Denmark, Christian state religion, secularism and Islam


This May 2019 Voice of America video says about itself:

Denmark Targets Migrants in ‘Ghetto’ Crackdown Ahead of EU Election

For many, the term ‘ghetto’ evokes the horrors of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. But in Denmark, the government has launched a crackdown on 30 run-down areas officially labeled as ‘ghettoes,’ all with high immigrant, Muslim populations. The policy has dismayed many liberal Danes, but as Henry Ridgwell reports from Copenhagen, immigration is playing a major role in the European Parliament elections this week, and issues like integration and identity are creating a fiery campaign.

By Sophie Zinn:

Voices of Danish Youth Signal a New Danish Consensus on Islam

23 November 2019

The European migration crisis, which began in 2015, has had a significant impact on immigration and security policies across the region. In Europe’s smaller, more homogenous countries, rising migration and the prospect of refugees and migrants becoming people’s permanent neighbors has led to amplified anxiety about national identity. This has been particularly true in Denmark, one of the most racially homogenous, migrant-averse countries in Europe. Especially when considering Denmark’s treatment of migrants from Africa and the Middle East, (all of whom are referred to as ‘Muslims,’ whether they are or are not), public discourse consistently questions what makes a Dane a Dane and whether immigrant families can share in that identity. For four months in Denmark, I studied how different religious and non-religious communities from diverse ethnic backgrounds construct Danish identity and the influence that Denmark’s secular culture and established state church could have on the construction of this identity. Existing scholarship suggests that Danish identity, secularism, and religion are not uniformly understood. By focusing on younger generation Danes, I was able to discover interesting trends that go beyond the scope of existing scholarship: there are generational differences among Danes, and younger generations tend to view a multicultural Danish identity more positively than their elders.

Why Denmark?

Denmark is considered one of the most secular societies in Europe, even though the state itself has an official national church, producing a social system that Lægaard identifies as “moderate secularism”. He argues that Denmark’s “endorsement of moderate secularism implies that multicultural equality does not require the same kind of recognition for all religious communities” (2012, 200). Danish secularism, therefore, has presented unequal opportunities for the recognition of, and civic participation by, various religious minorities and migrant populations in the country, both with respect to state institutions and in everyday interactions. Because the state ultimately determines the legal status of individual religious groups, the country’s migrants and religious minorities are confronted with a Protestant conceptualization of religion, where migrants’ religious expression, freedom, and beliefs are overseen and authorized by an Evangelical Lutheran state (Lægaard 2012, 200). The Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs is in charge of the national church and also has the power to officially recognize religious minority communities. Denmark’s Evangelical Lutheran state is, however, itself circumscribed by the ethnically Danish, Christian majority’s desire for a secular public square. Denmark’s traditional understanding of its own identity as Christian-yet-secular can hinder “other” members of its population from fully identifying and participating as Danish citizens. Pervasive social rhetoric refers to Danish identity as either Christian or secular, leaving little space for the inclusion of religious minorities.

In 2005, when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons entitled “The Face of Muhammad” with provocative images of Islam and the Prophet, widespread debates about immigration, freedom of speech, and identity followed (Shetarh 2005). The cartoon controversy contributed to a rise in Danish nationalist parties, such as the Danish People’s Party (DPP), who advocate for free speech [against immigrants] and a Christian national identity.

What is less well known is that Denmark’s military and civil engagement in Afghanistan may have contributed to the idea that Muslims cannot be Danish. This became evident to me when I was touring the Danish War Museum’s exhibit on Denmark’s contribution to the war in Afghanistan. Our group’s tour guide explained that part of the mission for Danish soldiers was to promote democratic development and respect for human rights, yet just a few minutes later, he remarked that most soldiers did not believe that Islam was compatible with either of those ideals. For Muslims living in Denmark, the state’s continued presence in Afghanistan since 2001 has informed Danish notions that the Middle East is not compatible with democracy and human rights, attitudes reflected in the policies and attitudes of the Danish Parliament and right-wing nationalist parties. The Danish military effort to provide support and strengthen Afghan’s ability to take care of themselves suggests that Danish values need to be introduced into this conflict zone in order to secure peace and security. However, our tour guide at the Danish Military Museum discussed the overall reluctance to utilize military resources in a region that Danes view as being incapable of aligning with their democratic values. The recent refugee crisis of 2014 may also help explain why the media and politicians portray Middle Eastern migrants as Muslims with a culture that rejects the Danish values of human rights, democracy, and welfare.

