Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Free Christian Nation

Imagine...you and your family live on 40 acre tract of land with many other families. Everyone there has the same religion and works together for the good of the group. The kids are bright and do not waste their time watching TV or playing video games. Thing are well.
Until...an anonymous call to the sheriff's department destroys everything. The caller does not like your religion and lies to the officer about sexual abuse. Without any proof, without any warning, your children are ripped from your arms and spread across the state and they are trying to get permanent custody of them.

This is modern day America...land of the free, home of the brave. Free if you are a tax-paying, reality show-watching, Christian.

Phone number in polygamist case linked to Colo. woman

By Staff Reports

Originally published 03:09 p.m., April 23, 2008
Updated 03:09 p.m., April 23, 2008

COLORADO SPRINGS — A court document says a phone number used to report alleged abuse at a polygamist retreat in Texas had been used previously by a 33-year-old Colorado woman.

It's not yet clear whether authorities suspect Rozita Swinton of Colorado Springs made any of the calls that triggered this month's raid of the compound.

An arrest warrant affidavit made public today says a phone number she had used previously was used to call a Texas crisis center before authorities conducted the raid and removed more than 400 children. Swinton's whereabouts are unknown.

Authorities have said a 16-year-old girl called a crisis center claiming she was abused at the compound. Authorities have not found that girl but say they have found evidence other children were abused.

Swinton was arrested April 16 on a misdemeanor charge of false reporting in a February incident in Colorado Springs with no known ties to the Texas case. She was later released.

Two Texas Rangers were with Colorado officials when they searched Swinton's home. Texas authorities said the search turned up several items suggesting a possible connection between Swinton and calls regarding compounds in Texas and Arizona owned by the sect, called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The items weren't identified.

Swinton has not been arrested or charged in connection with the calls made to the Texas crisis center, but authorities call her a "person of interest" in that case.

The document released today shows Swinton had an extensive record in Colorado Springs of posing as a troubled teen and making false claims. The affidavit connects Swinton to several reports that alerted Colorado Springs officials.

The document links Swinton to calls made throughout October from a "Dana Anderson." The caller claimed to be a young woman being abused by her pastor at Colorado Springs' New Life Church, and later as a 13-year-old student at Liberty High School who said she was being drugged and sexually abused by her father.

In February, a woman calling herself "Jennifer" called 911 from a prepaid Tacphone, claiming that her father had locked her in her basement for days, the document said.

Officers linked the calls to Swinton in March.

In mid-April, Texas Rangers called Colorado Springs Police regarding their investigation into the Yearning for Zion Ranch.

Texas Ranger Brooks Long asked about two telephone numbers, both with Colorado Springs area codes. One of the phone numbers, the document says, "was possibly related to the reporting party for the YFZ Ranch incident," and was one of the numbers police had connected to Swinton.

While Colorado Springs Police did not file for an arrest warrant until three days after hearing from Texas, Swinton was arrested April 16 in connection with the February call.

Documents related to Swinton's arrest were sealed by a judge at the request of Texas authorities. The Associated Press filed a motion to unseal the records Monday, and the arrest warrant affidavit was released today.

© Rocky Mountain News

How free do you really think you are???!!?

Even in the military, 90% of the chaplains are evangelical Christians. That's 9 out of 10. Read this story about an atheist in Iraq.

Fort Riley atheist soldier speaks out on lawsuit

United States Army Specialist Jeremy Hall takes a moment to collect his thoughts at a local coffee shop near Fort Riley in Junction City, Kan., Thursday, April, 24, 2008. Hall, an atheist, has brought a religious discrimination lawsuit against the government naming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in the legal proceedings. He has filed a lawsuit alleging his constitutional rights have been violated because he doesn't believe in God. (AP Photo/Chuck France)

Like hundreds of young men joining the Army in recent years, Jeremy Hall professes a desire to serve his country while it fights terrorism.

But the short and soft-spoken specialist is at the center of a legal controversy. He has filed a lawsuit alleging he's been harassed and his constitutional rights have been violated because he doesn't believe in God. The suit names Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

"I'm not in it for cash," Hall said. "I want no one else to go what I went through."

Known as "the atheist guy," Hall has been called immoral, a devil worshipper and — just as severe to some soldiers — gay, none of which, he says, is true. Hall even drove fellow soldiers to church in Iraq and paused while they prayed before meals.

