’s residents for nearly 20 years.
There is a third, even less appetizing possibility: That Martha Coakley politically exploited the Amirault case to make herself appear very tough on crimes against children. Again, being a victims’ advocate is commendable – but this wasn’t the right place to start. The Fells Acre case is full of victims: the Amiraults, the parents who believe their children were horrifically abused in a safe place, and the children who were persuaded of the same thing by suggestive questioning. Some of them bear psychic scars to this day. Victim Phaedra Hopkins and her family spoke out against the proposed commutation of Amirault’s sentence, as did Jennifer Bennett. She says she and the other kids were telling the truth; the Amirault family ruined her life. Brian Martinello and his mom, Barbara Standke, also spoke out. Brian had scratches or sores on his genitalia when he went to Fells Acres at age 4. He and his mother remain convinced that this was the result of sexual abuse.

Governor Swift rejected the parole board’s recommendation in 2002. Gerald Amirault spent another year and a half in prison before being released on parole, a registered sex offender and convicted child abuser for the rest of his life.

Thanks, Ms. Coakley.

Notes on Sources:

Most of the information in this article comes from John Demo’s excellent book The Enemy Within: 2,000 Years of Witch-hunting in the Modern World (Viking, 2008), Dorothy Rabinowitz’s January 14, 2009 Wall Street Journal piece (“Martha Coakley’s Convictions“), and news articles on the Fells Acre case compiled online by Hugo S. Cunningham. All online materials were retrieved January 20, 2010.

To date, a definitive account of the case has yet to be written.

Two Recent Films that Promote Satanic Panic

Jeremiah Films has released a documentary entitled PopCulture Paganism, taking a right-handed swipe at the teen vampire trend, which they call “Neovampirism”. The filmmakers try to lump it in with Paganism as well as New Agey stuff like The Secret. The PopPaganism page features a glut of links to crimes and outrages that have pretty much nothing to do with the topics of the documentary. This film is apparently unconnected to the 13 other anti-Pagan films J.F. has made.

As you probably know, Jeremiah Films is the low-budget Christian Right/conspiranoia production company that churned out The Clinton Chronicles in the ’90s. Despite plugs on The 700 Club, the video ended up losing money after J.F. CEO Pat Matrisciana lost a defamation lawsuit. Since then, J.F. has stuck mainly to safer targets: Harry Potter, Mormons, and of course Freemasons.

The other film is a low-budget horror flick about a Satanic cult that ritually sacrifices random folks, aptly titled Satanic Panic. This wouldn’t be a big deal on its own, but unfortunately the movie is being promoted as “inspired by true accounts”, just like The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Haunting in Connecticut, and The Fourth Kind (which was really just a hoax). The film’s official website explains that the real Satanic Panic of the ’80s was sparked by a “rash” of unexplained disappearances throughout the U.S. This is not true. Disappearances played a very minor role in the hysteria to come, and at any rate the disappearance rate was not elevated in any noticeable way at that time. People were simply paying more attention to disappearances after the high-profile cases of Etan Patz, Adam Walsh, and other children.
Besides that, it strikes me as rather inappropriate to base a schlocky slasher film (complete with an ugly hillbilly) on the testimony of unbalanced people who, for the most part, really believed they had been tortured by Satanists as children. Real Satanic Panic ruined many lives, families, and minds. It’s not entertaining.

Gaza and Satanism

If the tone of online editorials are any indication of how people feel about the conflict in Gaza (and I think they are), a large proportion of the public is completely unable and/or unwilling to cope with the real sociopolitical issues behind it. Naturally, the anti-Semites and racial supremacists are exploiting the situation, indulging in the usual scapegoating. But when issues as complex as Israeli-Palestinian relations are beyond our ken, who else do the most clueless among us blame?

Satan.

Blogger Homad Alomar notes the deaths of Palestinian children and asks, in all seriousness, “Could some one with deep knowledge of Jewish history tell me if there is such a black magic security formula that is based on killing children?”

Rahnuma-e-Deccan writes, “In the Gaza strip now humanity is pitted against satanism (shaitaniat)…”

Please, people: Learn history.