Aug 6, 2022

CultNEWS101 Articles: 8/3/2022 (Exorcism, Church of Scientology, Legal First Amendment, Neo-Nazi)

Exorcism, Church of Scientology, Legal First Amendment, Neo-Nazi
" ... While exorcism is practiced in the majority of the world's cultures, in the Western imagination it is most associated with Catholicism. That association has been either an asset or a liability to the church at various periods throughout history.

For most of the 20th century, exorcism was incredibly rare in Western nations and often regarded with embarrassment by Catholic authorities. After William Friedkin's film "The Exorcist" came out in 1973, Juan Cortez, a Jesuit priest and psychology professor at Georgetown University, told Newsweek that he did not believe demons exist.

Today, the Catholic Church has reversed its attitude about discussing exorcism almost completely. In 1991, church authorities allowed an exorcism to be televised for the ABC show "20/20." Father Richard P. McBrien, who appeared on "Nightline" to question the wisdom of this decision, told The Catholic Courier that exorcism was being presented this way to advance a political agenda, not to save souls. He stated:

"The real objective of that project, I submit, was to help bring back that old-time religion, when everyone, women especially, knew their place, when Catholics obeyed without question every directive from on high, and when there was never any question that the Catholic Church was the one true church with all the answers to all the important questions we have about life, both here and hereafter."

As a religious studies scholar who writes about exorcism from a historical perspective, I believe the church's changing stance on exorcism has little to do with our culture's understanding of mental illness or other scientific advances and more to do with competing visions of the church as described by McBrien."
The Hollywood-friendly church says its "religious arbitration" system—rather than civil courts—should apply to ex-members who say they were sexually assaulted by actor Danny Masterson. It hopes the Supreme Court agrees.

"The Church of Scientology is no stranger to the American legal system. Its decades-long battle to obtain tax-exempt status is perhaps the most famous in the history of the Internal Revenue Service. The Justice Department indicted some of its top members in the 1970s for a wide-ranging plot to infiltrate the federal government. The church's reputation for litigiousness is so strong that HBO hired at least 160 lawyers when it agreed to make a documentary on Scientology in 2014.

Last week, the church asked the Supreme Court to help move a dispute out of the legal system and into the church's own. At issue is whether the Church of Scientology can compel ex-members who accused it of misconduct into a religious arbitration process that it supervises. A California appeals court said no earlier this year, concluding that such compulsion would violate the ex-members' First Amendment rights. The church claimed that the ruling infringed upon the church's ability to organize and discipline its congregants—a Gordian knot of religious-freedom claims that the justices may soon decide whether to cut.

The case, Superior Court v. Bixler, began after a group of women sued the Church of Scientology in 2019. The women, who were former Scientologists, told the Los Angeles Police Department during the #MeToo movement's emergence a few years ago that they had been sexually assaulted by Danny Masterson, an actor and fellow Scientologist. Shortly after they reported Masterson to police, the women said, they faced a barrage of harassment and abuse, including surveillance, hacking attempts, wiretaps, property damage, attempted arson, threatening phone calls, pet killings, and more."

" ... Chrissie Carnell Bixler, the named plaintiff, and two other women in the lawsuit claimed that the church targeted them in retaliation for going public with their allegations against Masterson. They cited past instances where Scientologists had harassed their perceived foes and critics under the church's "Fair Game" policy. In court filings, the church denied any wrongdoing and claimed that L. Ron Hubbard, the movement's founder, had suppressed Fair Game in 1968.

To quash the lawsuit, the church invoked legal agreements signed by the plaintiffs when they were members in which they agreed to use religious arbitration instead of the civil legal process. The contracts vary slightly in language but they contain two key provisions at the heart of the dispute. First, the plaintiffs gave up the right to sue or seek legal redress against the Church of Scientology in perpetuity. One of the plaintiffs signed an earlier and possibly more limited version of this waiver, while the other three signed later versions that cover the church itself, its satellite organizations, and its employees. Second, the plaintiffs agreed that the arbitrators themselves "shall be Scientologists in good standing with the Mother Church," which could undermine the process's impartiality.

Religious arbitration isn't unique to Scientology. Some synagogues, for example, require new members to accept the jurisdiction of a rabbinical court for spiritual disputes. Christian denominations often have their own internal ecclesiastical processes, ranging from the Roman Catholic Church's system of canon law to the boards and panels used by Protestant churches for internal discipline. Islam's body of religious law known as Shariah plays a similar role in Muslim communities. While Scientology's use of religious arbitration may be more sweeping and aggressive than in other faiths, it is legally similar enough that a coalition of religious groups sided with them in the lower courts.

In response, the plaintiffs urged the court to throw out the contracts. A California judge declined to do so and upheld the arbitration agreements, but the California Court of Appeals overturned the ruling on appeal in January. The appeals court concluded that enforcing the contract would violate the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights to change their religious beliefs. "In effect, Scientology suggests that one of the prices of joining its religion (or obtaining a single religious service) is eternal submission to a religious forum—a sub silencio waiver of petitioners' constitutional right to extricate themselves from the faith," the court wrote. "The Constitution forbids a price that high."

The court of appeals' ruling was unusual from a procedural point of view. For one, constitutional rights like those protected by the First Amendment typically constrain the government's power and not that of private entities. The Church of Scientology is obviously not a government agency, and so the First Amendment's protections for religious freedom do not generally bind it. But the lower court concluded that enforcing the contract through the judicial system could qualify as state action in this context. (That is also why the case title says "Superior Court" instead of "the Church of Scientology.")"
While tasked with protecting the nation, Matthew Belanger was plotting a killing spree against minorities and to rape "white women to increase the production of white children," according to federal prosecutors

"Federal prosecutors say a former U.S. Marine plotted mass murder and sexual assault to "decrease the number of minority residents" in the United States as part of his membership in a far-right neo-Nazi group, "Rapekrieg."

Matthew Belanger was arrested on June 10 in New York and charged with making false statements to a federal firearms licensee in order to make straw purchases of an assault rifle and handgun. Belanger pleaded not guilty to the firearms charges during an arraignment hearing on Monday.

In a July 14 court memo, federal prosecutors say that while a Marine, Belanger plotted far more serious crimes as part of the neo-Nazi group. The memo says Belanger trained with airsoft guns in the woods of Long Island as part of a plot to attack the "Zionist Order of Governments." The memo also says Belanger was the subject of an FBI Joint Terrorism Taskforce investigation into allegedly plotting to "engage in widespread homicide and sexual assault." Much of Belanger's ideology and plotting, the memo says, is based around a desire to lessen the number of nonwhite Americans and to rape 'white women to increase the production of white children.'"

" ... In October 2020, Marine Corps officials and the FBI searched Belanger's Marine Corps barracks housing and his electronic devices. They found "1,950 images, videos and documents related to white power groups, Nazi literature, brutality towards the Jewish community, brutality towards women, rape, mass murderers," along with "violent uncensored executions and/or rape" and "previous mass murderers such as Dylan Roof."

Belanger is currently detained at a federal detention center in Honolulu. He has not been charged with crimes related to his alleged membership in Rapekrieg, but a federal judge sided with prosecutors who argued that Belanger should be held in pretrial detention, citing his extremist beliefs and calling his alleged plots "both a danger to the community and a risk of non-appearance."

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