Religious Crook & Swindler Rodney Howard-Browne Arrested


Rodney Howard-Browne: Florida Megachurch Pastor Arrested

Rodney Howard-Browne

Rodney Howard-Browne. Credit: Hernando County Detention Center

Rodney Howard-Browne, the leader of a Pentecostal megachurch in Tampa Bay, Florida, has been arrested after continuing to hold large church services amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff announced on March 30 that he had obtained an arrest warrant for the pastor’s arrest. About an hour later, Howard-Browne was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center, inmate records show.

Although the governor of Florida has not issued a statewide “stay at home” order, local communities have taken steps to curb the spread of the virus. In Hillsborough County, gatherings are limited to no more than 10 people and residents are instructed to remain at their homes as much as possible. In the order, which can be read here, religious institutions are not included in the list of essential businesses.

Howard-Browne has been dismissive of the threat from COVID-19. During a sermon on March 16, he told the River at Tampa Bay congregation that the church would never close and encouraged people to shake hands.


1. Rodney Howard-Browne Has Said Only the Rapture Could Force His Church to Close & Referred to Those Concerned About COVID-19 as ‘Pansies’

Exactly !!! 🙄 https://t.co/2s1lnztRO2

— Rodney Howard-Browne (@rhowardbrowne) March 15, 2020

Rodney Howard-Browne told his congregation during a service on March 15 that his church would remain open and that only the end of the world could force him to close it. He retweeted a portion of his sermon that was shared to Twitter from that day. The clip is embedded above.

In the clip, Howard-Browne urged everyone to shake hands. “I know they don’t want us to do this, but just turn around and greet two, three people. Tell them you love them, Jesus loves them.” He reassured the congregation, “This has to be the safest place. If you cannot be saved in church, you in serious trouble.”

Howard-Browne then said, “This church will never close. The only time the church is closed is when the rapture is taking place.” In Christianity, the rapture refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ, when he will destroy the devil and the “Last Judgement” of mankind will take place.

Howard-Browne then suggested that his congregation is not afraid of contracting the coronavirus and that anyone who does it weak. “This Bible school is open because we’re raising up revivalists, not pansies.”

The Orlando Weekly reported that during one of his sermons, Howard-Browne insisted the coronavirus was less of a threat than the flu. “Suddenly we are demonized because we believe that God heals, that the lord sets people free, and they make us out to be some kook… we are free in America to worship God freely.”


2. Sheriff: Howard-Brown’s ‘Reckless Disregard For Human Life’ Put Thousands of People’s Lives in Danger

Rodney Howard-Browne

Rodney Howard-Browne

Sheriff Chad Chronister of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office said his office received an anonymous tip that Rodney Howard-Browne was continuing to hold services with hundreds of people, even after legal orders were enacted barring large gatherings. The sheriff explained during a news conference on March 30 that law enforcement officials attempted to speak with the pastor at his church days earlier, but that he refused to see them.

Officials instead met with the pastor’s attorneys. Sheriff Chronister said the goal had been to “educate” the pastor about the “dangerous environment” he was creating by continuing to hold large services with hundreds of people packed into one room. Officials pointed out that Howard-Browne has the capability to broadcast his sermons over the internet, and therefore does not need to have services in-person during this pandemic. The River already streams its services online each week.

The sheriff added that other religious institutions have adopted this practice and encouraged their own congregations to practice social distancing. But Howard-Browne instead insisted on members of the congregation attend in-person and provided bussing to the church.

Howard-Browne’s defense has been that holding the services is within his first amendment rights. Hours before his arrest, the pastor even retweeted the sheriff office’s statement that his church was violating “the President’s guidelines for America, recommendations made by the CDC, and orders from the Governor.” Howard-Browne wrote that his attorneys were “meeting with authorities to resolve any issues!” He used the hashtags #thestand and #1stamendment.

But the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s office disagreed with his argument that the first amendment was applicable in this case, because large gatherings had been designated as temporarily illegal. Sheriff Chronister argued that the health and safety of the community has to come first, stating that Howard-Browne’s “reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week, in danger.”

Howard-Browne is charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules. Both charges are second-degree misdemeanors. He turned himself into authorities and was booked into the Hernando County Detention Center around 2:20 p.m. on March 30, inmate records show.

