Skepticism

Global Quickies: Half a Billion Pound Lawsuit, Gender Laws, and the Bible Roulette


UK / NIGERIA

Nigerian ‘witch hunter’ Helen Ukpabio is launching a legal case against the British Humanist Association, suing them for half a billion pounds for misrepresentation. Ukpabio claims that the BHA misrepresented her by saying that she believes that if a child under the age of two screams at night, cries, is always feverish, suddenly deteriorates in health, puts up an attitude of fear, and doesn’t feed well is possessed by the devil. In fact, she believes the child is possessed by witchcraft spirits. Obviously, the lawsuit is about silencing critics, not about the devil or witches.

BRAZIL
Presidential candidate Marina Silva took back her initial support of same-sex marriage. Silva, an evangelical Christian and missionary for an “Assembly of God” in Brasilia, had included a plan for a constitutional amendment to allow same-sex marriage, but she said it was a misunderstanding after the negative reactions from religious groups. Reports say she sometimes makes difficult decisions with the help of a“bible roulette”, where she opens a bible at random to find guidance. If elected, which is unlikely, she would be the first black president and the first president from the Amazon.

GUATEMALA
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of about 200 members was expelled from the town they had settled in a few years ago. The elders of this mostly Mayan village voted to expel the newcomers because many of the villagers felt they were being ill-treated by them. Secular Guatemala has an interesting take on the conflict and the terrible (and racist) reporting of it.

MEXICO
A Christian pastor admitted to killing a 14 year old girl out of jealousy. The 31 year old pastor had been having a “relationship” with the girl since she was 12, but she left him to date someone her own age. The linked article, as all others I saw, refers to the girl as “his lover” and only mentions rape in passing.

DENMARK
The law that came into effect this week that allows people to change their legal gender without having to fulfill any surgical, psychiatric or medical requirements, is the first of its kind in Europe and could set a new precedent for the fair and humane treatment of trans people in the region.

Featured image: Orthodox Jews in San Juan La Laguna, Guatemala. Prensa Libre: Ángel Julajuj

Daniela

Born and raised in Mexico City, Daniela has finally decided to abdicate her post as an armchair skeptic and start doing some skeptical activism. She is currently living in Spain after having lived in the US, Brazil and Italy. You can also find her blogging in Spanish at esceptica.org.

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13 Comments

  1. Hmmm… the orthodox community in Guatemala are the Lev Tahor; they settled in Guatemala because they were fleeing summons from courts in Canada (they had first moved from Quebec to Ontario to escape charges, then to Guatemala to escape judgements from Ontario judges). They also practice teenage weddings (they claim they are consensual, there is some question on whether that is accurate). Not that there may not have been problems with the Guatemala village or the coverage of the news, but these are hardly innocent people who just went and settle in search of religious freedom.

    1. I knew they came to Guatemala from Canada, but didn’t remember the circumstances.
      The articles I read didn’t really paint them as victims. They said that the Maya villagers felt these guys looked down on them because they didn’t say hello and didn’t get involved in the community (maybe for racist reasons? maybe religious reasons?). Hardly a reason to expel someone from their home, but it didn’t make me sympathize with the Lev Tahor.
      In any case, now that they have been expelled from this community, people will be watching them. And that’s probably the last thing they want.

      1. Well, supposedly, the women were also asking Mayan women why they didn’t have more children, which could qualify as harassment.

        Should be noted that Atitlan already had a small Sephardic community, which is not being asked to leave.

        Lev Tahor left Canada fearing child abuse and child neglect charges, due to their tendency to shut their children out from the rest of the world. And of course, the underage marriage. Not technically to the point I would consider it child marriage, which TBH makes me think of girls marrying before menarche, but legally underage.

