Here at What if they were Muslim we question what would happen if a Jewish, Christian, Hindu, ______(insert religion of choice) were to commit a crime in the name of their faith. Would it be treated the same way if a Muslim committed the exact same crime? Would very little emphasis be put on the perpetrators religion? Would it be stressed that the act is an aberration, a misrepresentation of the religion? Would the religion be mentioned at all?
WITWM is not a site that opines on the “what if” scenario of your favorite Hollywood star being a Muslim. It has nothing to do with Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp, etc. It has everything to do with the double standards in both media and pop culture that perpetuate the myth that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions or the root cause of misdeeds by Muslims.
Jack Schaap, the former pastor First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana who pleaded guilty last September to transporting an underage parishioner across state lines to have sex with her, wrote letters to the girl claiming their affair was accepted by Jesus Christ.
The letters were included by prosecutors in a sentencing memorandum filed in federal court in Hammond Wednesday, according to the Post-Tribune. In one letter, Schaap expresses it was Christ’s desire for them to be together. “He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!” the letter read.
XOXO in Christ’s name!
Other letters repeated a theme that the girl, who came to Schaap for counseling in April 2012, was preordained and that it was his calling to put her on a “better path of living — that’s what we call Righteousness” and wished he could spend more time with her in the name of Christ. Schaap blamed stress and working “100-hour weeks” in his lapse in judgment. He admitted to the affair in July 2012 and was fired by First Baptist’s board of deacons shortly after. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster wrote in the sentencing memorandum “(t)he only way (Schaap) could have been working 100-hour weeks during the time period investigated by the government is if he’s counting the many hours he dedicated to grooming and sexually abusing the victim.”
The sentencing memorandum included letters written by the victim where she said Schaap preyed on her trust in him and her vulnerability, and that she and her family are afraid to go back to First Baptist. (Given the institutional culture of physical and sexual abuse and misogyny at First Baptist detailed in this December Chicago magazine profile, why would they want to return?)
If you ever see one of First Baptist’s buses in your neighborhood, run as fast as you can away from it.
Schaap is to be sentenced March 20. Under the plea deal prosecutors are seeking a 10-year prison sentence. If Lozano is being asked to consider “justice, understanding and grace” in his sentencing, he may want to take a look at this video and give Schaap plenty of time to polish his shaft.
An eight-year-old schoolboy has ‘married’ a 61-yearold woman in Tshwane, South Africa.
Sanele Masilela tied the knot with Helen Shabangu, who is already married and a mother of five.
Sanele said he married Helen in accordance with the wishes of his dead ancestors, a message his family took so seriously they provided Helen with £500 and paid a further £1,000 for the celebration.
Dressed in a bow tie and tiny silver suit, Sanele, the youngest of five children, exchanged rings in front of 100 guests and even exchanged a kiss with his new bride.
It’s already shocked the community but the family has defended the ceremony, saying it is a ritual and not legally binding.
Sanele’s 46-year-old mum, Patience Masilela said: “This is the first time this has happened in the family.
“Sanele is named after his grandfather, who was never had a white wedding before he died so asked Sanele to get married. He chose Helen because he loves her.
“By doing this we made the ancestors happy. If we hadn’t done what my son had asked then something bad would have happened in the family.
“I didn’t have a problem with it because I know it’s what the ancestors wanted and it would make them happy.”
The widow, who works at a recycling centre, added: “I would say that this is not wrong.
“Sanele was fine and he was happy about the ceremony and it was what he wanted. He was happy to get married and very excited.”
The ceremony is ritual and not legally binding, with both parties having since returned to their ‘normal’ lives
Sanele and his bride did not sign a marriage certificate and do not have to live together. Both have gone back to their normal lives.
Sanele today said he hoped he would have a “proper” wedding to a woman his own age when he was older.
He added: “I told my mother that I wanted to get married because I really did want to.
“I’m happy that I married Helen – but I will go to school and study hard.
“When I’m older I will marry a lady my own age.”
Despite being old enough to be his grandmother, bride Helen, whose children are aged between 37 and 27, was happy with the arrangement.
Helen, who also works at a recycling centre, said: “I’m married and have five kids of my own, but I know that this is what the ancestors wanted – and now they are happy. It is a ritual. We are just playing now, but it is a sign that he will get married one day.”
Her husband of 30 years, Alfred, 65, said: “My kids and I are happy.