At the Trampoline House in Copenhagen, a community center for asylum seekers and refugees, the organizers exposed me to more recent Danish efforts that highlight Denmark’s reluctance to assist and integrate newcomers. I sat next to new friends during a staff update about changes in refugee and asylum policies because the Minister of Integration, Inger Støjberg, was cutting spending in refugee camps. In December 2018, Støjberg declared that about 100 migrants with criminal convictions would be relocated to Lindholm, a remote Danish island, to emphasize Denmark’s hard stance against migrants. Overall, Denmark’s reluctance to accept migrants and Muslims as Danish is related to their recent military experience, debates about public discourse, and religious differences.

Public discussions and political elections have involved questions about the perceived Muslim threat to Danish identity because most Danes are non-religious. The Danish majority had assumed that minority populations would integrate themselves into Denmark’s non-religious culture, but migrant communities continued to advocate for accurate religious representation in the public sphere, recognition, and freedom. Denmark’s political parties and actors have consistently drafted legislation and issued rulings that limit public Muslim expression, such as restricting certain headscarves or prohibiting public calls to prayer over a loudspeaker. The Danish Parliament introduced legislation in 2003 that restricted the migration of imams to Denmark, requiring that these leaders speak Danish and respect Western values of democracy and human rights to demonstrate they are not a threat to the Danish state (“Aledanemarek Tetkhed Ejera’at” 2003). More recently, in May 2018, Denmark introduced the “niqab ban”, authorizing a fine for anyone wearing a face-shielding garment in public (Samuel 2018). These policies are a way for Denmark’s Christian-yet-secular society to advance their Protestant understanding of religious expression so that religious minorities cannot physically display their alternative religious identities. With most Danes considering themselves to be non-religious, practicing Muslims face significant challenges in justifying their right to be religious in a society that does not seem to understand their beliefs.

Attitudes of Danish Youth Towards Islam

It is against this backdrop that I collected the personal narratives of young adults living in Copenhagen in 2018. I spoke with Christian, Muslim, and non-religious Danes about their interactions with the state and the national church, their own religious identity, and how their experiences relate to the wider Danish society. Four major themes emerged clearly, the most interesting of which was the pronounced generational differences in attitudes towards Islam between these young adults (ages 20-35) and their elders. I will take the first three themes briefly and discuss the last in more detail.

I. Muslims: Developing an Identity and Relationship with Denmark

The four practicing Muslims I interviewed (between the ages of 22-35) all concluded that although individuals outside the Muslim tradition may not consider them to be Danish, their strong identification as Danes is independent of outsiders’ assessments. Liza, Zara, and Arya, Muslim women with diverse ethnic backgrounds, all agreed that their ethnic heritage negatively influences others’ abilities to understand them as Danish, in spite of their own identification with Danish society. These Muslim women chose to join mosques, such as the Danske Islamisk Centre, that help them understand Danish values and integrate into Danish society. They view Denmark’s secular culture as a primary challenge to their religious expression. Philip, a young Danish Muslim convert, furthered this argument, stating that Muslims are expected to be strictly devout, while Christians can sin and it is not considered an issue. Ultimately, all of these Muslims argued that identity is based on a personal association with a culture rather than external cultural and religious expression. Their primary concern was not how their outward appearance was judged but whether their ability to practice devoutly in a state that is often hostile to spirituality and religion was constrained.

