Aug 25, 2016

Derren Brown reveals 'faith healing' trick


Tue 23 Aug 2016
By Sam Hailes
www.premier.org.uk

Popular mentalist and illusionist Derren Brown has revealed how he heals people in an exclusive interview with Premier Christianity magazine.

Brown was speaking following his sell out "Miracle" shows, which saw the atheist call out the types of illnesses and pains people in the room were being "healed" of in that moment.

The illusionist explained how the "personal psychological experience that people are going through" results in people believing they've been healed during his performance. Many in the audience would voluntarily come to the front of the theatre shows and testify to being healed.

"If you're made to feel adrenalin it kills pain," he explained.

"I went out on the first night armed with all this theoretical knowledge. I thought that if I could create some type of adrenalin then someone with a bad back is going to tell me that they can't feel the pain. That's a chemical thing.

"I found not only would somebody come up and say they didn't have a bad back, but they would also hit the floor when I touched them on the face because they have a certain expectation.

"When you go to these events as a believer you know what's supposed to happen. So I show clips of people doing that. By the time they come up on stage, there's a similar expectation of what they're supposed to do. And then it just started happening night after night."

The illusionist has publicly criticised Christian faith healers such as Benny Hinn, however he says admits faith can be "enormously helpful" and says the show is "not in any way against the Church or religion, or even the idea of healing."

"This is a scam that's carried out against the Church and exploits those with sincerely held faith," he said.

Derren Brown was once an evangelical Christian, but left the faith after deciding the evidence for Christ's resurrection was lacking.

"I'd read a few books written by Christian apologists that make you feel like it's a very well-tested historical event. But the moment you look outside of that and actually look at how the Bible was put together, it's a very different story," he told Premier Christianity magazine.

The wide ranging interview, which will also be broadcast on Premier Christian Radio's "Unbelievable?" programme on Saturdays 27th August and 3rd September at 4pm saw the illusionist quizzed on his atheism and reasons for leaving Christianity behind.

https://www.premier.org.uk/News/UK/Derren-Brown-reveals-faith-healing-trick

Aug 24, 2016

What Is the Church of Scientology Doing With This Los Angeles Movie Studio?

L.A. Weekly

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 24, 2016

 

 

The 4400 block of Sunset Boulevard sits at the nexus of three neighborhoods — East Hollywood, Los Feliz and Silver Lake. Residents of each can now peer outside their homes at night and see a large, glowing S, looped through two triangles, looming 150 feet overhead, like a beacon.

It's perched atop a radio tower, above what is thought to be the city's oldest continuously used movie studio, and one of the few studios deemed by the city to be a cultural landmark.

In May, after four years of fantastically expensive renovations, the studio had its grand reopening — as Scientology Media Productions.

David Miscavige, the church's so-called "ecclesiastic leader," says the studio is "our uncorrupted communication line to the billions," according to a Scientology press release.

"Because, as the saying goes," he added, "if you don't write your own story, someone else will. So, yes, we're now going to be writing our story, like no other religion in history. And it's all going to happen right here from Scientology Media Productions."

Scientology's had a run of bad press recently. Lawrence Wright's 2013 book, Going Clear, painted a devastating portrait of the secretive religion. Director Alex Gibney's 2015 documentary adaptation of the book for HBO was even worse. So it seems Scientology's new studio will, naturally, aim to counterbalance the glut of critical coverage.

"Yes, Scientology is in the news — that's certainly proof that the religion is so interesting," reads the press release. "But now Scientology Media Productions IS the media."

L.A. Weekly's request for a tour of the new studio was denied. But photos provided to us by the church depict a state-of-the-art facility offering soundstages with "robotically controlled cameras," a scenery shop, screening rooms, a visual-effects center and even a television broadcast studio, with the rumored goal of, eventually, creating a 24-hour Scientology cable station.

The lot also will house Scientology's publishing department, which says it produces more than a dozen monthly publications including The Auditor,Celebrity, Reality and Freedom magazine — the "voice of the Church of Scientology."

"The department," boasts the studio's publicity brochure, "is powered by an advanced, computerized, automated media system — the latest technology to disseminate Scientology spiritual technology."

The brochure depicts a studio that is as beautiful and advanced as any in Hollywood.

"I have no doubt it looks like those renderings," says Tony Ortega, former editor in chief of the Village Voice, who now blogs about Scientology full-time at the Underground Bunker. "I have no doubt they put together a fantastic studio with all sorts of equipment. The question is why?"

 

The studio originally dates back to 1912, when Hollywood was still an independent city that was transitioning from farmland to moviemaking utopia. The studio was owned, or in some cases rented, by a succession of independent and unsuccessful movie producers. Among them were an optometrist named Siegmund Lubin, who went bankrupt within four years, and director Charles Ray, who produced The Courtship of Myles Standish, which, at a budget of more than $3 million ($1 million of that coming from Ray's own pocket), was one of the most expensive silent films ever made. It was a disastrous failure and Ray, too, would declare bankruptcy.