The builder added: “We don’t have problems with it but some of the community members were shocked.”
District officials decided to keep Joseph Pina on the job after learning the Sheriff’s Department was investigating allegations against him. No charges were filed.
By Richard Winton and Howard Blume (latimes.com)
Officials at Los Angeles Unified School District knew that a former priest it hired as a community organizer had been accused of molestation but decided to keep him on the job, according to interviews and records reviewed by The Times.
Both L.A. Unified administrators and school police discussed the accusations against Joseph Pina, and were aware in 2002 that the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department was investigating Pina for alleged child molestation months after the district had hired him.
Records indicate that school officials concludedthat Pina should be removed from his job only if he were charged — or possibly convicted — of a crime. In the end, the Sheriff’s Department dropped the Pina case because the alleged crime had passed the statute of limitations.
The Sheriff’s Department said this week that it had launched a new investigation into a separate abuse allegation against Pina, also dating from his time as a priest.
The new focus on Pina came after the Los Angeles Archdiocese, pursuant to a court order, released priest abuse files last week, including those covering the accusations against Pina. An internal 1993 psychological evaluation recounts how Pina was attracted to a victim, an eighth-grade girl, when he saw her in a Snow White costume.
“I had a crush on Snow White, so I started to open myself up to her,” he told the psychologist, according to the records. “I felt like I fell in love with her. I got sexually involved with her, but never intercourse. She was about 17 when we got involved sexually, and it continued until she was about 19.”
L.A. schools chief John Deasy immediately ordered Pina’s dismissal this weekend, saying that he had no business working for the school system.
Records show that the school district learned of the Pina molestation allegations in August 2002, eight months after he was hired. Someone noticed Pina’s name in a Los Angeles Times article about the clergy-abuse scandal. That article reported allegations that Pina “sexually abused a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s while serving at a Los Angeles parish.”
School police contacted the Sheriff’s Department, which confirmed that he was under investigation. The department thenprovided a full briefing to school police, said Chief of Detectives William McSweeney.
According to records, Det. Steve Crowell of the Los Angeles School Police provided Pina’s address, phone number, Social Security number and date of birth to the Sheriff’s Department. He later forwarded additional information from Pina’s personnel file.
The following day Crowell sent a fax to a sheriff’s detective: “Can you E-mail me when the D/A’s office determines what charges they are going to file?” it reads. “My commander was telling me that the district['s] options in how they are going to handle this situation depending what is happening legally.”
Sheriff’s detectives had begun their investigation in April 2002, after receiving allegations that Pina had sexually abused a girl for three years. Sheriff’s detectives didn’t know that he worked at the school district until officials told them, the department said.
But the archdiocese had been aware of accusations against Pina for years before he was hired by the school district.
A church spokesman said Monday that it warned the school district in the form of a pre-employment questionnaire that L.A. Unified sent to the archdiocese in August 2001.
“In response to the question: ‘Should the Los Angeles Unified School District consider anything else regarding this candidate’s employment suitability?’, the archdiocese checked the box ‘yes,’ adding that we would ‘not recommend him for a position in the schools,’ ” Tod Tamberg, director of media relations, said in a statement.
“In response to the next question on the form, ‘Would you hire this person again?’ the archdiocese checked the box ‘no,’ ” Tamberg said.
L.A. Unified officials said this week that they were unable to find the questionnaire in Pina’s employment file. No evidence has emerged that either the district or the archdiocese followed up on the questionnaire.
The church apparently continued to track Pina’s whereabouts. A document from 2009 noted that Pina was working for L.A. Unified.
Pina’s named appeared in a second Times article on clergy abuse in 2006. In response to either the 2002 or 2006 Times article, a district employee alerted senior supervisors in the school-construction program, Deasy said.
The employee said this week that the supervisors decided to take no action because Pina had not been convicted of a crime, Deasy said.
Pina’s job, with the school-construction branch, brought him into frequent contact with families, but no reports of problems have emerged regarding his time in this role. Through his attorney, Pina, 66, said he had no comment.
Deasy added that, under current policies, Pina would not have been hired. And had his background been discovered later, he would have been immediately dismissed.
District officials also have begun looking for other current or former employees with problem pasts. They are cross-referencing their records with the released archdiocese files as well as those released in litigation against the Boy Scouts, another organization accused of concealing molestations.