He was taken into custody there instead of Hillsborough County, because that is where he lives, the sheriff explained. Sheriff Chronister added that his office worked with Howard-Browne’s attorneys to allow him to turn himself in order to protect the safety of law enforcement. He referenced Howard-Browne’s past statements about possessing an arsenal of weapons and having private security. In 2017, the pastor posted on Instagram that the church was “heavily armed,” the Miami Herald reported at the time. The post was shared after a gunman killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.


3. Rodney Howard-Browne Claimed He Cured Zika & Promised to Rid Florida of the Coronavirus

RWW News: Rodney Howard-Browne Issued A ‘Restraining Order’ To The Antichristhttp://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/rodney-howard-browne-saved-america-by-issuing-a-restraining-order-to-the-antichrist/

Right Wing Watch reports on the extreme rhetoric and activities of key right-wing figures and organizations by showing their views in their own words. In this clip, right-wing pastor Rodney Howard-Browne issues a “restraining order” to the Antichrist and the global cabal that seeks to destroy America.

Rodney Howard-Browne has made large claims in regards to his abilities as a religious leader. In a clip shared by Right Wing Watch in February 2020, Howard-Browne claimed that he cured Florida of the zika virus “in the name of Jesus” and vowed that he would do the same against the coronavirus.

In the clip, the pastor said he had been asked why he couldn’t rid the entire world of these viruses. He said it was because he “can’t be responsible” for every city in the world.

In July of 2018, Howard-Browne took credit for saving the planet from the devil. During a sermon, he claimed that he had issued a “restraining order” against the Antichrist. “If you think I’m crazy, that’s fine. I didn’t come here, I don’t care what people think. I’m here to deliver a message whether people like it or not. I’m not gonna change anything. I’m not looking to become accepted. I’m already accepted by Him. I’m just a messenger boy.”


4. Howard-Browne Prayed Over President Trump In 2017 & Said Jesus Would Have ‘Beat the Crap’ Out of John Bolton For ‘Turning On’ the President

rodney howard-browne

Rodney Howard-Browne

Rodney Howard-Browne and his wife, Adonica Howard-Browne, has previously spent time at the White House. He shared a photo to Facebook on July 11, 2017, as he stood over President Donald Trump with his hands on the president’s back. Vice President Mike Pence can be seen amongst the men in the group, with his head bowed in prayer. Howard-Browne and his wife were invited by televangelist Paula White-Cain, Vanity Fair reported.

Howard-Browne explained, “Yesterday was very surreal for @ahowardbrowne & I. 30 years ago we came from South Africa to America as missionaries. Yesterday I was asked by Pastor Paula White-Cain to pray over our 45th President – what a humbling moment standing in the Oval Office – laying hands and praying for our President – Supernatural Wisdom, Guidance and Protection – who could ever even imagine – wow – we are going to see another great spiritual awakening.”

rodney howard-browne and trump

Facebook Rodney Howard-Browne and Donald Trump

President Trump appears to have met Howard-Browne along the campaign trail. The pastor gave the opening prayer before a rally at the Florida State Fair Grounds in November 2016.

In January 2020, Howard-Browne also made headlines for his defense of President Trump amid the impeachment hearings. He specifically addressed former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s decision to write a book about his time in the administration. Howard-Browne wrote on Twitter, “You are a slime ball of the highest order. I should have knocked your sorry butt through the door of the Oval Office into the rose garden when I saw you. I would have gladly been arrested … what a Benedict Arnold … I am glad you were fired!!!” In a follow-up tweet, Howard-Browne wrote that Jesus would have “made a whip and beat the crap” out of Bolton.


5. Rodney Howard-Browne Said He & His Wife Were ‘Called By God’ to Be Missionaries In the United States

rodney howard-browne and Adonica

Revival Ministries Rodney Howard-Browne and wife Adonica

Rodney Howard-Browne was born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. His wife, Adonica, was born in Zimbabwe before her family relocated to Johannesburg, according to their church’s website.

After getting married in 1981, the couple traveled around South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia as ministers. They had three children together: Kirsten, Kelly May, and Kenneth.

Howard-Browne explained that the family moved to the United States in 1987 in order to answer a calling from God to spread the faith in the United States.

He wrote, “The Lord had spoken through Rodney in a word of prophecy and declared: ‘As America has sown missionaries over the last 200 years, I am going to raise up people from other nations to come to the United States of America. I am sending a mighty revival to America.’”