II. Non-Muslims: Danish Identity and Religion

Five interview subjects dwelt at length on the Danish state and its church, Danish secularism, and minority religions. Common themes emerged: the national church’s dwindling influence, the welfare state as grounded in Christian values, and the tension between Danes’ open-mindedness and their attachment to social convention. Anders, as a non-religious individual whose parents gave him freedom of choice regarding his religion, believes that Denmark’s public identification with Christianity is a way to deter non-Christians from publicly expressing their religious beliefs (such as in their religious garments). He argues that Danes are open to different religious beliefs but that these beliefs should be molded to fit Denmark’s homogenous, … and historically Protestant society that does not promote public religious expression, and therefore looks suspiciously at religious garments. Anders calls for a “middle way” that satisfies both religious communities’ needs and existing Danish culture.

III. Freedom of Speech and the Media

Finding a “middle way,” as Anders describes, is difficult in Denmark because of widespread misinformation about both “ethnic Danish” (as it is commonly called) and Muslim Danish identity as well as religion in the media. All of the young-adults that I interviewed believe that extreme right-wing views towards migrants and Muslims is declining among Danish people, yet they all point out that the media does not reflect this decline. The Muslims I interviewed highlighted common misconceptions about Muslims in the Danish media, such as the common belief that a woman wearing a hijab is oppressed. Neither Zara nor Liza can watch the news anymore because of the nationalist propaganda. All three Muslim women agree that the media’s outsider portrayal of Islam is extremely negative. When I inquired about non-Muslims’ perspectives on the freedom of speech, they often directed the conversation to the Danish Cartoon Controversy. Anders explained that the Muhamad drawings were published to send a message about the unfettered Danish right to freedom of speech. The non-Muslims I interviewed believe that extreme interpretations of freedom of speech, which originate in nationalist parties, are actually hindering their own right to the freedom of expression because these voices appear regularly in the media and do not allow room for other conceptions of Danish identity and beliefs. The underrepresentation of Muslims in the media was widely discussed in both my interviews and informal discussions.

IV. Generational Differences

A major finding of my interviews that is not reflected in the scholarly literature is the pronounced generational differences among all religious groups on issues of spirituality, society, and the state. Without solicitation, Muslims as well as religious and non-religious ethnic Danes highlighted the differences between themselves and their elders regarding their perspectives on migrants, Muslim beliefs, and Danish identity. Interestingly, the Muslims I interviewed spoke at length about their reasons for joining ethnically-mixed congregations, yet Arya, Zara, and Liza’s parents all attend mosques that are associated with their separate national or ethnic identities. Zara mentioned that older-generation Muslims who attend national or ethnic mosques do not attempt to connect with other surrounding Muslim communities. She sees a stark difference in younger generations:

I think the younger generation is realizing that there is much more benefit in having cooperation with each other. I think the younger generation is more informed. They seek knowledge themselves and they know that it’s allowed in Islam to have different opinions of different things…There’s a… lack of knowledge within the older generations. Like, “this is our way. This is the only right way”…Bottom line; they believe in the same thing [as we do] but they practice maybe in a different way, because I see that in my parents’ generations.

Zara continued to advocate for the need for Muslims to be more informed about Danish culture and different ethnicities, and she strongly believes that younger Muslims with integrated congregations are taking that step. Emily, the non-religious Dane who has explored Copenhagen’s Muslim communities, regarded Muslims in the same way. She found in her inquiry that young adult Muslims are starting to view themselves as beyond the ethnic and national divisions previously seen in older Muslims because newer, non-ethnic mosques had been established in Denmark and because young people want to integrate into Danish culture. Arya argues that this rise of informed young Muslims is due to younger generations actively seeking religion on their own.