The roughly five-acre lot survived the years practically by accident. Majestic Studios, where D.W. Griffith filmed both The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, was half a block away; it's now a Vons grocery store, and its backlot is now the Vista Theatre.

 

In the 1940s, Ray's old studio became Monogram Pictures. In the '50s, it became Allied Artists. In the '60s, it was ColorVision. A handful of notable films did get made around that time — Invasion of the Body Snatchers, El Cid and, of course, Tickle Me, starring Elvis Presley. ColorVision went bankrupt in 1969, and the lot and well-worn studio were bought by KCET in 1970 for $800,000.

"It was run-down," says historian Marc Wanamaker, who worked for KCET and wrote a book on Hollywood's Poverty Row. "Anyone would look at it and say, 'You have to demolish this.' But KCET didn't have money to demolish a studio. So KCET cleaned it up and modernized it as best they could."

In 2011, the publicly run TV station, newly independent from PBS, decided to sell the studio. There were a number of interested buyers but only one who wanted to preserve the studio, which had been declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1978 — the Church of Scientology, which purchased the lot for the princely sum of $42 million.

"It made the L.A. Conservancy very pleased," Wanamaker says. "We're not big Scientology fans, but when it comes to saving the properties, I don't care who they are. They've been very good stewards of their buildings."

According to Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw, the church owns "more than 30 properties" in Greater L.A. Most are in Hollywood.

Scientology's portfolio includes a number of gorgeously remodeled historic buildings, such as the 1927 hotel Château Élysée, now the Celebrity Center International, and the 1923 Christie Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard (the first hotel in Hollywood to offer individual bathrooms), now the Church of Scientology Information Center.

A Church of Scientology Community Center in South L.A. is a beautiful 1930s art deco building; the Church of Scientology in Pasadena occupies the Braley Building, originally constructed in 1906 for Edgar Braley's bicycle emporium.

"Meticulously restoring buildings of historical significance is another way we give back to the community," writes Pouw in an email.

There also are a number of anonymous-looking apartment buildings in the church's real estate portfolio; they house many of Scientology's newer recruits.

The church also owns two other production studios — Mad Hatter Studios in Silver Lake, and Golden Era Productions at the infamous Gold Base in Hemet, where, according to HBO's Going Clear, high-ranking members suspected of treason were kept in "the Hole" and psychologically tortured by Miscavige himself. Golden Era has long produced the church's promotional materials and training videos. It's unclear what that facility will be used for now.

The new studio is bigger, more attractive and advanced, and has the added advantage of being located in Los Angeles. Pouw, in a written statement, says the studio will be "a centralized global communications hub for the church's media activities, which include public service announcements, television programming, advertisements, magazines, brochures, internet and every other conceivable type of content."

Pouw says the studio also will produce films on drug and alcohol abuse education, and says the church has promised to share the studio with "various community and religious groups." The press release touts the studio as "a major gift for the community."

"Our facilities will be open for all manner of community events, telethons, religious programming of all faiths, you name it," Miscavige said at the opening of the studios.

But according to former high-ranking Scientology officials who have either left the church or were expelled, there is one simple reason the church built its new studio: money.

For decades, the Internal Revenue Service considered Scientology to be a commercial enterprise, and taxed it as such. But in 1993, after a 25-year legal and political battle, the IRS reversed itself and granted the church 501(c)(3) status. As a result, Scientology pays little in taxes.

But in order to maintain its tax-free status, the church can't make a profit and can't hoard money. Tom De Vocht, who oversaw the church's real estate division until 2001 (and who left the church in 2005), says he was briefed by none other than Miscavige himself on Scientology's strategy of buying land as a way to spend and effectively store its cash.

"They're not really advertising, not really reaching out," De Vocht says. "They don't pay anyone. The money's gotta go somewhere."

He adds: "We spent crazy money on renovations and purchases. Yearly, they took albums of photos of properties they purchased and renovated to IRS, to show what they were spending money on. That was a big driving factor."

The precise number of practicing Scientologists has been the subject of much speculation. In 2004, the church reported it had 8 million members, according to various media reports. Pouw now says there are "millions of Scientologists worldwide and approximately 425,000 in the Los Angeles area."

Other independent estimates are much lower. A 2001 report by the American Religious Identification Survey found there to be 55,000 self-identified Scientologists living in the United States. A 2008 report found only 25,000 — but professor Barry Kosmin, the survey's co-author, cautions that the figure has a margin of error of 150,000 — due, he says, "to a small number of responses."

Former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, who defected in 2007, has stated on his blog that there are no more than 20,000 active members in the entire world.

Pouw says these assertions are "ludicrous," and calls Rinder and other critics "uninformed liars."

"The church's growth is explosive and expanding more rapidly than at any point in history," Pouw says in a written statement.