Howard-Browne added, “The Lord supernaturally provided for their air tickets and they came to America with only $300, four suitcases, and their three children, then aged five, three and seven months.”

The couple founded The River at Tampa Bay Church in December 1996.

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Yet Another Con Man Hailed As a Hero By Religious Right Crazies


Arthur Goldberg Likens his Embattled Ex-Gay Therapy Group to Weight Watchers

Submitted by Brian Tashman

Before founding the ex-gay therapy group JONAH, Arthur Goldberg was an investor convicted on felony charges and served time in prison for mail fraud and conspiracy. But the con man is being hailed as a hero by the Religious Right now that he is going up against the Southern Poverty Law Center in court, which is representing several customers of his New Jersey-based organization who are suing him for consumer fraud. Goldberg, however, will be unable to represent himself as he has been disbarred.

While speaking to American Family Association president Tim Wildmon and Family Research Council head Tony Perkins on AFA Today, Goldberg denied the SPLC’s claims that he defrauded customers by advertising that his group is able to “cure clients of being gay,” for example by instructing a group of men to “remove their clothing and stand naked in a circle” alongside a nude “counselor.”

Goldberg told Wildmon and Perkins that filing suit against an ex-gay therapy organization is like suing Weight Watchers for failing to lose weight through their program.

Delusional Religious Crazies Claim to Have Stopped Terrorists


Jacobs Claims to have Thwarted Numerous Terrorist Attacks
Submitted by Ariella on Friday, 11/9/2012 1:15 pm

Self-proclaimed “prophets” Mike and Cindy Jacobs of Generals International continued to spew their predictions about terrorism, natural disasters and economic turmoil on their show God Knows. Jacobs—who previously alleged that she helped avert bombings—revealed that she along with other prophets were having dreams in 2011 about a looming terrorist attack, and explains that their visions were confirmed by the events in Benghazi.

Mike Jacobs contended that there were even more terrorist plots, but that they had been thwarted by “the prayer cover that has been placed over the United States by various prayer groups and individuals praying.”

Watch:

The Endless Republican Sludge | Mike Coffman Another Crackpot Republican


The Endless Republican Sludge | Mike Coffman Another Crackpot Republican

In May, Coffman drew national attention when he made birther comments about Obama, saying that “that in his heart, he’s (Obama) not an American. He’s just not an American.”

The release of the audio clip comes on the same day Coffman released his first TV ad touting his military background.

Democratic State Rep. — and a pair of third party candidates — is challenging Coffman in the Aurora-based 6th Congressional District.

“Mike Coffman’s pattern of bringing up extremist conspiracy theories shows a high level of disrespect for our Commander-in-Chief and his commitment to the safety of our troops. He owes people an explanation,” said Ryan Hobart, a spokesman for Miklosi.

Follow Kurtis on Twitter: @kurtisalee

Coffman says his “fundamental concern” is Obama might use military for political gain

Greatest Threat To Liberty | The 10 Most Dangerous Religious Right Organizations


The 10 Most Dangerous Religious Right Organizations
The religious right is more powerful than ever, using its massive annual revenue and grassroots troops to promote a right-wing ideology and undermine church and state separation.

The movement known as the Religious Right is the number-one threat to church-state separation in America. This collection of organizations is well funded and well organized; it uses its massive annual revenue and grassroots troops to undermine the wall of separation in communities nationwide.

Americans United staff members have carefully researched this movement, and here are the 10 Religious Right groups that pose the greatest challenges to church-state separation. Most of these organizations are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, but the financial data includes some affiliated 501(c)(4) lobbying organizations operating alongside the main organizations. The figures come from official IRS filings or other reliable sources.

1. Jerry Falwell Ministries/ ­Liberty University/Liberty Counsel

Revenue: $522,784,095

Although Jerry Falwell, a Religious Right icon and founder of the Moral Majority, died in 2007, his empire is going strong thanks mostly to Liberty University, a Lynchburg, Va., school now run by his son, Jerry Falwell Jr. Following in his father’s footsteps, Falwell Jr. regularly meddles in partisan politics – from local contests to presidential races. This year, he invited Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney to give Liberty’s commencement address, introducing him as “the next president of the United States.” A second Falwell son, Jonathan, is pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, a mega-church in Lynchburg. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal outfit founded by Mat Staver that is now based at Liberty University, where it launches lawsuits undermining church-state separation and encourages pastors to get involved in partisan political activity.

