May 20, 2017

Bleeding the Beast That Is Warren Jeffs

Members of the FLDS really don't like to pay taxes. They don't readily cooperate with the government, or acknowledge its authority. FLDS children are taught that Warren Jeffs is president of the United States. They will take financial support from illicit government forces, though, as we recently saw with the food stamp case, which ended in generous plea deals and the possible rapture of Lyle Jeffs. Their pattern of tax evasion and collecting millions in benefits is part of a "bleeding the beast" philosophy.

FLDS may be waging a slow war of attrition against the government, but it's one they appear to be losing. That sword cuts both ways. In fact, their lack of cooperation with federal and state government can mean that they're cutting off their noses to spite their collective face. Secular forces are gradually eating up their land and property wealth and it's their own refusal to cooperate with these forces, which in many cases are trying to help them, that could cost them everything.

Case in point, Short Creek, the FLDS stronghold made up of Hilldale, UT, and Colorado City, AZ,  is currently seeing an exodus of FLDS faithful. They would rather leave their homes than sign agreements and pay their property taxes.

"The Crick" is managed through a trust called the UEP (United Effort Plan). Originally set up by Warren Jeffs, the UEP was seized by the State of Utah, which argued that it was being egregiously mismanaged. Among the problems, those who were excommunicated were made homeless. As a state run trust, the UEP no longer applies a religious test, and some FLDS "apostates" have been able to reclaim homes in their old community, alongside those who remain devoted to "Prophet" Warren Jeffs. But FLDS members are in arrears.

Feb 28, 2017

Is Pope Francis Too Soft on Pedophile Priests?

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Over the weekend, I read that Pope Francis is backtracking on pedophile priests, trimming their sentences and showing them "mercy." I was saddened. I am not Catholic. I have never particularly "liked" a pope, but there is much about this one that I admire. I like that he takes his vows of poverty seriously. I like his compassion for the poor and disenfranchised. I like that, although he has not significantly changed Church policy on LGBT issues, he has urged compassion and lack of judgment. I have not cared for his stance on women in the priesthood and I have not been impressed with the pace or tenor of his approach to the sex abuse crisis. So when I saw these words, my heart sank.

Pope Francis has quietly reduced sanctions against a handful of pedophile priests, applying his vision of a merciful church even to its worst offenders in ways that survivors of abuse and the pope’s own advisers question.

Worse, his leniency has already backfired, according to the article.

One case has come back to haunt him: An Italian priest who received the pope’s clemency was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against children as young as 12. The Rev. Mauro Inzoli is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, The Associated Press has learned.

But the more I read, and I read several articles, the less substantive this story seemed to be. The new charges against Rev. Inzoli appeared to come from new information, not from re-offense. In fact, there is no evidence that these changes have put any children at risk.

Feb 1, 2017

James Arthur Ray's Alternative Facts

Yesterday James Ray went before a judge to argue that he was unfairly burdened by his felony conviction and that it should be set aside. But unlike the recent documentary Enlighten Us, that enabled Ray to play the victim without challenge or rebuttal, the judge allowed the family members of his victims to speak. It did not go his way. Some of his civil rights were restored, but his conviction was not vacated and his travel restrictions remain in place.

A victory and a defeat for convicted self- help entrepreneur James Arthur Ray.

A Yavapai County Superior Court judge restored Ray’s civil rights, except his right to carry a gun, but he denied Ray’s request to have his convictions set aside.

. . .

Ray told the judge he wanted his convictions set aside because the international travel restrictions on him were limiting his ability to rebuild his self-help enterprise.

“It will help me in some countries and it will help me in Canada. That's why I’m asking for this,” Ray told Yavapai Superior Court Judge Michael R. Bluff.

In James Ray's alternate universe, his work was never on trial. (It was.) And his conviction for "negligence" means he didn't kill anyone. (He was convicted on three counts of negligent HOMICIDE.)

Jan 19, 2017

Her Philia?


In a recent blog post, Teal Bosworth Scott Swan leveled some pretty serious allegations against the "hate group" conspiring to shut down her new retreat center.

To add to it all, the collective hate group which is so vehemently opposed to my career as well as me as a person has been dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to trying to destroy this retreat center. Essentially, the minute that we announced this retreat center, they began planning how to shut it down. This began with them collectively turning me into the FBI and the local police. Now their efforts are aimed at planning to attend so as to sabotage what we are doing here from the inside. They have been targeting both attendees and teachers of the retreat. And they have been doing a damn good job if I don’t say so myself. We had one teacher not only resign from doing a retreat here because of the amount of Anti-Teal 'Danger' propaganda sent to her when she announced that she was working with me... but also turn directly against me and refuse to talk to any one of us to resolve the situation. The teacher of the current retreat and many of the prospective attendees have confessed that they too felt deeply insecure coming here because of it. Essentially, the principal strategy of my haters is to “befriend” people associated with me and then turn them against me.