As evidence, she points to the fact that the church has opened no fewer than 48 facilities in the last 10 years, everywhere from Tel Aviv to Taiwan to Inglewood.

Others say the church's aggressive real estate strategy is about keeping up appearances.

"They open facilities around the world they don't need," Ortega says. "And then they write press releases, 'Scientology expanding around the world!'?"

The church's finances are notoriously opaque, but according to various tax filings posted online by Jeffrey Augustine at the Scientology Money Project, the church has at least $1.5 billion in assets (that figure also is cited in the HBO documentary). Most of those assets are thought to be real estate.

Scientology's income, traditionally, came from four sources: "auditing," a sort of counseling session members go through, which, according to the church's website, "deletes life's painful experiences and addresses and improves one's ability to confront and handle the factors in his life"; sales of E-meters, a sort of crude lie detector used in auditing; training sessions; and book sales. All of these income streams rely on a high number of active members.

So, in recent years, according to former church officials like Rinder and De Vocht, the church has turned more and more to fundraising — mostly in the form of asking existing members for donations. That fundraising is, more often than not, connected to construction projects.

In 1998, Luis Garcia and his wife, Maria, both committed Scientologists living in Florida, were taken out to dinner by a church official, who told them about the "Super Power Expansion Project," the church's new "spiritual headquarters" in Clearwater, Fla. The Garcias were told that they could become "Cornerstone Members" of the new center (which would come with various benefits, such as their name on a plaque and a 40 percent discount on auditing sessions, which can cost thousands of dollars per session for advanced members) for a contribution of just $35,000, to which they agreed.

According to a lawsuit the Garcias would later file, the church continued to solicit a multitude of contributions from the couple for the next seven years, for a total of $340,000, including $65,000 they were told would purchase a large cross for the front of the Super Power building, which would come to also be known as the Flag building.

Though construction began in 1998, the building didn't open for 15 years, in which time, according to the Garcia lawsuit, the church managed to raise more than $200 million — twice the cost of construction. The building might have stood vacant for even longer were it not for $400,000 in fines levied by the city of Clearwater, which charged that the structure had become an eyesore. The building finally opened, to great fanfare, in 2013.

The Garcias filed their suit that same year, three years after they'd left the church. A federal judge ordered the couple to settle with the church in arbitration, which the Garcias are contesting.

The Garcias and other ex–Scientology leaders say that buildings like Flag and Scientology Media Productions are how the church maintains its impressive cash flow even while its membership is dwindling.

"Fundraising made more money for the Super Power building to be empty," says Karen De La Carriere, who left the church in 2010, and who was once married to Scientology International president Heber Jentzsch. The purpose of Scientology Media Productions, she says, was much the same. "This was a fundraising studio. Everyone was bombarded with fundraising emails. 'Give money! This will save the world!'?"

Pouw dismisses De La Carriere, Rinder, De Vocht and other vocal ex-Scientologists as "defrocked and expelled former church staffers."

"It is tiresome to continue to hear these stale, disproven allegations from the same sources," Pouw says in a written statement. "Still bitter at having been kicked out of the church for malfeasance a decade or more ago, these bigoted individuals have spread lies and hate for years."

Yet the church is still raising money for its production studio — months after the ribbon-cutting.

Last week, Rinder posted on his blog an email sent out to Scientology members asking for donations to fund the operations of Scientology Media Productions — or SMP, as they call it, part of the "planetary dissemination unit," i.e., public relations arm of the church.

"Now that SMP is open, it's the next phase, and that requires funding the programs that put global clearing within reach," reads the email ("clearing" refers to the goal of Scientologists to "go clear," i.e., to be free of "engrams," or past traumas).

"Every major advancement we make requires the energy to do so and this is where your donations count and on which we depend to make this next forward thrust. Your donations to the planetary dissemination unit result in order being put into a disordered and troubled world.

"Your contributions are greatly valued and needed.

"We are counting on you to do so."

Los Angeles, and more specifically Hollywood, has always been something of a holy place for Scientology. Its founder, the incredibly prolific science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, lived in Hollywood for decades. And Scientology deliberately courts celebrities to help spread the gospel.

Though the church's headquarters is now in Clearwater, there are still more Scientologists living in L.A. than anywhere in the world. The city even has an L. Ron Hubbard Way, a small street dominated by low-ranking, uniformed Scientologists who live and work nearby.

The street's renaming, in 1996, was not without controversy. According to the Los Angeles Times, City Councilmember Ruth Galanter objected to the move, calling Hubbard "manipulative" and "dishonest," adding: "He's a cult leader. We don't name streets after cult leaders."

But Councilman Richard Alatorre defended the new name: "The fact of the matter is, this is the leader of this church that has been a long-standing member of the community. They are involved in positive work — they have a lot of members."

Councilman Richard Alarcon, meanwhile, projected bemused disinterest, explaining his yes vote by saying: "We have, literally, thousands and thousands of streets named for people, most of whom I have no idea who they are."