2. Pat Robertson Empire

Revenue: $434,971,231

Known for his years of involvement in far-right politics, TV preacher Pat Robertson has forged a vast Religious Right empire anchored by the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Robertson also runs Regent University and  a right-wing legal group, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). (Attorney Jay Sekulow heads ACLJ, as well as his own quasi-independent legal outfit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism.) CBN, which brings in the bulk of Robertson’s revenue, broadcasts far-right religious and political invective laced with attacks on church-state separation, a concept Robertson has called a “myth” and a “lie of the left.” His “700 Club” TV program is a powerful forum for the promotion of right-wing ideology and favored politicians. Robertson has been welcomed into the halls of government. The current governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, is a Regent U. graduate.

3. Focus on the Family (includes its 501(c)(4) political affiliate CitizenLink)

Revenue: $104,463,950

Fundamentalist Christian James Dobson founded Focus on the Family to offer “biblical” solutions to family problems. Dobson, a child psychologist by training, soon branched out into the dissemination of hardcore right-wing politics with an international reach. Dobson has been a major player in the halls of power in Washington, D.C., and Focus-aligned “family policy councils” pressure lawmakers and influence legislation in 36 states. In fact, the Colorado-based organization frequently plays a key role in fighting gay rights and restricting abortion at the state level. Jim Daly is now president of Focus; Dobson left the organization in 2010 but remains active on the political scene.

4. Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund)

Revenue: $35,145,644 

The ADF may have changed its name, but it still promotes a familiar Religious Right agenda. The Arizona-based organization, which was founded by far-right TV and radio preachers, attacks church-state separation, blasts gay rights, assails reproductive freedom and seeks to saturate the public schools with its narrow version of fundamentalism. In recent years, the ADF, headed by Ed Meese acolyte Alan Sears, has worked aggressively to overturn a federal law that bars tax-exempt churches and other nonprofits from intervening in partisan elections. The group says church-state separation is not in the Constitution and calls the church-state wall “fictitious.”

5. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Lobbying Expenditures: $26,662,111 

The USCCB for years has lobbied in Washington, D.C., to make the hierarchy’s ultra-conservative stands on reproductive rights, marriage, school vouchers and other public policies the law for all to follow. This year, the USCCB escalated its efforts in the “culture war” arena, forming the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty. Led by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, the committee seeks to reduce Americans’ access to birth control, block efforts to expand marriage equality and ensure federal funding of church-affiliated social services, even if the services fail to meet government requirements. American Catholics often disagree with the hierarchy’s stance on social issues, but the bishops’ clout in Washington, D.C., and the state legisla­tures is undeniable.

6. American Family

Association

Revenue: $17,955,438

Founded by the Rev. Donald Wildmon, the Tupelo, Miss.-based AFA once focused on battling “indecent” television shows. When that failed, the group branched out to advocate for standard Religious Right issues such as opposing gay rights, promoting religion in public schools and banning abortion. In recent years, AFA staffer Bryan Fischer has become notorious for making inflammatory statements. Fischer has asserted that Adolf Hitler invented church-state separation and has proposed kidnapping children being raised by same-sex couples. The AFA, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, frequently announces boycotts of companies that don’t give in to its demands. The organization says it operates nearly 200 radio stations nationwide.

7. Family Research Council

Revenue: $14,840,036 (includes 501­(c)(4) affiliate FRC Action)

This group, an offshoot of Focus on the Family, is headed by GOP operative and ex-Louisiana legislator Tony Perkins. It is now the leading Religious Right organization in Washington. Every year, FRC Action sponsors a “Values Voter Summit” to promote far-right politicians and rally Religious Right forces nationwide. The 2012 edition hosted many top Republican politicians and drew about 2,000 attendees. The organization frequently assails public education, political progressives, reproductive justice and the church-state wall and seeks to form a far-right coalition with the Tea Party. FRC is also known to engage in harsh gay bashing and has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

8. Concerned Women for

America

Revenue: $10,352,628 (includes 501­(c)­(4) affiliate CWA Legislative Action Committee)

Founded to counter feminism, Con­cerned Women for America (CWA) claims to be “the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.” Its mission is to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy.” CWA was organized by Tim and Beverly LaHaye in 1979 to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, and when that issue faded, it moved on to other Religious Right agenda items. The group attacks public schools for allegedly promoting “secular humanism” and supports the teaching of creationism in science classes. It also vehemently opposes abortion and gay rights.