"I see a name and rank and United States flag on their shoulder. That's what I believe everyone else should see," he said.

Hall, 23, was raised in a Protestant family in North Carolina and dropped out of school before earning his GED. It wasn't until after he joined the Army that he began questioning religion, eventually deciding he couldn't follow any faith.

But he feared how that would look to other soldiers.

"I was ashamed to say that I was an atheist," Hall said.

It eventually came out in Iraq in 2007, when he was in a firefight. Hall was a gunner on a Humvee, which took several bullets in its protective shield. Afterward, his commander asked whether he believed in God, Hall said.

"I said, 'No, but I believe in Plexiglas,'" Hall said. "I've never believed I was going to a happy place. You get one life. When I die, I'm worm food."

The issue came to a head when, according to Hall, a superior officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, threatened to bring charges against him for trying to hold a meeting of atheists in Iraq. Welborn has denied Hall's allegations.

Hall said he had had enough but feared he wouldn't get support from Welborn's superiors. He turned to Mikey Weinstein and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

Weinstein is the foundation's president and a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate. He had previously sued the Air Force for acts he said illegally imposed Christianity on students at the academy, though that case was dismissed. He calls Hall a hero.

"The average American doesn't have enough intestinal fortitude to tell someone to shut up if they are talking in a movie theater," Weinstein said. "You know how hard it is to take on your chain of command? This isn't the shift manager at KFC."

Hall was in Qatar when the lawsuit was filed on Sept. 18 in federal court in Kansas City, Kan. Other soldiers learned of it and he feared for his own safety. Once, Hall said, a group of soldiers followed him, harassing him, but no one did anything to make it stop.

The Army told him it couldn't protect him and sent him back to Fort Riley. He resumed duties with a military police battalion. He believes his promotion to sergeant has been blocked because of his lawsuit, but he is a team leader responsible for two junior enlisted soldiers.

No one with Fort Riley, the Army or Defense Department would comment about Hall or the lawsuit. Each issued statements saying that discrimination will not be tolerated regardless of race, religion or gender.

"The Department respects (and supports by its policy) the rights of others to their own religious beliefs, including the right to hold no beliefs," said Eileen Lainez, a spokeswoman for the Department of Defense.

All three organizations said existing systems help soldiers "address and resolve any perceived unfair treatment."

Lt. Col. David Shurtleff, a Fort Riley chaplain, declined to discuss Hall's case but said chaplains accommodate all faiths as best they can. In most cases, religious issues can be worked out without jeopardizing military operations.

"When you're in Afghanistan and an IED blows up a Humvee, they aren't asking about a wounded soldier's faith," Shurtleff said.

Hall said he enjoys being a team leader but has been told that having faith would make him a better leader.

"I will take care of my soldiers. Nowhere does it say I have to pray with my soldiers, but I do have to make sure my soldiers' religious needs are met," he said.

"Religion brings comfort to a lot of people," he said. "Personally, I don't want it or need it. But I'm not going to get down on anybody else for it."

Hall leaves the Army in April 2009. He would like to find work with the National Park Service or Environmental Protection Agency, anything outdoors.

"I hope this doesn't define me," Hall said of his lawsuit. "It's just about time somebody said something."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Broken