The debate crystallized to a certain extent L.A.'s awkward relationship with Scientology. The church has drawn so much criticism worldwide yet has a more or less harmonious relationship with the city establishment. Kevin James, the president of the Board of Public Works, who ran for mayor in 2013 and who says he plans to run for public office again, says the city's and the church's interests sometimes overlap. "They're one of the largest property owners in Hollywood, if not the largest property owner. By necessity, we work with them regularly, whether for special events, development or public safety."

When the church wanted to put up its logo — the glowing S and two triangles — on the radio tower of its new studio, the city approved it but advised the church to pay a courtesy call on the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council. So the church made a presentation in front of the neighborhood council's planning committee. After hearing about a dozen community members object to the proposal, the committee voted to recommend that the full council object to the sign — a purely symbolic move.

The issue was set for a hearing before the full neighborhood council, but the item was withdrawn from the agenda at the church's request. There was no subsequent outreach. The S went up, and has stayed lit at night ever since.

"The reality is, it's a very visible presence, and it's for a very specific organization," says Los Feliz Neighborhood Council president Luke Klipp, who lives 500 feet from the studio and can see the sign from both his front and back yards. "If McDonald's put a sign 150 feet in the air, lots of people would be screaming. And I'd be one of them."

http://www.laweekly.com/news/what-is-the-church-of-scientology-doing-with-this-los-angeles-movie-studio-7293993

 

Did fugitive FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs get swept up in the Rapture?

FOX 13 News

AUGUST 23, 2016

BY BEN WINSLOW

SALT LAKE CITY — Polygamist leader Lyle Jeffs may not have escaped from home confinement, but was instead kidnapped or “experienced the miracle of rapture,” his lawyer raises as a possibility in a new court filing.

In a filing about whether to continue the food stamp fraud trial for 11 members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, Jeffs’ defense attorney said she can’t reach him to ask his input, and then slyly offered some alternative ideas to explain his fugitive status.

“As this Court is well aware, Mr. Jeffs is currently not available to inform his counsel whether or not he agrees to the Continuance. Whether his absence is based on absconding, as oft alleged by the Government in their filings, or whether he was taken and secreted against his will, or whether he experienced the miracle of rapture is unknown to counsel,” Kathryn Nester wrote. “However, his absence prevents counsel from obtaining his approval and thus further prevents counsel from filing a joinder with the Motion to Continue Current Trial Date in compliance with the local rules.”

Nester, who appeared to be kidding in the filing, told the judge she did not have an objection to delaying the trial.

Jeffs vanished from home confinement in June. FOX 13 first reported that FBI agents believe he used a substance like olive oil to slip out of a GPS monitoring device. In court on Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah conceded that Jeffs cannot be found.

The FLDS members are accused of ordering church members receiving Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to hand them over to the Bishop’s Storehouse. Federal prosecutors claim the proceeds were diverted and accuse Lyle Jeffs of using some of it to purchase a luxury car. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has alleged in court filings the scheme exceeded $12 million.

Read the filing by Lyle Jeffs’ attorney here:

http://fox13now.com/2016/08/23/did-fugitive-flds-leader-lyle-jeffs-experience-the-miracle-of-rapture/

 

Polygamous sect members won't be released before trial

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 1:31 pm

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two polygamous sect members accused in a food-stamp fraud case will stay in jail after violating their supervised release at the direction of imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs.

U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart decided Tuesday the men can't be trusted to put court orders ahead of instructions from a religious figure.

Prosecutors said they violated the conditions of their release by meeting with each other.

Defense attorneys for John Wayman and Seth Jeffs argued the two leaders met only to reassure rattled members of the group, not discuss the case or plan an escape.

But Stewart seems skeptical after another suspect in the case escaped supervised release this summer. Prosecutors say they believe top-ranking leader Lyle Jeffs is using a network of hiding houses and loads of cash to remain a fugitive.

http://m.cachevalleydaily.com/mobile/news/state/article_ce66c734-577e-594c-b849-49ed7ba0674b.html

Aug 23, 2016

Leaving the Mormon faith

Why former Mormons club together to share their struggles

 

THE ECONOMIST

Aug 21st 2016

BY H.G. AND ERASMUS | SALT LAKE CITY

 

IF YOU visit a long, brightly-lit cafeteria in South Salt Lake, Utah, on a Sunday morning, you can hear a low babble of conversations, over steaming mugs, eggs and pastry, between people who have only just met but seem keen to share their experiences. In a typical conversation (reported with permission), a 45-year-old woman called Sally Benson chatted to Casey Rawlins, a man 11 years her junior, about a difficult move they had both made: leaving the Mormon faith.  She explains that she “made the break” on the first day of 2013: “It was, like, my whole life so it’s hard to break out, you know…”  Her new friend is sympathetic; he explains that he made a similar decision a few years earlier, even though most of his friends and family were Mormon. “You have to change your whole social group,” he recalls.