The ethnic Danes I spoke with regarded their family and older generations in similar ways. With both the religious and non-religious individuals I interviewed, Jesper was the only one who was both born and raised in Copenhagen. Many of these young adults moved to Copenhagen for school, and grew up in the Jutlands – the more rural part of [Denmark]. Sarah regarded her upbringing in mostly negative terms:

I grew up in a very conservative community; it’s called Lutheran Mission… It’s…hard to even discuss anything with them. Like, they’re against female pastors or priests, and they’re against sex before marriage, homosexuality, you know. And that’s hard because I grew up there and I kind of didn’t want to be part of that. And then I kind of got excluded from the whole community… Many [of those] people voted for the party (DPP) because [of its] …foreign policy, but [also because] they [the party] are all about the elderly and get their support from older people…In my part of Denmark, like the southern part, they have the majority. They have around 20% of the votes from the last election. Now they’re at, like, 15% or something because people are realizing they’re not very accepting.

Sarah’s comments about the DPP highlight important political strategies of the party. The DPP does target the elderly in their messaging. They focus on the welfare state and protecting Danish identity, arguing that newcomers and foreigners are taking money from the welfare system that belongs to the elderly and promising to return money to the older generations. Sarah left her hometown in Jutland to be with younger and more open Christian communities. Christine and Jesper, as religious Christians, had parents who were either non-religious, culturally Christian, or Catholic, and found their religious identity on their own. When thinking about how Muslim immigrants identify with being Danish, Jesper pointed out that second- or third-generation migrants should feel just as Danish as he does:

We had a big wave of Turkish immigrants in the 60s for work. I feel like the second generation, the guys that came here when they were kids, I hope they feel as Danish as I do. Why shouldn’t they? They’ve lived a Danish life a longer time than I have…it’s kind of hard to integrate into a society when you’re in a smaller community with people from the same place. But I think that a second or third generation immigrant is just as Danish as I am.

Throughout these interviews, it became clear that both Muslim and non-Muslim Danish young adults see a more accepting future in Denmark as the important work of younger generations.

Conclusion

With previous scholarship outlining the differences between majority and minority opinions about religion’s place in Danish society, these interviews have further highlighted the absence of any universal understanding of Danish culture or identity. These nine personal narratives underscore the challenges young adults in Denmark face when trying to navigate Denmark’s consistently heated political and media rhetoric. Christian, non-religious, and Muslim Danes believe religion is privatized throughout Danish society. For these Danish Muslims, exercising their faith in ways that are publicly visible is essential to their identity, and Denmark’s secular society has challenged, but not inhibited, their religious belief and practice. Danish people continuously face uncertainty about the role of the media and their freedom of speech, but ultimately believe that the younger generation is more informed and open to conversations about minority cultures. With both migration and xenophobic rhetoric rising worldwide, the future of religious minorities in Denmark remains uncertain, yet these young people are hopeful that the country they love, where freedom, welfare, and love of others predominate, will persevere. Whether that is through the national church, or through a secular democracy that respects religious minorities remains uncertain.

Sophie Zinn is currently an MA in International Relations student at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Sophie graduated summa cum laude from Elon University in May 2019 with a BA in International and Global Studies and Political Science. She minored in Middle Eastern Studies and Interreligious Studies. This article is a shortened version of a larger two-year research project from her time at Elon University, and was funded by the Elon College Fellows and Multifaith Scholars programs. Sophie is a devoted and academically-driven policy advocate with a passion for multiculturalism, freedom, and immigration reform.

Ljubljana, 23 November 2019

Bibliography:

Delanty, Gerard. 2008. “Dilemmas of Secularism: Europe, Religion and the Problem of Pluralism.” In Identity, Belonging, and Migration, 78–97. 17. Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press.

Etherington, Kim. 2011. “Narrative Approaches to Case Studies,” 56.

Johnston, Chris. 2015. “One Dead and Three Injured in Copenhagen ‘Terrorist Attack.’” The Guardian, February 14, 2015, sec. World news. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/14/copenhagen-blasphemy-lars-vilks-prophet-muhammad-krudttonden-cafe.

Kublitz, Anja. 2010. “The Cartoon Controversy: Creating Muslims in a Danish Setting.” Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice 54 (3): 107–25.