9. Faith & Freedom Coalition

Revenue: $5,494,640

This 501(c)(4) advocacy group was founded by former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed. He formed the organization after his run for lieutenant governor in Georgia was derailed because of his ties to disgraced casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In just three years of operation it already boasts more than 500,000 members and claims affiliates in 30 states. Reed is infamous for exaggerating his organizations’ clout, but his latest group is certainly making political waves. In 2012, it hosted forums for GOP presidential hopefuls in four states. Faith & Freedom Coalition claims to have budgeted $10 million in 2012 to lure conservative religious voters to the polls.

10. Council for National Policy

Revenue: $1,976,747

The Council for National Policy exists to do just one thing: organize meetings of right-wing operatives, Religious Right leaders and wealthy business interests at posh hotels around the country to share ideas, plot strategy and vet GOP presidential candidates. Membership is by invitation only, and the group seeks no media attention. Despite its small size and shadowy operations, the CNP – founded by Religious Right godfather Tim LaHaye – wields a great deal of influence, showing that even organizations with modest budgets can have a significant impact. U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), after his now-infamous “legitimate rape” comment, showed up at the next CNP meeting to ensure ongoing financial support as he runs for the U.S. Senate. Heritage Foundation Vice President Becky Norton Dunlop currently serves as CNP president, with Phyllis Schlafly and FRC’s Tony Perkins also taking leadership roles.

Simon Brown is a communications associate at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The Increasingly Insane Ravings of Religious Right Loon Bryan Fischer | Obama Antichrist


American Family Association Caveman Bryan Fischer: ‘Too Early to Say’ Whether Obama’s the Antichrist
Wouldn’t want to jump the gun
Via:- Charles Johnson

Is Barack Obama the Antichrist? Well, amazingly enough, religious right caveman Bryan Fischer thinks it’s too early to say.

But I sense that he’s leaning toward “yes.”

Looney Religious Right Promotes Fake “Crucifixion” | Religious Hoaxes


Jonathan Kay: Egypt’s “crucifixion” hoax becomes an instant Internet myth
Jonathan Kay | Aug 22, 2012 12:53 PM ET | Last Updated: Aug 25, 2012 9:31 PM ET More from Jonathan Kay | @jonkay
PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images

PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty ImagesAn Egyptian anti-government demonstrator holds a cross and the Koran at Cairo’s Tahrir Square back in 2011.

Have you heard the one about how Christians are being nailed up on crucifixes and left to die in front of the Egyptian presidential place?

It’s a story worth dissecting — not because it’s true (it isn’t), but because it is a textbook example of how the Internet, once thought to be the perfect medium of truth-seeking, has been co-opted by culture warriors as a weapon to fire up the naïve masses with lies and urban legends.

The Egyptian crucifixion story gained critical mass five days ago, when WorldNetDaily, a popular right-wing web site that promotes anti-gay and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories from an Evangelical perspective, published a story entitled “Arab Spring run amok: [Mulsim] Brotherhood starts crucifixions.”

“The Arab Spring takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood has run amok, with reports from several different media agencies that the radical Muslims have begun crucifying opponents of newly installed President Mohammed Morsi,” author Michael Carl declared. “Middle East media confirm that during a recent rampage, Muslim Brotherhood operatives ‘crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.’ ”

The article quickly went viral. It has been tweeted thousands of times, and has 14,000 Facebook “likes.” Education is apparently no defence against this sort of web-peddled nonsense: Some of the people who credulously sent me a link to the article in recent days included an Ivy League-educated U.S. lawyer, and a former Canadian Senator. Britain’s Daily Mail reported the story, as did thousands of blogs.

It is, of course, theoretically possible that Muslim radicals truly have “crucified” someone, somewhere, sometime, in Egypt. Islamist mobs have staged countless murderous attacks on Copt “infidels” in recent years — and a crucifixion would hardly be a more barbarous tactic than truck bombs and beheadings.

But the story doesn’t just allege that a crucifixion has taken place somewhere in Egypt: It alleges that multiple crucifixions have taken place in front of the presidential palace. That would be the equivalent of, say, mass lynchings taking place in front of the White House, or a giant gang rape taking place in front of Ottawa’s Centennial Flame fountain.