I produce a radio show on WPVM called Veterans' Voices. It is a show by Veterans, about Veterans, service members and their family and friends. While listening to the moving Winter Soldier testimony to find a clip to air, I ran across the testimony of Perry O'Brien, a former Army medic who served in Afghanistan. He talked about the use of Afghani corpses for medical practice. This disturbed me greatly. My nephew also served as an Army medic in Afghanistan. I have tried to talk to him about his experiences in the war, and he only repeats Pentagon talking points; "We have to fight them there so we do not have to fight them here"..."We have to finish the job" and other similar words we have heard spew out of the mouths of this administration. Of all my sister's boys, I always seemed closer to him. He has wanted to be in the Army since he started walking, so when he signed up, I was not surprised.
I discussed O'Brien's statement about using the dead bodies of the Afghanistan people, without the consent of family members, with my sister. She says, "If he had done that, I would have known, he would have bragged about it". 'Bragged about it'! This does not sound like the loving, caring boy I once knew. What has the Army done to my favorite nephew?
He hides more from his mother than she thinks he does. He came home with shrapnel wounds, months since healed. He never told her about them, until she saw them. His brother Bob, my sister's 'Golden Child', wants to go to Iraq. He has been in the Navy for many years, an officer in the nuclear field with a new wife and baby. Jim argues with his brother, Bob about it. (Notice, they have grown up now, no longer Jimmy and Bobby) Jim has been there and knows about the horrors of war. He wants to protect his brother and his new family. (This sounds more like the Jimmy I knew) Their fates have yet to be determined. I wish I lived closer to him, so I could get to know him again and learn about his experiences.
This whole story reminds me of a guest we had on Veterans' Voices. He had been in Vietnam and returned a broken man. Then I believe it was either his cousin or brother that wanted to go enlist. He told him that he would rather run him over with his car than see him go to Vietnam.
War destroys many more lives than the body count indicates. The number reported by the Department of Defense, currently 4036, is almost insulting to the actual number. Count in those that have died months after being medically discharged from the military and those that have come home so broken spiritually that they take their own lives. These deserve to be counted. To not do so would be a dishonor.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rescue Rusul

No More Victims needs your help. You can visit IH Center and have recurring donations taken out of your Paypal account or make a single, tax-deductible donation. You can also visit NoMoreVictims.org to read more about the Asheville project to bring Rusul to Greenville.

No More Victims Asheville invites you to two events in support of Rusul Jalal, a six year old Iraqi girl, injured in a U.S. missile attack, who is coming to Greenville, S.C. for needed medical treatment:

***Saturday, April 12th, 9-10a.m – A Loving kindness and Walking Meditation at the WNC Baha'i Center, 5 Ravenscroft Drive, Asheville. RSVP to Beth DeLap, 828-768-1145. Donations gratefully accepted.

***Saturday, April 12th, 6-9p.m. – An Evening for Rusul at the Asheville Arts Center, 308 Merrimon Ave. At 6 PM a light dinner will be served. The program begins at 7 PM and will feature a presentation by No More Victims founder and director Cole Miller. There will also be musical entertainment from Stack Kenny on guitar, Stephen Canner on Cello, Don Pedi, Bruce Greene, Kore Loy McWhirter bringing Appalachian music, and lastly, musical comedy by Left of Center. There will also be a raffle for fine prizes donated by area businesses. A $10 minimum donation is asked at the door. All proceeds support the work of No More Victims (www.nomorevictims.org) Help needed! For more information or to help with this event, contact: tcraig@main.nc.us or call 252-4536.

No More Victims pairs communities in the U.S. with war-injured Iraqi children for medical sponsorships, while educating and advocating for Peace.

I got involved with No More Victims after Cole Miller came to town last fall with Salee, Rusul's sister, injured in the same US bombing. I'm happy to be part of something that helps Iraqis as I have opposed the Iraq war since its bloody beginning.
As the saber rattling with Iran grows, the need to do SOMETHING grows greater. How much more of a humanitarian crisis do we need before the American public gets out of their reality show stupor and wake up the the ugly reality that the people on this big blue ball of war are in danger, and need our help.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Inspiration to Wage Peace

Inspiration sometimes can hit you like a ton of bricks, knocking to your senses and waking a part in you that was previously dormant. Like Melissa Etheridge's performance at Live Earth 2007 (7-7-07). If you missed it, you will not find it on the Live Earth album. She was one of the only performers with a message other than "buy my album". She inspired my husband and I to get out in the streets and do something other than bitch. What will be the inspiration to get Joe Apathetic Public off their rumps?

Could we pull something like this off in our "liberal" Asheville?

Listen to the latest Veterans' Voices show on WPVM. It is very powerful. Hopefully it will be an inspiration to someone.
I have the honor to know many inspirational people here in Asheville. I am one of six women involved with No More Victims Asheville. No More Victims pairs war injured Iraqi children with communities in the US to get them the medical care they so desperately need. Our little girl, Rusul, will be coming to the Shriner's hospital in Greenville, SC ,hopefully next month. Her sister, Salee, was brought to the US last year and visited Asheville in the fall. We need to raise about $30,000 for Rusul. I am inspired to be a part of something so important, to feel like I can do something about the destruction in Iraq and help one child.



Benefit for Rusul

Where will you (did you) find your inspiration?