These chats are not the result of random encounters. The cafeteria is a meeting place for "Postmormons and Friends", one of several groups with the stated aim of guiding people through the difficulties, whether practical, social or psychological, of ceasing to practise the Mormon religion. Those strains can be especially acute in Utah where the majority of people belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

By some measures the LDS church still has a demographic profile which other religious groups would envy.  It claims to add members, both in the United States and worldwide, every single year, although the annual rate of increase that it reports has slowed significantly. Last year, it posted an increase of global membership of 1.7%, for a total of 15.6m, including 6.5m Americans. The yearly rate of increase in the global total has come down from around 5% in the mid-1980s. Mormons can point to the fact that their share of the United States population remained steady at around 1.6% between 2007 and 2014 while the total share of self-described Christians tumbled from 78% to 71%.    

 

The Mormon church gains members through intensive missionary activity and as a result of its conservative family structure; a high proportion of Mormons are married and raising children in a devout atmosphere. But clearly, quite a lot of  those children eventually leave; a recent survey of the American religious landscape found that only 64% of the respondents who had been raised in the Mormon creed still adhered to it.

Rick Philipps, a religious sociologist, has studied the particular problems that arise in Utah, the heartland of Mormonism. In some urban areas, the population used to be so heavily Mormon that people had the same peer group in religous and non-religious settings. Partners in a neighbourhood or commmunity group were also likely to be fellow members of a "ward" or local church unit. This created huge and decisive pressure for members to stay within the fold. But now that these neighbourhoods have become more religiously mixed, "the salience of this [all-Mormon] religious subculture is waning," he told Religion News Service. That makes leaving a conceivable choice, in a way that it hardly was before; but it is still difficult enough.

 

Leaving the church involves more than just renouncing a set of beliefs, says Martha Bradley-Evans, Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the University of Utah who specialises in the LDS church.   It also involves saying goodbye to a support network on which most members are heavily reliant. “The context of a Mormon ward is incredibly important in the life of a member,” she says.

And every so often, something happens which turns the flow of departures from a slow trickle to a larger torrent. There was one such event last year when Mormon leaders tightened both the style and substance of their line on same-sex relationships, especially gay marriage; people entering such unions were threatened with discipline and possibly excommunication. During the weekend following that news, at least 100 church members gathered in a park and formally began resignation procedures. Since then more than 10,000 have left for similiar reasons, says John Dehlin, a psychologist who leads a podcast called Mormon Stories. In some of these cases, he says, "people’s lives really get messed up."

Officially, the process of leaving starts with the submission of a letter requesting that one's name be removed from the church roster. But such letters can be passed around between various church bodies, and they can lead to unannounced phone calls and home visits from church members. This can take months. Mormons are heavily involved in each other’s lives, and when one member wants to resign, fellow believers will weigh in and urge their brother or sister not to forfeit a ticket to heaven, says Mark Naugle, an attorney in Salt Lake City who has helped thousands resign. He assists with drafting resignation letters, designed to ensure that his clients can make a relatively clean break without any official backlash. But no break is completely painless.

On the other hand, some still-practising Mormons insist they continue to behave charitably towards lapsed brothers and sisters. "I have always maintained positive relationships with friends who have left the church," says Marcus Jessop, who lives in Orem, Utah. A lifelong Mormon aged 34, he acknowledges that some of his coreligionists might not be so warm towards the fallen; but his belief was in "striving to love everyone" regardless of their faith choices.

As any religion-watcher will tell you, Americans of his age and below see religion (like every other aspect of personal and economic behaviour) as a matter of individual rather than group choice. The Mormons, like all religous communities, will have to adjust to that era.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2016/08/leaving-mormon-faith

 

Channel 4 documentary series to look at polygamy in the US

ATV Today

 

Lynn Swift

 

Channel 4 commissions The Polygamists a documentary series focusing on fundamentalist Mormons living in the heart of the Utah desert.

 

The broadcaster and KEO Films have secured unprecedented access to a unique community living in homes carved into the face of a vast sandstone rock. Over half of the residents practice ‘plural marriage’ and 12 months of footage edited into four hour long films will offer an intimate and revealing insight into the everyday lives of modern polygamous families.

The series captures both birth and death within the community along with the logistics of bringing up supersize families and the highs and lows of communal living.

As political debate rages on about whether polygamy should be considered a crime and with the mainstream Mormon church keen to distance itself from a practice it renounced almost 130 years ago, the films also explore how the families deal with the attitudes and curiosity of wider American society.

The Polygamists could see a change of title and was commissioned by Anna Miralis. The Executive Producers are Will Anderson and Andrew Palmer, Vicky Mitchell is Series Producer, Tanya Winston Series Director from Keo Films.

 

http://www.atvtoday.co.uk/83391-c4/

 

Go Topless Day Returns To Venice Beach This Weekend

LAist

BY JULIET BENNETT RYLAH  

 

Go Topless Day—the annual event put on by a religious movement that believes in extraterrestrials and equal nipple rights—returns to Venice this upcoming weekend.