Lægaard, Sune. 2012. “Unequal Recognition, Misrecognition and Injustice: The Case of Religious Minorities in Denmark.” Ethnicities 12 (2): 197–214. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796811431273.

Maruggi, Matthew, and Martha Stortz. 2018. “Teaching the ‘Most Beautiful of Stories’: Narrative Reflection as a Signature Pedagogy for Interfaith Studies.” In Interreligious/Interfaith Studies: Defining a New Field, edited by Eboo Patel. Boston: Beacon Press.

Nielsen, Anne Mark. 2014. “Accommodating Religious Pluralism in Denmark.” Archives Européennes de Sociologie 55 (2): 245–74.

Reeh, Niels. 2009. “Towards a New Approach to Secularization: Religion, Education and the State in Denmark, 1721—1900.” Edited by Enzo Pace. Social Compass 56 (2): 179–88. https://doi.org/10.1177/0037768609103352.

Samuel, Sigal. 2018. “Banning Muslim Veils Tends to Backfire—Why Do Countries Keep Doing It?” The Atlantic. August 3, 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/08/denmark-burqa-veil-ban/566630/.

Taylor, Charles. 2007. A Secular Age. 1st ed. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Wern, Birgitte, trans. 2013. The Constitutional Act of Denmark. Copenhagen.

Aledanemarek Tetkhed Ejera’at Bheq Ala’emh Alemselmeyn. September 20, 2003. Translated by Sophie Zinn. http://www.aljazeera.net/home/Getpage/f6451603-4dff-4ca1-9c10-122741d17432/e153d7a5-3312-4f11-a8d4-c36bb3e3dc26.

Henfey, Khaled. “Seyamu Meslemy Awerweba Hel Yushekl Khetraan ‘Ela Alemjetm’e.” March 6, 2018. Translated by Sophie Zinn. http://blogs.aljazeera.net/blogs/2018/6/3/صيام-مسلمي-أوروبا-هل-يشكل-خطرا-على-المجتمع.

Shetarh, Semyer. “Meslemw Alednemarek Yetsedwen Lhemlat Alesa’h Leleselam.” December 10, 2005. Translated by Sophie Zinn. http://www.aljazeera.net/home/Getpage/f6451603-4dff-4ca1-9c10-122741d17432/ad59892d-443d-4fe0-93b0-1cfc5e576eac.

“Qetyel Bhejwem ‘Ela Merkez Theqafey Bekwebneghahen Walhekwemh Tesfh Balerhabey.” February 14, 2015. Translated by Sophie Zinn. http://www.aljazeera.net/home/Getpage/f6451603-4dff-4ca1-9c10-122741d17432/3faf126e-57d3-4aa7-8b86-c52520d8e950.

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Greek right-wing government attacks civil liberties


This video says about itself:

Protesters denounce criminal negligence of the Greek Coast Guard during recent migrant boat sinking off Agathonisi in which sixteen people lost their lives. On 16 March sixteen people, including at least five children, drowned when the small boat they on capsized in the Aegean Sea. The only three survivors raise serious allegations against the authorities. Relatives of those lost at sea- including an Afghan mother who lost her two sons gather at Syntagma square in Athens to protest and demand responsibilities about the incident, as the Greek Coast Guard ignored the emergency calls.

Athens, Greece, 04 April 2018.

From the Dawn of the Greks blog, 12 November 2019:

The repression wave in Athens continues…

Clashes between students and riot police erupted in the Economic University AOSEE in downtown Athens yesterday September 11th. Dozens of students entered the premises of the institution in order to protest the Senate decision to close the University for a week “deliberately and for no reason”, as they say. …

Today, November 12th, the riot police in Athens evacuated one more squat in the center of Athens at Bouboulinas street, where 138 refugees and migrants were living. The situation with the repression wave of the new [right-wing] government remains out of control. Many squats and social spaces in Athens have been evacuated already. Mainly the victims are migrants and refugees.