In this May 16, 2012 video frame grab provided by WCBS-TV, Nechemya Weberman attends a fundraiser in the Brooklyn borough of New York, where his supporters contributed to a legal defence fund for his trial on charges of sexually abusing a girl he was supposed to be counseling. /AP
(thestar.com)NEW YORK—A religious counsellor in New York City’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community was sentenced Tuesday to 103 years in prison for molesting a girl who came to him with questions about her faith.
Nechemya Weberman was convicted in December of 59 counts, including sustained sexual abuse of a child, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual abuse.
The trial put a spotlight on the city’s ultra-orthodox community and its strict rules that govern interaction with the outside world. The city is home to the largest community of ultra-orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000.
Both Weberman, 54, and the girl belonged to the Satmar Hasidic sect, which has its own ambulances, volunteer police and rabbinical courts. Followers are discouraged from going to secular authorities.
During the trial, men were arrested on charges they tried to bribe the girl and her now-husband to drop the case. Others were accused of taking photos of her on the witness stand and posting them online.
The accuser, now 18, testified that Weberman abused her repeatedly behind his locked office door from the time she was 12 until she was 15.
Her school had ordered her to see Weberman because she had been asking questions about her religion and was dressing immodestly in violation of the sect’s customs. Weberman wasn’t a licensed counsellor but spent decades working with couples and families.
There was no physical evidence of abuse.
The woman’s husband spoke to reporters outside court, recounting through tears how difficult it was to watch her struggle with coming forward.
“She definitely feels relief. She can sleep more tonight,” he said.
The defence argued that the girl was angry that Weberman had told her parents she had a boyfriend at age 15, which is forbidden in the community. Attorney Stacey Richman said the case came down to a simple “he said, she said.”
“She’s making things up in front of you as they occur,” Richman told jurors.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said he hoped the case would persuade other victims to come forward. Hynes has been accused of overlooking crimes in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community because he was too cozy with powerful rabbis, a charge he vehemently denies.
Weberman said “no thank you” when asked if he wished to speak. He had no visible reaction to the sentence. The top charge carried a sentence of 25 years; he got consecutive terms for some of the other charges.
The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify people who say they are the victims of sexual assault.
Two persons, including a teacher, have been arrested for allegedly raping minor inmates of a government-run residential school for tribal girls in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district, police said on Monday.
Accused Mannu Ram Gota, 24, a contractual teacher, was arrested on Sunday night
from forest area of Narharpur, Superintendent of Police Rahul Bhagat said.
Medical examination has confirmed rape of nine out of the 40 students, who are residing at the hostel located in Narharpur police station limits, he said. Medical tests are still underway.
On Sunday, school watchman Deenaram was arrested in the case for sexually abusing the girls over several months.
The Chhattisgarh government has ordered a high-level probe into the incident and Director General of Police Ramniwas has deputed IPS officer Neetu Kamal to investigate the case.
Stringent action will be taken against those who will be found guilty after the probe, the DGP said.
Meanwhile, services of both the accused along with hostel warden Babita Markam have been terminated by district collector Alarmelmangai.
Condemning the incident, opposition Congress has accused the state government of being unable to protect women.
A probe committee of the Congress headed by senior party leader Ganga Potai today visited the children and their parents, following which it will submit its report to high command in the state.
Tariq Aziz (centre, second row) attending a meeting about drones strikes in Waziristan, held in Islamabad, Pakistan oin 28 October 2011. Three days later, the 16 year old was reported killed by a drone-launched missile. Photograph: Pratap Chatterjee/BIJ
Numerous commentators have rightly lamented the difference in how these childrens’ deaths are perceived. What explains it?
By Glenn Greenwald (guardian.co.uk)
Over the last several days, numerous commentators have lamented the vastly different reactions in the US to the heinous shooting of children in Newtown, Connecticut as compared to the continuous killing of (far more) children and innocent adults by the US government in Pakistan and Yemen, among other places. The blogger Atrios this week succinctly observed:
“I do wish more people who manage to fully comprehend the broad trauma a mass shooting can have on our country would consider the consequences of a decade of war.”
“Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are ‘militants’. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.
“‘Are we,’ Obama asked on Sunday, ‘prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.”