 

Go Topless Day is a strange and glorious day that occurs once a year throughout the world. On this day, those who believe that women should be allowed to go topless in public legally, just as men can, unite. Locally, Go Topless Day occurs in Venice. This year, the event takes place on Sunday, August 28. Demonstrators are meeting up at 198 Ocean Front Walk at 1 p.m.

 

Though the Venice Neighborhood Council voted last year to allow topless sunbathing for all genders, the City of Los Angeles still requires women to cover their nipples in public. And though Venice has considered leaving Los Angeles, it has not. So, women who attend should consider wearing pasties or tape over their nipples to avoid any issues with the law.

 

Melissa Diner, who wrote the motion approved by the Venice Neighborhood Council, tells LAist:

 

Topless sunbathing is currently still illegal at Venice Beach. However, I am continuing to garner support to have the two words "women's areolas" removed from the L.A. Municipal Code, at minimum when it comes to the sand. I encourage not just the city, but county and state to make similar minor edits to their laws to support equal rights.

 

LAist attended last year's event, where we saw a celebratory boob parade march from Navy and Boardwalk down to Windward Stage. There, demonstrators held an energetic rally full of speeches, burlesque and dancing. As usual, several men unrelated to the demonstration turned up to photograph the women, perhaps woefully unaware that one could acquire similar photos of breasts with much less effort using Google Image Search. Additionally, a small group of religious protesters arrived for their time to shine, shouting about Hell and damnation until the Go Topless crowd drowned them by blasting Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" on a boombox.

 

Go Topless Day was founded by Rael, the leader of the Raelians, in response to the arrest of Phoenix Feeley, a topless activist who was arrested for being topless in public in New York in 2005. The city of New York ended up settling with Feeley for $29,000 because toplessness is actually legal there.

 

The Raelians are a movement that believe humans were created by extraterrestrials who will return and teach us their advanced technologies once we have learned how to make peace with one another—so, a really long time from now. They have very liberal views on sex, love GMOs, believe cloning is the key to immortal life, and they're also big advocates for a woman's right to go topless. (You can read more about their way of life here).

 

The Raelians are not the only people who believe women should be able to be topless. The Free the Nipple movement advocates for this as well, with celebrity supporters including singer Miley Cyrus and model Chrissy Teigen. There are also other topless activists like Anni Ma, who was arrested for being topless outside a Bernie Sanders rally at the Wiltern in March. Ma is now suing the LAPD. Ma also recently went in pasties to Comic Con in San Diego, where she posed next to male cosplayers who were totally bare-chested in an effort to illustrate the absurdity of it all.

 

Go Topless Day is on Sunday, August 28 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Venice Beach. See the Facebook event here.

 

http://laist.com/2016/08/22/go_topless_day_returns_to_venice_be.php

 

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis ban women from going to university in case they get 'dangerous' secular knowledge

The Independent

·        August 23, 2016

·        Siobhan Fenton, Dina Rickman 

 

Exclusive: The decree seen by The Independent warns ‘We will be very strict about this. No girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree. It is dangerous. Girls who will not abide will be forced to leave our school’

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbis have banned women from going to university, The Independent has learned.

The strict Satmar sect issued the decree, seen by The Independent, warning that university education for women is “dangerous”. Written in Yiddish, the decree warns: “It has lately become the new trend that girls and married women are pursuing degrees in special education. Some attend classes and others online. And so we’d like to let their parents know that it is against the Torah.

“We will be very strict about this. No girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree. It is dangerous. Girls who will not abide will be forced to leave our school. Also, we will not give any jobs or teaching position in the school to girls who’ve been to college or have a degree.

"We have to keep our school safe and we can’t allow any secular influences in our holy environment. It is against the base upon which our Mosed was built.”

 

The decree was issued from the sect’s base in New York and will apply to followers of the faith group around the world.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews follow a pre-enlightenment interpretation of traditional Judaism and discourage interaction with the modern or secular world. Men wear 19th century Eastern European dress including long black coats and black hats, while married women must dress modestly and cover their hair.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews estimates that there are around 30,000 strictly Orthodox Jews living in the UK, of which Satmar is the largest sect.

Last year, it emerged that some ultra-Orthodox Jews in north London had banned women from driving, citing concerns that it was immodest for them to do so.

It was condemned by Dr Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, Executive Director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, who told The Independent the decree would “force” people to stay in their communities.  “The Satmar community chooses to live in an isolationist enclave. They believe that the secular elements of the world would tarnish the lives and beliefs of those who consider themselves to be religious.