From the Keep Talking Greece site, 11 November 2019:

Greek gov’t brings back Blasphemy Laws, penalty up to 2 years in prison

The conservative Greek government brings back the Blasphemy Laws the previous government SYRIZA had abolished less than six months ago. Violating the blasphemy laws could send those insulting God and the Greek Orthodox Church up to two years in prison.

GREECE will shut down overcrowded refugee camps on islands and replace them with tight-security holding facilities, officials announced today: here.

‘Moonie cultist imprisoned family for years’


This 16 October 2019 British TV video says about itself:

Dutch family ‘waiting for end of time‘ found in secret room – BBC News

A family who spent nine years on a farm “waiting for the end of time” have been discovered by police in the Netherlands after one of them turned up at a local pub, reports say.

A man of 58

No, two men: the 67-year-old father, and the Austrian suspect.

and six young adults aged 18 to 25 were living at a farm in the province of Drenthe.

The mother had died years ago. The father, after a brain infarction three years ago, lay on a sickbed.

The family were found after the eldest of the children ordered beer at a bar in the nearby village of Ruinerwold.

He then told staff he needed help, broadcaster RTV Drenthe reported.

“We found six people living in a small space in the house which could be locked but wasn’t a basement“, police said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The older man [Josef B. from Austria, the suspect] has been arrested. It was not clear whether they had been there voluntarily, police added. The eldest son [who had escaped] was not there at the time, police told the BBC.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The family that lived in isolation in Ruinerwold for years is said to be affiliated with the Moonie cult. The Austrian Josef B., who is accused of having imprisoned the family, was also a member of this sect. That is what sources say to RTV Drenthe regional broadcasting organisation. …

The cult leader was South Korean pastor Sun Myung Moon. …

Not just a ‘pastor’, also an arms trade millionaire (which did not stop him from starting a phoney ‘peace movement’).

This 12 November 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Guns For God: The Church of the AR-15

In February 2018, a small church in Pennsylvania gained international attention when they held a blessing ceremony with AR-15’s just two weeks after the Parkland School shooting triggered mass gun reform debates across the US. But where did this small fringe sect of Christianity come from and why are they now taking up arms for God? In this episode of Believers, host Charlet Duboc meets Pastor Sean Moon and the believers of the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary, a church that has origins in Korea, is based in the US, and has been accused of being a cult to understand why they believe they need guns to build God’s Kingdom on Earth.

The NOS article continues:

In the 1950s, he declared himself to be the messiah. In 1965 the movement came to the Netherlands. …

A large amount of cash is also said to have been found in the farmhouse.

What is the Moonie cult?

The Moonie cult, called the Unification Church by supporters, is a church founded in the 1950s by South Korean pastor Sun Myung Moon. He regarded himself as the messiah and became particularly known in the 1970s and 80s through marriage ceremonies where he sometimes married thousands of followers at the same time. Moon claimed he had millions of followers, but there are probably no more than 100,000.

In the past, the church was accused of brainwashing supporters and taking away their money. Moon and his wife, often accused of anti-Semitism and homophobia, were not welcome in many European countries for years. Moon died in 2012. In recent years, the movement has expanded into a business empire including the Washington Times newspaper

Far-right Donald Trump supporters. Like another cult, Falun Gong.

and the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan.

Followers of the cult have various rituals. RTV Drenthe writes that they have to move every half hour in a circle. …

The 25-year-old son, who eventually sought help [to escape] at a cafe in Ruinerwold on Sunday evening, is said be in a different location now.

Twins with Japanese woman

A brother of suspect Josef B. tells the Austrian daily newspaper Kronen Zeitung that B. came into contact with the cult during his military service in Linz. The brothers have not spoken to each other for ten years.

Brother Franz goes on to say that Josef had twins with a Japanese woman. He is said to have abandoned them and brought them to friends in the Netherlands. Two years ago the children reportedly have tried in vain to make contact with Josef. According to his brother, B. left Austria in 2009, where he led a reclusive life.