Lately it has been a real frustration being told by some that I should just ignore it all (which can’t happen if they are taking tangible steps to sabotage me as opposed to just slandering me). And on the other hand being told by others that they need my help and response in order to feel less terrified of me and my whole movement. These hate groups have managed to make people who were dedicated and enthusiastic pull away from me and everything associated with me just to avoid the conflict and pressure of the controversy that surrounds me.

This dynamic has made my career MUCH less enjoyable this year. When I used to meet people, the overwhelming majority looked at me with this look like I was a gift sent straight from the divine universe into their lives. Now, the overwhelming majority looks at me like I am a dragon... Something both wonderful and terrifying. They look at me like they feel the overwhelming benefits of what I have brought to their lives, but that because of all of the fear propaganda they’ve been fed this year, they are not sure if I’m going to suddenly turn onto a fire-breathing monster. This hate group has the exact same energy and dedication as the anti-abortion protestors who stand outside abortion clinics.

See? She was divinely sent, but now she's "wonderful and terrifying." She dug deep for a negative way to describe herself and came up with more vanity.

Jan 10, 2017

Plea Deals in FLDS Food Stamp Case

The FLDS food stamp fraud case ends with a whimper, as the State brokers a range of plea deals and dropped charges. Both sides are declaring victory in the highly publicized case. But there is still the small matter of fugitive from justice Lyle Jeffs, currently on the FBI's most wanted list.

For a case that began with FBI raids in the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., it is ending quietly with nearly all of the defendants taking plea deals. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged an uphill battle if the case went to trial, where FLDS members were expected to claim a religious right to consecrate all they have to their church.

Defense attorneys have said the First Amendment religious freedom rights allows for FLDS members to live the "law of consecration," which includes communal living and giving of all they have. They also argued federal law is silent on whether SNAP benefits could be shared.

As he left the courthouse, Hyrum Dutson told reporters: "We won."


"It's like Vietnam. The government declared victory and got out and everyone's benefitted for it," said Aric Cramer, an attorney for Kristal Dutson. "It's a good deal."


Asked if he knew where Lyle Jeffs is, Hyrum Dutson replied: "It wouldn't matter if I did."

Dec 16, 2016

A Second Look at James Ray Documentary

CNN will be re-airing Enlighten Us this Saturday evening at 9:00 (check local listings), so if you missed it, you have another opportunity. As I wrote here, I don't think it's good, or fair, but it is worth seeing. I've been doing a little more digging into the odd bits of media coverage surrounding its television debut, because I was left with lingering questions about the director's choices and perspective.

One of the main things I've learned is that there really isn't a lot of interest in this documentary or in James Arthur Ray, as demonstrated by the dearth of coverage. The debut in the Tribeca Film Festival got a little coverage, but not as much as you might expect. I did find a smattering of new material, however. CNN pimped the television debut with some interviews, and, like the documentary, they're worth seeing if only for Ray's unconscious self-reveals.

I also rummaged up a few articles. The most in-depth piece I could find is in People magazine. People is owned by Time Inc., which is part of Time Warner, which owns CNN.

In all these interviews, Ray paints himself as a victim of the legal system, but explains that Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman weren't victims at all. They were heroes. He's kind of heroic himself and hopes his ability to survive all he has suffered can serve as an inspiration to struggling people everywhere. He's taken responsibility, though. He's definitely taken responsibility.

“My work was never on trial,” he says. “The tragedy was on trial. The jury found absolutely no shred of evidence of intentional misconduct or harm. It was a tragic accident, and it was determined to be negligent, and because three people died, it was determined to be criminally negligent.”

So "it" – the "tragedy" – was on trial and found guilty, not Ray. I guess it was the tragedy that was convicted of negligent homicide and went to prison?

Dec 8, 2016

CNN Ignores Victims in James Ray Doco

The year 2016 has been dubbed "post-truth" by the Oxford English Dictionary, "an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’." Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Exhibit A) Enlighten Us: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray.
The CNN produced documentary is slick, compelling, and far more revealing than its subject probably intended, but it is also very nearly fact free. Director Jenny Carchman wove together media footage and personal interviews without commentary. The lack of narration, which can be a very effective documentary style, meant, in this case, that one outrageous falsehood after another went unchecked. The passive narration was particularly troubling, given that the victims' families were completely excluded.

Jean Brown, sister of the late Kirby Brown, was quick to respond to James Ray's lies about her sister and her family, posting the above video the day the documentary aired. (see above) It is unfortunate that she was not given the opportunity to do so in the documentary itself. And it was not for lack of trying. As discussed here, both Jean and her mother Ginny took it upon themselves to contact the director, but Carchman evinced no interest.

Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman, were little more than footnotes in this story of their gruesome deaths. Make no mistake. This documentary is entirely about how their deaths affected the man who caused them.