 

“There are probably other factors at play, but, ultimately, the results are devastating. Because people from similar communities are not provided with a foundational primary education, they cannot pursue higher education nor careers. When one does not have access to education, career opportunities are out of reach. It forces one to stay within the community as everyone's personal lives are tied up with their professional lives as well.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/ultra-orthodox-rabbis-ban-women-from-going-to-university-in-case-they-get-dangerous-secular-a7204171.html

 

LOYOLA FIRST MEDICAL SCHOOL IN COUNTRY TO OFFER ELECTIVE IN TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION

Article ID: 659536
Released: 22-Aug-2016 3:05 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Loyola University Health System

Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL – Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is the first major medical school in the country to offer an elective course in the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique.

Loyola also is beginning a new study of the effects of the TM technique on physicians. Study participants will undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures brain activity. The study is led by Murali Rao, MD, and Paolo Nucifora, MD.

TM is a risk-free technique that produces a unique state of restful alertness. It’s a fourth state of consciousness, distinct from waking, sleeping or dreaming. It is not a religion or philosophy and does not require a change in lifestyle or culture. Among its many benefits, TM can reduce stress and burnout and improve focus, learning and resiliency, according to 380 peer-reviewed studies.

“Physicians who practice self-care, especially stress reduction, are likely to perform better as professionals and inspire their patients to adopt healthy behaviors,” said Linda Brubaker, MD, MS, dean and chief diversity officer of Stritch School of Medicine.

The TM course is open to students during all four years of medical school. It includes an introductory session; individualized training in TM (1 to 1.5 hours per day for four consecutive days); meetings with a meditation instructor several times during the academic year; five science-based lectures by TM experts; and a final paper. Students are expected to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes.

Third-year medical student Danielle Terrell meditates before lunch and before dinner. She said meditation protects against stress, like a raincoat against rain. “The stress just rolls right off of you,” she said.

Ms. Terrell said TM also improves her ability to think, take tests and solve problems and helps control her stress-related psoriasis. Other Loyola medical students have reported that TM helps them remain grounded, feel more positive, and procrastinate less.

“We want to bring medical students to their highest potential in spirit, mind, and body, and the Transcendental Meditation technique helps accomplish all of these,” Dr. Brubaker said.

Since Loyola launched its Physician Wellness through the Transcendental Meditation Technique in the 2014-15 academic year, 150 students have taken the course, and other medical schools have expressed interest in offering their own TM courses. Forty-five Loyola physicians also have learned TM.

Loyola’s TM course is taught Richard J. Carroll, MD, ScM, FACC, a board certified cardiologist; Carla L. Brown, EdD, who has a doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Gregory Gruener, MD, MBA, a Loyola Medicine neurologist and Stritch’s vice dean for education. Dr. Brown and her husband, Duncan Brown, MA, provide TM instruction at Stritch. They are co-directors of the Center for Leadership Performance in Chicago.

“Having TM as a tool means our students can recommend something that they know will help, based upon their own experience and upon substantial evidence,” Drs. Brown and Gruener wrote in an article about Loyola’s TM course in Chicago Medicine magazine, published by the Chicago Medical Society. “They can avoid burnout and maintain their enthusiasm for practicing medicine. They can also become the role models we all aspire to be.”

http://www.newswise.com/articles/loyola-first-medical-school-in-country-to-offer-elective-in-transcendental-meditation

Exclusive Brethren follow the church, not God

August 23, 2016
Stuff
BEVAN THOMAS

"When the Exclusive Brethren community becomes hostile it is a nightmare of isolation and rejection. It is condemnation that is very real."KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Our family was fourth generation Exclusive Brethren, but we broke the cycle and left in the 1970s.

At the time the church was having a cleanout as they had confused the Christian ethic of following Christ in a relationship free of law, with following church and being bound to church laws.

The inevitable breaches were dealt with by removing people from church life. This was difficult because cultural life outside the church did not exist for members and the church had no issue with separating families in the process.

Despite the biblical command to never separate husband and wife, the church again confused themselves by applying spiritual instructions on physical life, a common mistake most churches fall for by reapplying laws Jesus freed us from.

The benefit of being an Exclusive Brethren was the support and security gained from church community. The set rules and guidelines made people feel safe and guilt-free and the result is a security everyone longs for.

On the other hand, if the community becomes hostile it is a nightmare of isolation and rejection and our belief system was in crisis when we were rejected by that church as it was condemnation that was very real.

My mother, and inevitably my two sisters, developed a fierce hatred of male authority. Most of the pain came from male authority in the church as again the church was confused, this time with the difference between submission and force. The Bible supports men having responsibility only for what women willingly give them responsibility for, nothing more. The idea that men should force their authority on women does not exist in the Bible.

The international leader of the Exclusive Brethren church, Australian Bruce Hales, and his family in the 1990s.

My mother Ngaire Thomas wrote a book about our family's experience in the Exclusive Brethren community and the process of writing it freed her from her fears and was a healing process for her.

Church members believed they had the responsibility to remove anyone who sinned, despite the Bible stating everyone would have to be removed if the law was applied and that grace and forgiveness was the new way.