Political philosophy professor Falguni Sheth similarly writes that “the shooting in Newtown, CT is but part and parcel of a culture of shooting children, shooting civilians, shooting innocent adults, that has been waged by the US government since September 12, 2001.” She adds:
“And let there be no mistake: many of ‘us’ have directly felt the impact of that culture: Which ‘us’? Yemeni parents, Pakistani uncles and aunts, Afghan grandparents and cousins, Somali brothers and sisters, Filipino cousins have experienced the impact of the culture of killing children. Families of children who live in countries that are routinely droned by the US [government]. Families of children whose villages are raided nightly in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Meanwhile, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, at the peak of mourning over Newtown, simply urged: “Let’s also Remember the 178 children Killed by US Drones“. He detailed the various ways that children and other innocents have had their lives extinguished by President Obama’s policies, and then posted this powerful (and warning: graphic) one-and-a-half-minute video from a new documentary on drones by filmmaker Robert Greenwald (no relation):
Finally, the Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia posted a moving plea on Monday: “Our children’s blood is not cheaper than American blood and the pain of loosing [sic] them is just as devastating. Our children matter too, Mr. President! These tragedies ‘also’ must end and to end them ‘YOU’ must change!”
There’s just no denying that many of the same people understandably expressing such grief and horror over the children who were killed in Newtown steadfastly overlook, if not outright support, the equally violent killing of Yemeni and Pakistani children. Consider this irony: Monday was the three-year anniversary of President Obama’s cruise missile and cluster-bomb attack on al-Majala in Southern Yemen that ended the lives of 14 women and 21 children: one more child than was killed by the Newtown gunman. In the US, that mass slaughter received not even a small fraction of the attention commanded by Newtown, and prompted almost no objections (in predominantly Muslim nations, by contrast, it received ample attention and anger).
It is well worth asking what accounts for this radically different reaction to the killing of children and other innocents. Relatedly, why is the US media so devoted to covering in depth every last detail of the children killed in the Newtown attack, but so indifferent to the children killed by its own government?
To ask this question is not – repeat: is not – to equate the Newtown attack with US government attacks. There are, one should grant, obvious and important differences.
To begin with, it is a natural and probably universal human inclination to care more about violence that seems to threaten us personally than violence that does not. Every American parent sends their children to schools of the type attacked in Newtown and empathy with the victims is thus automatic. Few American parents fear having their children attacked by US drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs in remote regions in Pakistan and Yemen, and empathy with those victims is thus easier to avoid, more difficult to establish.
One should strive to see the world and prioritize injustices free of pure self-interest – caring about grave abuses that are unlikely to affect us personally is a hallmark of a civilized person – but we are all constructed to regard imminent dangers to ourselves and our loved ones with greater urgency than those that appear more remote. Ignoble though it is, that’s just part of being human – though our capacity to liberate ourselves from pure self-interest means that it does not excuse this indifference.
Then there’s the issue of perceived justification. Nobody can offer, let alone embrace, any rationale for the Newtown assault: it was random, indiscriminate, senseless and deliberate slaughter of innocents. Those who support Obama’s continuous attacks, or flamboyantly display their tortured “ambivalence” as a means of avoiding criticizing him, can at least invoke a Cheneyite slogan along with a McVeigh-taught-military-term to pretend that there’s some purpose to these killings: We Have To Kill The Terrorists, and these dead kids are just Collateral Damage. This rationale is deeply dishonest, ignorant, jingoistic, propagandistic, and sociopathic, but its existence means one cannot equate it to the Newtown killing.
But there are nonetheless two key issues highlighted by the intense grief for the Newtown victims compared to the utter indifference to the victims of Obama’s militarism. The first is that it underscores how potent and effective the last decade’s anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign has been.
Every war – particularly protracted ones like the “War on Terror” – demands sustained dehumanization campaigns against the targets of the violence. Few populations will tolerate continuous killings if they have to confront the humanity of those who are being killed. The humanity of the victims must be hidden and denied. That’s the only way this constant extinguishing of life by their government can be justified or at least ignored. That was the key point made in the extraordinarily brave speech given by then-MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield in 2003 after she returned from Iraq, before she was demoted and then fired: that US media coverage of US violence is designed to conceal the identity and fate of its victims.
The violence and rights abridgments of the Bush and Obama administrations have been applied almost exclusively to Muslims. It is, therefore, Muslims who have been systematically dehumanized. Americans virtually never hear about the Muslims killed by their government’s violence. They’re never profiled. The New York Times doesn’t put powerful graphics showing their names and ages on its front page. Their funerals are never covered. President Obama never delivers teary sermons about how these Muslim children “had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” That’s what dehumanization is: their humanity is disappeared so that we don’t have to face it.