“If that happened, wouldn’t someone, you know, take a picture?” I asked one of the friends who emailed me the WorldNetDaily link. Maybe just a few shots with a cell phone camera from one of the tens of thousands of people who no doubt would have witnessed this Biblical horror in one of the most densely trafficked patches of real estate in the entire Arab world?

And yet, not one of the stories I saw had a photo — or even names or descriptions of any of the supposed crucifixion victims. So I decided to check out the “several different media agencies” that supposedly have reported the crucifixion story.

WorldNetDaily, and other sites that are reporting the story, all trace the claim of multiple Arabic sources to a Jewish web site called algemeiner, which has published its own highly-trafficked article on the subject, and to something called The Investigative Project on Terrorism. Like the cited Arabic sources, they in turn base their claims on reports from Sky News Arabic — a recently formed joint venture between BSkyB and Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp. Sky is supposedly the original source on the story, everyone agrees. Yet neither algemeiner nor WND nor any of the other sources supply the original Sky reporting that purportedly outlines the facts.

That’s because there is no Sky report on the subject.

Yesterday I contacted the management of Sky News Arabic, and asked them about the crucifixions. According to Fares Ghneim, a Sky communications official, the crucifixion claim “began on social media. It started getting pick-up from there and eventually reached us.”

“Our reporters came across reports of the alleged crucifixions and a story very briefly appeared on the Sky News Arabia website,” he added. “The story — which was taken down within minutes — was based on third-party reports and I am not aware that any of our reporters said or confirmed anything along the lines of what is quoted in the article [by WorldNetDaily] … What’s unclear is where websites in North America got [the] Sky News Arabia bit from. As mentioned [previously], none of our correspondents confirmed this issue or commented on it. Clearly there is an intermediate source the websites got the info from, but as of yet we haven’t been able to identify it.”

Nevertheless, web surfers already had begun sourcing the story to Sky, at which point it went viral in portions of the Arabic media, and then on U.S. Christian web sites, and pro-Israel blogs. And thus was born an Internet urban legend. (Update: In response to my article, WND has posted a new article claiming they have confirmed the original Sky report — but the only relevant new evidence produced is an obscure Youtube video produced by a third party, which purports to reproduce text from the deleted Sky web story).

Enter the terms Brotherhood crucifying 2012 into Google and you get numerous hits, the most prominent being the articles I have discussed in this column. Every single one of them swallows this made-up story whole. Indeed, some are even more emphatic than the original WorldNetDaily story, such as a well-trafficked Free Republic headline that claims, plainly, “Muslim Brotherhood Are Crucifying People.”

Such sites also have carried other nonsense articles about the Muslim Brotherhood, such as that it plans to blow up the pyramids — which the New York Times thankfully took pains to debunk back in July. Yet till now, no one (that I can tell) has taken the time to investigate or debunk the crucifixion tale, even though it only took a few emails to Sky to show that it was bunk. (Ordinary Egyptians also could have helped debunk the story. Here’s how one Copt put it in an email to WorldNetDaily: “I am an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox, i.e. Egyptian Christian, my mother and members of my family live within a stone throw from the presidential palace. I talk to my mother every other day. If something like what you mentioned in your article took place, she [would] be the first one to know.”)

Why do so many people believe this made up story? For the same reason that people believe all urban legends — because they play to some deeply held narrative that resides in our deepest fears. In this case, the narrative is that the Arab Spring is part of an orchestrated Islamist plot to destroy Western civilization (beginning with Israel). Believers in this narrative (who are especially numerous in America’s right-wing Evangelical circles) are so hungry for news items that purport to offer confirmation that they ignore the credibility of the messengers. If they had checked out the credibility of WorldNetDaily, for instance, they would have found that the site’s past “scoops” have included the claim that drinking soy milk makes you gay, and that Barack Obama himself is gay (presumably from aforesaid soy milk).

As James Callaghan once put the old adage, “a lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.” He was British PM back in the 1970s, decades before the Internet expedited the process. These days, the truth doesn’t even bother rousing itself from bed. It just turns over its sleep, and puts a pillow over its exposed ear to drown out the nonsense from the world’s web-enabled conspiracists.

AUGUST 24 UPDATE Earlier this week, I debunked the story — spreading like wildfire on WorldNetDaily and other Internet sites — that Christians were being crucified by the Muslim Brotherhood in front of Egypt’s presidential palace. As I noted, the story was based on nothing more than a social-media rumor that had been posted for a few minutes on the Web site of Sky News Arabic, before an alert Sky editor deleted it. From that small seed of nonsense, it traveled far and wide, as such urban legends do in the Internet age.