Because the belief had shifted from following God to following the church, they didn’t know what else to do to control standards. The church began to protect itself and instead of it being the people, it became an organisation that accepted or rejected people.

It's hard to blame the church since its leaders sincerely believed they were following the Bible, but the reality was they were following only the writings of Paul, so they became an organisation with a code of laws based on Paul's writings (Paul wrote that Christians were not to follow him) instead of being a group of individuals with personal relationships with God, free of laws. Jesus became a figurehead without power.

One of the great benefits of being Exclusive Brethren was that they enabled the gender needs to be freely given. It was no secret women desired safety and security and men desired honour and respect. Unlike modern society, which completely denies these needs even exist so that neither gender receives their greatest need from the other.

The strength and value of family is also demonstrated, unlike modern society, which scorns and attacks family values to their detriment. Men protected and provided security for their families and were honoured and respected for it by the women - a mutual benefit.

My sisters never married. My father always pined to return to the brethren as it was where his heart belonged, but he stayed with his family believing that was the greater call, which is something I admire and respect him for.

I don’t see any church as being different to the Exclusive Brethren as they all fall for the same deceptions, but despite all that I think modern secular society without its moral compass is much worse.

http://i.stuff.co.nz/stuff-nation/assignments/have-you-left-a-cult-or-religious-sect-share-your-story/15634605/Exclusive-Brethren-follow-the-church-not-God

Aug 22, 2016

Judge considers whether to release FLDS members from jail again

FOX 13 News

AUGUST 22, 2016,

BY BEN WINSLOW

 

SALT LAKE CITY -- A federal judge is considering whether to release two top members of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, accused of violating a court order by meeting under a dictate from imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.

At the end of a hearing Monday morning, U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart did not rule on the custody status for Seth Jeffs and John Wayman, but said he would decide soon. The two have been in jail since they were arrested three weeks ago after a middle of the night meeting that prosecutors said was commanded by Warren Jeffs.

Defense lawyers for the men did not deny the meetings took place, but insisted it was a regular part of their constitutionally-protected religious freedom rights. Wayman's attorney, James Bradshaw, argued to the judge that he is not a leader in the church -- but a member -- and subject to the commands of FLDS leadership.

In arguments, assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Lund said Warren Jeffs did command these things but said to call it a religious purpose "seems to be a perversion of the 'spirit' of what would be allowed." They argued that one of Wayman's jobs was to collect tithing money and said he was the number three man in the FLDS Church.

"John Wayman is the gatekeeper," Lund told the judge, declaring Warren Jeffs as "the keyholder."

Throughout the hearing, Wayman sat quietly in a blue and white striped jail jumpsuit. He smiled at FLDS faithful who attended the hearing, but left the courtroom when arguments began.

Bradshaw argued that the FLDS community is in "crisis," with thousands being kicked out of their homes and food in short supply. He said Wayman has been working to bring relief to people in need and is not fully trusted by FLDS leadership.

But the federal government argued that Wayman is beholden to Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for child sex assault related to underage "marriages." In court, it was revealed that Warren Jeffs has ordered all FLDS members to be "re-interviewed" and "re-baptized" into the church's United Order. That means many will be kicked out if they are deemed unworthy.

"He is going to receive a dictate from his prophet. That supersedes your order," Lund told the judge.

Seth Jeffs' attorney, Jay Winward, argued that while his client violated the terms of his release, he did not violate the spirit of it. In both hearings, Judge Stewart was skeptical.

"You have rationalized it," Judge Stewart said to Bradshaw. "He was told not to do it. He knew he would be discovered. Yet he did it because he was motivated by a higher cause. How do we know he won't by motivated by a higher cause to flee?"

Lawyers for Jeffs and Wayman argued for them to be released again pending trial, which they note may be delayed. So far, six FLDS members have urged the judge to delay the trial by citing the massive amounts of discovery in the case. Defense attorneys have disclosed nearly 100 Terabytes of documents, data and video have been handed over by the federal government with more coming. The trial is scheduled to start in October.

On Monday, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah said it did not oppose a delay, citing the manhunt for fugitive polygamist leader Lyle Jeffs. (Wayman asked for a delay, saying the judge's ruling on his detention will affect whether he wants to delay the trial.)

Eleven FLDS members are facing food stamp fraud and money laundering charges. They're accused of ordering FLDS members to hand over Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to church leaders. The feds have claimed the scheme exceeds $12 million in taxpayer dollars.

FLDS leader Lyle Jeffs escaped after being ordered on home confinement. Federal prosecutors admitted in court that the FBI does not know where he is. FOX 13 first reported that the FBI believes Lyle Jeffs used olive oil to slip out of a GPS monitoring device.

On Monday, Judge Stewart rejected a pair of defense requests to get closer inspections of the evidence in the food stamp fraud case. He did not rule out allowing them to renew their motions if the government failed to comply with what they were already doing.

http://fox13now.com/2016/08/22/judge-considers-whether-to-release-flds-members-from-jail-again/