But this dehumanization is about more than simply hiding and thus denying the personhood of Muslim victims of US violence. It is worse than that: it is based on the implicit, and sometimes overtly stated, premise that Muslims generally, even those guilty of nothing, deserve what the US does to them, or are at least presumed to carry blame.
Just a few months ago, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration has re-defined the term “militant” to mean: “all military-age males in a strike zone” – the ultimate expression of the rancid dehumanizing view that Muslims are inherently guilty of being Terrorists unless proven otherwise. When Obama’s campaign surrogate and former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the US killing by drone strike of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki two weeks after his father was killed, Gibbs unleashed one of the most repulsive statements heard in some time: that Abdulrahman should have “had a more responsible father”. Even when innocent Muslim teenagers are killed by US violence, it is their fault, and not the fault of the US and its leaders.
All of this has led to rhetoric and behavior that is nothing short of deranged when it comes to discussing the Muslim children and other innocents killed by US violence. I literally have never witnessed mockery over dead children like that which is spewed from some of Obama’s hard-core progressive supporters whenever I mention the child-victims of Obama’s drone attacks. Jokes like that are automatic. In this case at least, the fish rots from the head: recall President Obama’s jovial jokes at a glamorous media dinner about his use of drones to kill teeangers (sanctioned by the very same political faction that found Bush’s jokes about his militarism – delivered at the same media banquet several years earlier – so offensive). Just as is true of Gibbs’ deranged and callous rationale, jokes like that are possible only when you have denied the humanity of those who are killed. Would Newtown jokes be tolerated by anyone?
Dehumanization of Muslims is often overt, by necessity, in US military culture. The Guardian headline to Monbiot’s column refers to the term which Rolling Stones’ Michael Hastings reported is used for drone victims: “bug splat”. And consider this passage from an amazing story this week in Der Spiegel (but not, notably, in US media) on a US drone pilot, Brandon Bryant, who had to quit because he could no longer cope with the huge amount of civilian deaths he was witnessing and helping to cause:
“Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world. . . .
“[H]e remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact. . . .
“With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.
“Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.
“Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.
“‘Did we just kill a kid?’ he asked the man sitting next to him.
“‘Yeah, I guess that was a kid,’ the pilot replied.
“‘Was that a kid?’ they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.
“Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. ‘No. That was a dog,’ the person wrote.
“They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?”
Seeing Muslim children literally as dogs: few images more perfectly express the sustained dehumanization at the heart of US militarism and aggression over the last decade.
Citizens of a militaristic empire are inexorably trained to adopt the mentality of their armies: just listen to Good Progressive Obama defenders swagger around like they’re decorated, cigar-chomping combat veterans spouting phrases like “war is hell” and “collateral damage” to justify all of this. That is the anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign rearing its toxic head.
There’s one other issue highlighted by this disparate reaction: the question of agency and culpability. It’s easy to express rage over the Newtown shooting because so few of us bear any responsibility for it and – although we can take steps to minimize the impact and make similar attacks less likely – there is ultimately little we can do to stop psychotic individuals from snapping. Fury is easy because it’s easy to tell ourselves that the perpetrator – the shooter – has so little to do with us and our actions.
Exactly the opposite is true for the violence that continuously kills children and other innocent people in the Muslim world. Many of us empowered and cheer for the person responsible for that. US citizens pay for it, enable it, and now under Obama, most at the very least acquiesce to it if not support it. It’s always much more difficult to acknowledge the deaths that we play a role in causing than it is to protest those to which we believe we have no connection. That, too, is a vital factor explaining these differing reactions.
Please spare me the objection that the Newtown shooting should not be used to make a point about the ongoing killing of Muslim children and other innocents by the US. Over the last week, long-time gun control advocates have seized on this school shooting in an attempt to generate support for their political agenda, and they’re perfectly right to do so: when an event commands widespread political attention and engages human emotion, that is exactly when one should attempt to persuade one’s fellow citizens to recognize injustices they typically ignore. That is no more true for gun control than it is the piles of corpses the Obama administration continues to pile up for no good reason – leaving in their wake, all over the Muslim world, one Newtown-like grieving ritual after the next.