Nov 28, 2016

CNN to Air James Ray Documentary

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Set your DVRs, folks. CNN will air Enlighten Us, the James Ray documentary of dubious quality I wrote about here. The details can be found on the CNN website.

ENLIGHTEN US: The Rise and Fall of James Arthur Ray, directed by Jenny Carchman, will premiere Thursday, Dec. 01 at 9:00pm and 11:00pm Eastern on CNN/U.S., with limited commercial interruption, the network announced today.  ENLIGHTEN US made its world debut at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City in April and also screened at Telluride Mountainfilm in Colorado and Tallgrass Film Festival in Kansas.

The film explores the story of the motivational speaker’s meteoric rise, fall, and attempt to return to the $11 billion personal growth industry following his conviction for negligent homicide in the deaths of three of Ray’s clients at one of his events.  The film explores the origins of the self-help industry, what followers of the industry are looking for, who is offering answers to those followers, and why some are willing to risk so much for that guidance.

In other news, Ray doesn't want to be a convicted felon anymore. Connie Joy has learned that he is petitioning the court to set aside the verdict that put him in prison briefly, for the small matter of killing three people.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Oct 9, 2016

FLDS Defends Religious Freedom and Felonious Rapture

Gaming the food stamp program was the free exercise of religious faith, FLDS attorneys argued in court this week.

Members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church charged in a massive food stamp fraud and money laundering scheme are arguing a religious freedom right to "consecrate" their government benefits to their church.

The results of the hearing in federal court could make or break the government's case against the polygamous church and some of its top members. Federal prosecutors have charged 11 FLDS members, accusing them of ordering faithful members to hand over food stamps to the storehouse, to do with as they wished. The U.S. Attorney's Office has claimed the scheme exceeds $12 million in taxpayer money, and some of it went to purchase luxury cars or was spending cash for leaders.

. . .

The "Law of Consecration" stems from early Mormon teachings about united orders, where people give what they have to the church and it is doled out according to needs. A retired Mormon history professor testified on Tuesday that what the FLDS Church preaches is no different than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught in the 19th century.

Sep 20, 2016

The Enemy Within the Codependent Heart

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BBC America has been celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek by playing full, uncut episodes of the original show. I must confess that it dominated my television screen for an entire weekend. I think I may have even begun to convince my teenage daughter of its genius.

A standout episode for me is "The Enemy Within." Captain Kirk is split in two after a transporter accident. His "strange alter-ego," his dark half, becomes a sentient Kirk look-alike. But, no one sees this Mr. Hyde materialize on the platform moments after a very normal appearing Kirk has left the transporter room. He goes about functioning much as our internal shadow does, with neither Kirk, nor anyone else aware of his existence. Yet, a drunken, rampaging lout, who looks a lot like Captain Kirk, begins acting out his worst impulses.

Kirk's better half seems at first to be in every way the Kirk they all know – the split-off shadow like some foreign monster, "a thoughtless brutal animal" that the apparently normal Kirk would rather live without. But, it rapidly becomes clear that this calm, reasonable Kirk has lost some key components of his personality. He's indecisive. His instincts are dulled. "Good" Kirk is unqualified for command.

Eventually, the disowned shadow does what it will do. It overpowers the weakened, good-natured Kirk and takes command. It takes all that's left of his strength and support from his crew for the saner Kirk to confront and embrace his dark nature and reintegrate it.

"I've seen a part of myself no man should ever see." 
~ Capt. James T. Kirk

Aug 11, 2016

FLDS Still Slippery as Feds Build Case

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Five years after its leader was incarcerated for sexually abusing his very young "brides," the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints may finally be in serious trouble. As I wrote here, a federal case was brought against sect leaders for defrauding the food stamp program, while letting the genuinely needy sect membership starve. The case appears to have thrown the FLDS into disarray.

Lyle Jeffs, who was the church's acting leader, used olive oil (presumably paid for with illegal food stamps) to slip out of his ankle monitor and escape. He remains at large – or on a "repentance mission" if communiques from Warren Jeffs are to believed. The fugitive Jeffs was stripped of his authority by the incarcerated Jeffs, and replaced with another Jeffs, Nephi. 

Prosecutors would like to see the key defendants behind bars awaiting trial, as they have all been caught meeting against court order, and illegally carrying out Warren Jeffs's mandates.

Warren Jeffs ordered John Wayman and Seth Jeffs to meet with others in Hildale, Utah, several times in late July, the U.S. Attorney's Office says in a court filing Monday. They were told to make a plan to interview all members of an elite group within the sect known as the "United Order" to determine if they should be re-baptized and re-confirmed as members, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors filed the new evidence in an attempt to persuade a judge to keep Wayman and Seth Jeffs behind bars. They were re-arrested last week for violations of their release provisions.

"The evidence, including the defendants' past conduct, well establishes that when the dictates of their prophet conflict with an order of the court, the defendants will follow their religious leader in contravention of the court's order," prosecutors wrote.