May 15, 2020

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/15/2020

Conspiracy Video, Covid-19, Genesis II, Clergy Confidentiality, Amish, Jim Bakker

"Social media companies including YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook are removing a viral conspiracy theory video because of its claims regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

The roughly 26-minute video was presented as an extremely long "trailer" for a full-length film titled "Plandemic," and features an extended interview with Judy Mikovits, a well-known figure in the anti-vaccine movement, who has made various discredited claims about the effects of vaccines.

A YouTube spokesperson said the company removes "content that includes medically unsubstantiated diagnostic advice for covid-19," which includes the "Plandemic" video.A rep for Facebook said, "Suggesting that wearing a mask can make you sick could lead to imminent harm, so we're removing the video."

A Vimeo spokesperson said the company 'stands firm in keeping our platform safe from content that spreads harmful and misleading health information. The video in question has been removed by our Trust & Safety team for violating these very policies.'"

"A Bradenton organization that peddles drinking industrial-grade bleach as a cure for 95 percent of the world's known illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, autism, Alzheimer's, leukemia, and most recently, COVID-19, was openly defiant after a federal court issued a temporary restraining order on the sale of its products.

"We are doing good, so we have no fear of you AND you still have NO authority in our Church or its practices," wrote Mark Grenon, leader of Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, in an email addressed to U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams on April 24.

Grenon, who said he has written President Donald Trump about his product, also told the judge to cancel all orders against the organization.

Now the federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction that extends a ban on the organization from distributing its MMS product, also known as "Master" or "Miracle Mineral Solution."

"The Court finds that the United States has shown a cognizable danger that Defendants will continue to violate the FDCA in the future unless a preliminary injunction is issued," Judge Williams stated in her May 1 order.

The court filings name Genesis II and its leader Mark Grenon, as well as Joseph Grenon, Jordan Grenon and Jonathan Grenon as defendants. All four individuals have been identified as "bishops" of Genesis II on the organization's website, with Mark Grenon sometimes referred to as "archbishop."

Mark Grenon claims to have founded Genesis II in 2010 with Jim Humble, a former Scientologist who began promoting the supposed health benefits of MMS as early as 2006 in self-published works. A website operated in Humble's name says that he discovered the uses of the active ingredient in MMS "while on a gold mining expedition in South America."

Another post on the site claims that Humble "retired" from Genesis II in 2017 and left the organization "in the hands of Mark Grenon."

"It is important to note that MMS does not cure disease," the website also says."

"The criminal complaint against the Amish bishop is clear about how he learned of a church member's alleged sexual assault on three young teenage girls:

"John G. Beiler confessed the sexual assault incidents to Bishop Levi S. Esh Sr.," says the complaint, pending in Lancaster County and filed by Pequea police in April.

"Confessed." Whether the case moves forward could hinge on that word.

In April, Pequea police charged Mr. Esh, 63, with felony and misdemeanor charges of failing to report suspected child abuse to authorities after Mr. Beiler allegedly confessed to the sexual assaults.

The case is believed to be the first in Lancaster County — hub of the nation's largest population of Amish — in which one of their spiritual leaders is charged with violating a Pennsylvania law that includes clergy among those mandated to report suspected child abuse.

But Pennsylvania law allows a privilege, or exemption, for clergy who learn about suspected abuse in "confidential communications" while in the course of their "duties."

Mr. Esh's attorney plans to challenge the charges on that and other grounds.

The charges come amid growing scrutiny in various states about the clergy-confidentiality privilege.

The case also involves the latest in a series of allegations of sexual abuse and coverup among Amish and closely related Mennonites, both part of the Plain church tradition. In 2017, a Dauphin County Amish bishop pleaded guilty to failing to report abuse, and in 2019, a Huntingdon County Mennonite pastor pleaded no-contest to a similar charge. Both received probation."

" ... Morningside is the name of Bakker's Christian broadcasting empire, as well as the Missouri residential community from which he broadcasts. But it's mostly made news in recent weeks because of its founder's legal woes: various government agencies have accused Bakker of promoting a fake COVID-19 miracle cure. 

So what does the coronavirus pandemic look like in this temple of survival? According to interviews with people who have recently lived, worked, and spent time there, pretty much the same waking nightmare as everywhere else: mixed efforts at social distancing, layoffs, and reported shortages of everyday supplies as COVID-19 ravages the country.

A former Morningside employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she hoped to return to her job as the pandemic eased said she was among a wave of layoffs as the community entered lockdown in late March.

"They were running out of supplies they had stocked up on when I was leaving there," said the former employee, who argued Bakker was being vilified in the media. 

Neither Morningside nor a Bakker representative returned requests for comment for this story.

The story of Morningside's development involves two failed historical theme parks and two dozen criminal charges. Bakker, now 80, was a star of the 1980s televangelist scene and even expanded into a biblical theme park until feds convicted him of an elaborate scheme to illegally skim millions off the amusement park. A former church secretary also accused him of sexually assaulting her and buying her silence, although he claimed to have only had consensual extramarital sex with her, and was never charged. 

Twenty-four convictions on fraud and conspiracy charges in the amusement park scandal and four years in prison later, Bakker was released from lockup in 1994. By 2003, he'd returned to broadcast ministry, this time with an eye on the end-times. He preached the apocalypse and used a loophole in non-profit law to hawk survivalist gear like supposed health supplements and giant buckets of shelf-stable food. 

"Imagine," one of Bakker's emergency food ads said, "the world is dying and you're having a breakfast for kings." (Because his ministry is technically a nonprofit, Bakker does not "sell" his goods; he offers them as "love gifts" to people who make specific donations, like $4,500 for a "Peace of Mind Final Countdown" bundle that contained 31,000 servings of food in a variety of buckets.) 

In 2008, he opened Morningside, a church complex/Christian broadcast studio/evangelical utopia on the former site of a follower's Renaissance faire-themed amusement park. It was the ultimate survivalist sales pitch: Bakker claimed it could withstand an imminent apocalypse, and offered a variety of dwellings onsite. Higher-end homes included condos overlooking a shopping mall-like central meeting area, which also featured a chapel, a General Store, a cafe, and a 15-foot statue of Jesus."

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