As Monbiot observed: “there can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people” in Newtown. The exact opposite is true for the children and their families continuously killed in the Muslim world by the US government: huge numbers of people, particularly in the countries responsible, remain completely untouched by the grief that is caused in those places. That is by design – to ensure that opposition is muted – and it is brutally effective.
President Obama, the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, has just been bestowed by TIME Magazine with the equally prestigious and meaningful accolade of 2012 Person of the Year.
Why am I not surprised that this happened in Oklahoma?
Both families agreed to the sentencing which likely wont pass a legal challenge, but can you just imagine the hackles and the howls that would be raised about “creeping Islamization” if those involved were Muslim?
MUSKOGEE, Okla. (RNS) A district judge in Oklahoma who sentenced a 17-year-old boy to 10 years of church attendance is standing by his sentence as the right thing to do — even if it may not have been the constitutional thing to do.
Judge Mike Norman gave Tyler Alred a 10-year deferred sentence for DUI manslaughter. Alred was driving a Chevrolet pickup in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2011 when he hit a tree. His passenger and friend, 16-year old John Dum, was pronounced dead at the scene.
The church requirement is just one of the conditions that Norman placed on Alred’s deferred sentence. The judge also ordered him to finish high school and complete welding school. Both Alred’s attorney and the victim’s family agreed to the terms of the sentence.
Norman said the church requirement is something he has done in the past, especially in child support cases. He has never done it for a manslaughter charge.
Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU, said the requirement to attend church is a “clear violation of the First Amendment.”
“It’s my understanding that this judge has recommended church in previous sentences, and I believe that goes too far, as well,” Kiesel said. “This, however, actually making it a condition of a sentence, is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
Norman said he didn’t believe his sentence would pass a legal challenge — but he doesn’t believe either side will seek an appeal.
“Both families were satisfied with the decision,” Norman said in an interview. “I talked to the district attorney before I passed sentence. I did what I felt like I needed to do.”
In order to challenge the constitutionality of the church attendance requirement, an individual or organization must show that it has legal standing to do so. Kiesel said the ACLU is considering what options they have.
“If the court or the district attorney attempts to enforce this requirement, we will look at possible ways to intervene,” Kiesel said. “I know the boy agreed to this, but is someone facing a judge in open court really making a voluntary decision? Government officials should not be involved in what is a very personal choice.”
The Rev. Bruce Prescott, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said he is sure the sentence doesn’t pass constitutional muster, but he is equally worried about the spiritual ramifications.
“I’m a minister,” Prescott said. “I want people to go to church, but it’s not helpful for a judge to sentence someone to church. What will the judge do if the young man changes his affiliation in the next few years? Will he be allowed to switch to a mosque or become an atheist? Religion is not a tool of the state, and it’s certainly not for the state to use as a tool of rehabilitation.”
Norman said he has received phone calls on both sides of his decision.
“One gentleman from Missouri left a message on my phone. He said judges can’t order people to go to church. People are calling from all around the country. I live in the Bible Belt, though. The Bible is still alive down here; churches are still open. I’m sure those people are right, but they’re going to have to do what they want to do.”
Kiesel said he is especially concerned in this case because the judge admits to making a decision he knows is not legal.
“The Constitution is not exercised at your discretion,” he said. “You take an oath to uphold it all the time, not just sometimes.”
By Christy Gutowski and Clifford Ward (ChicagoTribune.com)
Before killing her 7-year-old son to get back at her husband, Elzbieta M. Plackowska told the boy he was going to heaven and ordered him to get on his knees and pray, prosecutors say.
Then she stabbed Justin about 100 times as he pleaded for his life and said he loved her, prosecutors said as Plackowska was denied bail this morning.
Next, she turned to 5-year-old Olivia Dworakowski who she was babysitting at the Naperville townhome and who was now begging Plackowska not to hurt her. Plackowska stabbed her about 50 times because she was a witness, prosecutors said.
Both children’s throats were also slashed, prosecutors said.
Justin and Olivia had been jumping on a bed when Plackowska entered and told them to kneel, prosecutors said. “She told Justin and Olivia to get on their knees and pray. She told Justin he was going to heaven tonight,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in court.
Plackowska fled to a church after the slayings, then to a relative who called police. She was covered with blood when officers took her into custody, officials said.
Plackowska first told police a stalker had broken into the townhouse and killed the children, but then said she had heard voices from the devil and killed the children to save their souls, prosecutors said.