    2. I notice that the Raw Story article (original source: International Business News) carefully omits any mention of what sort of “religious freedom” they (Lev Tahor) weren’t getting in Canada. (Look up “Lev Tahor” in Wikipedia for details.) Given that glaring omission, I’m inclined to suspect that it also leaves out the details that would make the attitude of the Guatemalans more understandable. I notice they directly quote a representative of Lev Tahor, but only supply a short summary of the villagers’ complaints.

      There is a cluster of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox groups near us and there is considerable friction between some of the groups and their non-Jewish neighbors (and maybe even their less extreme Jewish ones) because of their tendency to act as though secular laws don’t apply to them and because they pursue their interests and customs at the expense of people who aren’t part of their community. There is also a perception that they don’t consider non-members to be worthy of respect or consideration. Since rural communities depend a lot on mutual trust, I can see how this would make them unpopular.

  2. Reports say she sometimes makes difficult decisions with the help of a“bible roulette”, where she opens a bible at random to find guidance.
    My friends and I used to do this as a joke. We stopped when one of us found a passage about God commanding some guy to collect the foreskins of unbelievers.

    1. Isn’t the I Ching supposed to work like that? At least that’s how one of my neighbors growing up used it. What was scary about that was that he was a respected political analyst. The thought of a president doing the same thing and with a book far less into peace than the I Ching is quite terrifying.

  3. A couple of things stand out. One, there is a very large Sephardic diaspora across Latin America, most particularly in Veracruz, Mexico City, Bogota, Cartagena, Caracas, and Buenos Aires. I live in Mexico, and Mexicans can be quite racist, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard an anti-Semitic comment, and certainly nothing approaching the daily vitriol on Libertarian websites in the States, or at WASP cocktail parties on Cape Cod.

    Secondly, there is an instinct to attribute greater morality and spirituality and understanding of nature, etc., to the poor and indigenous and minority populations. But guess what, as Kerouac said, the oddest phenomenon in nature is how many more horse’s asses there are than horses. Assholes usually rise to the top, and the morality/ethics of non-industrialized peoples are no better or worse than any computer programmer in Brussels.

    So….maybe the villagers were assholes, and we should be as appalled at their actions as we would be if a Darien condoplex kicked its Hasidim out. On the other hand, it sure has a whiff of a different headline: “Wandering Rape Cult Finds Itself As Unwelcome Among Remote Guatemalenses As Among Cosmopolitan Quebecois”.

    1. Oh, I know Mexicans can be very, very racist. I am one (a Mexican, not a racist), and I have heard anti-Semitic comments. But, since there aren’t that many Jews, they don’t get the worst of it. Though if you hang out for a bit around the Polanco area in Mexico City, and you’re bound to hear something horrible said against them.

      1. Or Tecamachalco (at least, back when I was growing up in Mexico City; looks like we can start a club of folks who grew up or live there). I heard it a bit more, but then I gew up *in* the Jewish community, so any incident would make the rounds. And recently a friend of my mom’s who had her passport stolen went to the Consulate in Houston to get it replaced, and the Consul just straight out refused to give her one alleging that with a last name like hers, she could not possibly be a real mexican. These days you can find some anti-semitic comments being lobbied at wrong targets: there are quite a few lobbied at Carlos Slim from time to time, even though his family is not jewish. But Mexico used to be better than most of Latin America, because the government kept the Church at arms length, and no official documents carry any kind of identification vis a vis religion.

        In the end, my feelings about this story is that there is probably a bit more behind it, given who is being “expelled”, but that it is nonetheless a rather nasty way to proceed. I’m sure it’s nowhere at the level of the folks who get expelled (or have their utilities shut off) in rural Mexico because they converted to a protestant denomination and the (catholic) town wants to run them off (which is more or less what the story reads like), but still nasty.

        1. So, all of you in the Mexican club Arturo just started… Why are you not commenting over at Esceptica.org as well?

          Sorry, let me say it correctly:

          ¿¿¿Why are you not commenting at Escéptica???

          (The correct punctuation makes all the difference).

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