Monday, 1 September 2014

Nigerian Child Witch Hunter Threatens British Humanist Association With £500,000,000 Lawsuit

Back in April, I wrote about how the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) successfully petitioned the British Home Office to revoke child-witch-finder Helen Ukpabio's visa.

Read Leo Igwe's post, Nigerian witch hunter Helen Ukpabio bringing “gospel of hate” to the US, over at IHEU for more background on Ukpabio:
Helen Ukpabio’s gospel of hate — promoted through her publications, films (like the End of the Wicked) and sermons — fuels witchcraft accusations against children in the region. The witch hunts in Nigeria and other parts of Africa in recent years have resulted in discrimination, violence, torture and death.
Well, it seems like now the self-professed Lady Apostle 'witch-finder' has come back swinging with a FIVE HUNDRED MILLION POUND lawsuit against the BHA and WHRIN. This is being described as 'libel tourism.' It's actually a very real thing in the UK and could turn out to be a whole lot less funny than it sounds.

Libel tourist and Nigerian ‘witch hunter’ (the self styled) ‘Lady Apostle’ Helen Ukpabio attempts to stifle critics by suing BHA for half a billion pounds

The utter absurdity of this may make you laugh out loud at first -- I did, but there could be a deadly serious legal side to this as well. Ukpabio is a wealthy woman in charge of a multinational ministry. She has the clout to launch this case and potentially push it high in the courts if they'll let her. I had started this story out as a comedic view of the situation, but a somber BHA infographic over at their Facebook feed brought me back down to Earth.

The BHA press release I linked to above gives more detail. She's suing for libel against these organizations. Here's what she's basing this claim for half a billion pounds on.
Her legal case against the BHA is based on Mrs Ukpabio’s stating that she wrote that a child ‘under the age of two’ who is ‘possessed with black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits’ can be identified by features such as s/he ‘screams at night, cries, is always feverish, suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and may not feed very well.’ Her teachings are to the effect that babies under the age of two who exhibit signs of illness or standard, entirely normal childhood behaviour (such as crying, not feeding well, screaming at night, having a fever) may be possessed by vampire witchcraft spirits. She also teaches that children who stamp their feet may be ‘trying to make signs… to communicate with gnomes, the witchcraft spirit in charge of the earth.’ Ukpabio claims that the BHA misrepresented her by saying that she ascribed these symptoms to Satanic possession and hence has damaged her reputation and livelihood to the sum of half a billion pounds.
This is so ridiculous that I cannot help but say: No, not Satan! That would be ridiculous, of course. It's 'black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits.' It's this distinction that Ukpabio claims smeared her ministry and cost her reputation and visa into the UK. And this is apparently worth half a billion pounds in damages. In reality, this case appears to be the latest in a number of legal actions to silence her critics.
Gary Foxcroft, Executive Director of WHRIN, commented, ‘This court case is the latest in a long line of unsuccessful legal actions that Helen Ukpabio has pursued against me and other human rights activists. Previous cases were thrown out of court in Nigeria but this time she is looking to take action in a UK court. I have no doubt that a judge in the UK will reach the same conclusion as those in Nigeria.
Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, commented:
‘Given her baseless identification of features of “possessed children” and her dangerous and irresponsible teachings we feel a strong moral duty to point this out and will not be deflected by libel suits from wealthy “witch-finders”.

‘The fact that she is threatening to launch a legal claim for half a billion pounds over an alleged distinction between being accused of exorcising “Satan” or “Vampires” tells you all you need to know about Mrs Ukpabio. Threats of legal action like this are blatant attempts to silence critics of the harms done by these religious and superstitious beliefs and rituals. Rather than entertaining her vexatious claims in the courts, we believe the UK should be ensuring that Mrs Ukpabio and her ilk are denied entry to our country to protect children from their degrading practices.’
A story over at The Independant, sheds a little more light on the charge against the BHA and reveals the law firm that's willing to take on such an extraordinary suit.
In a letter sent to the BHA’s lawyers last Thursday, solicitors acting for the controversial preacher accused the charity of causing “members of the public to regard our client as an evil woman” with the damage to her reputation resulting in a “huge loss of incomes to her churches”. The letter, from London-based Graceland Solicitors, claims Mrs Ukpadio is “a Christian leader of international repute known and respected in many countries of the world”.
Five hundred million pounds sure does looks like a pretty big case for one tiny solicitor firm in London.