“She stated the children had evil inside of them and she was trying to drive the devil out of them,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in court.
Later, Plackowska told police the children didn’t mind her like they should. Finally, she told police she was angry with her husband and that she would kill Justin because “she would make him hurt the way she hurt in the relationship,” Berlin said.
Plackowska, dressed in a yellow jail suit, spoke little during the hearing.
When Judge John Kinsella asked if Elzbieta Plackowska was her name, she answered, “Yes.”
When he asked if she could afford an attorney, she said, “No.” Kinsella appointed an assistant public defender to represent her.
After the hearing, Michael Mara, a senior assistant public defender for DuPage County, spoke briefly to her.
“She seemed upset but I don’t know beyond that. She is on suicide watch at the jail,” Mara said. “I briefly spoke to her. It’s very early in the case. Obviously once I get the evidence, I will review it with her.”
The children were discovered by police shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday after the girl’s mother Marta Dworakowski, a nurse, couldn’t get into the townhome after working the evening shift at a dialysis lab, according to neighbors and officials.
Police broke in and found the boy on a mattress and the girl on the floor, officials said.
Plackowska — also identified in public records as Plackowski — told police she had taken the children with her to a church in Naperville earlier Tuesday, then returned to the Dworakowski home in the 800 block of Quin Court, according to a law enforcement source.
At some point Tuesday night, Plackowska argued on the phone with her husband because she wanted to return to her native Poland while he wanted to remain here, the source said. Plackowska came to the United States 12 years ago on a vacation visa, officials said.
Prosecutors say her husband is a trucker who was gone from home much of the week. Plackowska told police she did not feel appreciated, and that she resented having to clean houses to pay the bills.
“She stated she was angry with her husband because he was gone most days as an over-the-road trucker,” Berlin said.
But in a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press, Artur Plackowski said his wife had told him the day before the slayings that she loved him.
The husband told the AP he didn’t want to talk further because he wanted to concentrate on giving his son a good funeral.
After the slayings, Plackowska drove back to the church but couldn’t reach anyone, she allegedly told authorities. She also left several frantic voice messages on the church’s answering machine before ultimately tossing her cellphone out the car window, officials said.
Plackowska, covered in blood, then drove to a home on Violet Circle in Naperville, where her adult son called 911, sources said. Police said they recovered two knives, one in the kitchen sink, the blade bent backward, and the other in her car.
“In all my years in law enforcement, this was the most horrific and gruesome crime scene I have seen,” Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall said after the hearing today.
Berlin called it a scene of “unimaginable horror.”
Some of the officers investigating the slayings had met Olivia on her day day at school this fall, Marshall said.
The kindergartner had gone into he wrong classroom at Brookdale Elementary School and officials, unable to find her, called police and 20 to 30 officers responded, Marshall said.
The officers found her in an adjacent classroom, and some of them had lunch with her, Marshall said.
“Our officers told us she was such a sweet and loving little girl,” Marshall said.
Contributing: Melissa Jenco, Vikki Ortiz Healy, Carlos Sadovi, Matthew Walberg, Erin Meyer, James Webb and freelancer Joseph Ruzich
An American man murders his child, an innocent, vulnerable human being and cites holy scripture as justification. If that man’s name was Abdullah or Mohamed it would receive wide media coverage and without a question would go viral in the Islamophobia echo chamber. Comments and discussion threads would be packed with those pontificating on Islam’s so-called “unique violent nature” and ironically would be accompanied by calls to exterminate Islam and Muslims.
Are we to expect Christian Americans to apologize on behalf of the actions of Benjamin Edetanlen? Should we demand marches and condemnations from American Christians? Should we be shouting about where the “moderate Christians” who condemn such atrocious actions are, and why they are so “silent?”
Of course Christianity and the Bible should not be blamed for the actions of Benjamin Edetanlen, but when are we going to see a similar shift in the rhetoric and framing of violent actions carried out by lone Muslims in the name of Islam?
In the following story, the opening line is “Clearly, he missed the ‘Thou shall not kill’ part.”
Now that is refreshing! But will we see a story about Muslims with the first sentence reading, “Clearly, he missed the ‘Killing a fellow human is like killing all of humanity, and saving a fellow human is like saving all of humanity part”?
I will add that the justification of killing a child with the verse, “spare the rod, spoil the child” is not new, we have covered it numerous times in the past when parents have used it as a means of corporal punishment. (h/t: JD)