In response to my debunking, WorldNetDaily published a new article purporting to “confirm” the original crucifixion story. But the only relevant new evidence WND provides is a link to a video that purports to show the deleted text from the Sky web site. Since I already reported the existence of the original, short-lived Sky article, I’m not sure what this is supposed to prove. (More generally, the article also supplies links to Arabic-media images of people who have been brutalized — allegedly at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. I have no reason to doubt that these photos are genuine. But as I made abundantly clear in my original article, I don’t dispute that Egypt’s hardcore Islamists are a nasty lot. My article was limited to debunking the crucifixion claim. And none of the photos provided show any hint of crucifixion.)

Over the last day or so, I have had an ongoing email correspondence with Michael Carl, the WND reporter who wrote the crucifixion article. He tells me he is sticking by his story. When I asked him if he has “any information from any of the tens of thousands of people who would have seen an actual ‘crucifixion’ if one really did take place in front of the presidential palace,” he told me that he had. Tantalized, I pressed him for details. Alas, he refused to divulge any of the evidence to me — or anyone else. If he did, he explained, the Muslim Brotherhood “would kill my sources.” And so ended our correspondence.

More enlightening than my emails with Father Carl (he describes himself as a priest, as well as a reporter), was a note I got from a reader pointing out that this is not the first time that Islamists in the region have been falsely accused of crucifixions.

As Nathan J. Brown pointed out in early 2009, on the web site of the Carnegie Endowment, an internet rumor circulated in late 2008 to the effect that Hamas was “celebrating” Christmas by crucifying Gaza’s non-Muslims. And amazingly, it wasn’t just the conspiracy theorists at WND who got sucked into this one. According to Brown, it was featured in blogs connected to such respectable publications as The New Republic, National Review and Commentary. Even the Simon Wiesenthal Center was pushing the story.

Here is the real story, as Brown describes it:

Some officials of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Justice (answering to Hamas) have been drafting a new criminal code based on Islamic criminal law. They have not released its work (at least outside of Gaza), but they did hold a workshop to discuss a draft. A copy of this document fell into the hands of a reporter for the Arabic daily al-Hayat. While that newspaper is generally reliable enough, the reporter made a significant mistake: He thought the draft had been fully and finally passed by the parliament, not that it was the subject of a small group discussion. And he quoted from some passages in the law — including the title of a section dealing with categories of punishment that mentioned crucifixion (a legal category in Islamic criminal law). There was no evidence that the law went beyond using the term as a legal category. And since the reporter did quote some fairly strong provisions in other areas it seems unlikely that he would have missed the opportunity to mention any actual provisions for crucifixion. The small (and mistaken) article in al-Hayat was picked up by the Jerusalem Post (it also circulated in some Arabic media outlets) which — in perhaps the only glimmer of responsible journalism in this strange episode — added that it could not confirm the report. But that qualification got lost. So did the explanation from Hamas legal officials that no law had been passed. One Israeli activist working hard to circulate the charge (Itamar Marcus) actually went so far as to cover up his mistake by claiming that the Hamas denial (which was actually quite accurate) was simply a “lie” … And so columnists (generally on the right side of the political spectrum) began to claim that Hamas had legislated crucifixion — in the more lurid report — for any “unbelievers,” “enemies of Islam,” or even Christians. And few could resist mentioning that the timing coincided with Christmas.

The people reporting this false story were not deliberately lying. As I noted in my original post, they have simply become so wrapped up in the idea that we are fighting an existential war against militant Islam, that they are willing to believe any nonsense story they come across without checking it. If it sounds like it could be true, then it must be.

The first casualty of war, as always, is truth.

National Post jkay@nationalpost.com Twitter @jonkay

Crooked Catholic Religion, Haven for Crooked Nun


Gambling Nun Gets House Arrest for Embezzlement

By Austin Cline

If you embezzled $850,000 from your company and blew it all gambling, you’d go to jail. If you’re a nun, you might only get house arrest. That’s what happened in the case of Sister Susie, a nun at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. For ten years she’d lose several thousand dollars at Atlantic City every week — money that belonged to Iona College, not her. Instead of jail, though, she just gets confined in a convent. Continue reading “Crooked Catholic Religion, Haven for Crooked Nun”