Graceland Solicitors. (source)
It's ridiculous yet there is still potential for her to make a lot of trouble, potentially damaging financial costs and time inconvenience for the BHA and WHRIN with these legal shenanigans. I ask you to spread the word about this and follow the British Humanist Association Facebook page for more ways to help.

What Catholic Public Schools Teach With Your Money

In Ontario, there are four public school systems: 31 English public, 29 English Catholic, 4 French public, and 8 French Catholic.

Sounds complicated, right? Due to a constitutional relic, the provincial taxpayers are pretty much forced to pay for Catholic public education. There is a nice concise article about this over at the Toronto Star. It lists off some of the principles and beliefs that are taught in publicly funded Catholic system.

What is the Catholic religion curriculum?

Go read the whole curriculum. Here are some samples.
Grades 4 to 6 children will:

“Proclaim with confidence” a belief in the mysteries of the Catholic faith.

Apply Catholic moral teaching to moral decisions they face in their own lives.
So when do they get to learn about other world religions -- and perhaps atheism and non-religious philosophies? Surely it would be best to expose these children to the most possible competing religious views so as to not utterly indoctrinate them into a single faith?
Grade 11, World Religions:

Religious pluralism, who are Catholics?

A study of Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Canadian aboriginal spirituality. 
Answer is... Grade 11! -- these children would be around 16.

Oh dear! It seems as if the famous 4/14 Window Christian evangelicals talk about is well closed by then! Yes, by the time these children get exposed to any competing philosophies -- atheism is not on that list -- Catholicism has likely been well ground into their brains and virtually unshakeable. Halleluja! 
Proponents of the 4/14 window encourage children from the age of four to be converted to Christianity. Evangelists often use techniques such as a Wordless Book to communicate religious concepts to children too young to read. Critics of this practice charge that children too young to read for themselves are too young to be able to make an informed, independent decision about what religion they belong to. ...
Brought to you by Ontario Taxpayers!

Naturally, Brian O’Sullivan, director of Catholic education for the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association thinks this is the bee's knees.
There is a focus on social justice issues raised by the Vatican as well as Canadian bishops, from labour rights and poverty to human rights and aid work, he said. “It focuses on service to others, but based on biblical stories that add a dimension that public schools don’t have.
Except these Catholic schools are public schools in Ontario. This point is often lost rather deliberately by those who wish to see public funding for Catholic indoctrination continue. Curious, that.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Saudi Arabia Will Never Change Their Ways Until The Money Stops

Recently, I've been writing a lot about Saudi Arabia because in the past few months they've declared atheists terrorists and have recently begun shutting down atheist websites and imprisoning them for posting videos online.

This past month has seen the largest number of beheadings in the Kingdom for quite some time, more than 26 since August 4th for crimes as silly as sorcery.

All the while, some brave voices have been calling out countries like Canada, the United States and UK for gladly taking Saudi money for riot control vehicles and other tools of oppression. Blissfully turning a blind eye to barbaric human rights abuses.

Here's a fresh new article about this over at the Guardian.

To really combat terror, end support for Saudi Arabia: 
Ramped up rhetoric on security makes no sense so long as the west cosies up to dictatorships that support fundamentalism

It has some memorable quotes in it, like this one:
And then, of course, there is the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia. Much of the world was rightly repulsed when Isis beheaded the courageous journalist James Foley. Note, then, that Saudi Arabia has beheaded 22 people since 4 August. Among the “crimes” that are punished with beheading are sorcery and drug trafficking.
It's interesting what enough money and Western assets can do for a country isn't it?

It also goes into the religious angle with a mention of what happens to atheists -- like me -- who are open about their unbelief in Saudi Arabia.
Even talking about atheism has been made a terrorist offence and in 2012, 25-year-old Hamza Kashgari was jailed for 20 months for tweeting about the prophet Muhammad. Here are the fruits of the pact between an opulent monarchy and a fanatical clergy.
Religion (the dead serious kind) and complete power is a terrible combination.

If people are getting beheaded for witchcraft accusations, I dread to think what's going on with the two jailed atheists for uploading the video.

Our governments must stop paying lip service to human rights... but then, the money is just too good.