Josef B. is suspected of being involved in the deprivation of liberty of the father and six children on the farm in Ruinerwold. He is said to have held them against their will. Today, the examining magistrate will judge whether he will be detained for longer.

UPDATE: he will be detained for at least fourteen more days. He is also accused of harming the health of the imprisoned family.

The police are investigating again today at the house in Ruinerwold. In addition, all areas in the farm are recorded digitally.

Toys

Yesterday raids were made in two buildings in Zwartsluis, about fifteen minutes drive from Ruinerwold. The family is said to have had a shop there in wooden toys, which were often made by the father. The store is said to have been closed for years.

UPDATE: The 67-year-old father, who had been active first in the Dutch, then the German Unification Church, has been arrested now as well, suspected of complicity in imprisonment and money laundering. Three older children had bled the farm before. Contrary to their younger siblings, they had been allowed to go to school.

US corporate Democrats support Trump’s right-wing judges


This 6 October 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Corporate Democrats Get Shamed

We need more progressive Democrats representing us! Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.

“The most recent dust-up came in September, when Demand Justice targeted Sen. Chris Coons (Democrat-Del.) with a five-figure ad buy for supporting Trump judicial nominees who didn’t explicitly endorse the landmark Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education. Coons is up for reelection in 2020. For some, criticizing the well-respected, bipartisan-leaning senator was a step too far.

“That was way out of line,” Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said. “I called Chris personally and told him that I stood behind his decision.”

According to Wikipedia:

Coons is the incoming co-chair for the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast. He previously co-chaired the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast. Coons currently co-chairs the weekly Senate Prayer Breakfast.

The National Prayer Breakfast is organised by the shadowy cult-like right-wing Christian group, the Fellowship Foundation aka ‘The Family‘.

WHY VIRGINIA DEMOCRATS’ REFUSAL TO THE STATE’S ‘RIGHT-TO-WORK’ LAW MATTERS Virginia Gov. Raph Northam (D) has all but ruled out repealing the state’s “right-to-work” law, which makes it difficult for unions to organize and maintain power. Northam said he cannot “foresee” Virginia rescinding the law — remarks that union leaders lamented as “disappointing.” [HuffPost]

New Age ‘Warrior Retreat’ costs lives


This December 2013 video from the USA says about itself:

Death Dealer: James Arthur Ray’s ‘self-help’ killed three people. Now he’s back.

More than four years after Oprah-endorsed self-help guru James Arthur Ray killed three people in a heat endurance test outside Sedona, Arizona, he’s been released from prison. While Ray plots his re-emergence into the $11 billion self-help industry, the family of one of his victims is on a crusade to ensure that he — and other like him — don’t kill again.

From Wikipedia:

James Arthur Ray (born November 22, 1957) is a leadership and performance advisor, life coach, and author who was found directly responsible for the deaths of three people and convicted of felony negligent homicide. He is the author of Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want, which was a New York Times bestseller. …

Ray has attracted attention for his advocacy of the New Thought belief that positive thinking can heal physical ailments and his claim to have used willpower to stay free of all illness. …

On October 8, 2009, at a New Age “Spiritual Warrior” retreat

The expression ‘Warrior Retreat’ evokes several things. It tries to attract people by evoking ‘warriors’ like in fiction about native Americans, eg, novels by Karl May. While real native Americans are angry about James Arthur Ray’s practices, as we shall see. ‘Warrior’ also evokes wars, in which people die. Like people die in Ray’s ceremonies.

‘Retreat’ evokes, eg, going to a Roman Catholic monastery. It evokes the religious pretenses of Ray. However, in Roman Catholic monasteries sometimes things go awfully wrong, like in Ray’s ‘retreats’. Ray’s religion looks like a mixture between religion and fraudulent for profit business; somewhat like Scientology, Amway and NXIVM.

conceived and hosted by Ray at the Angel Valley Retreat Center in Yavapai County near Sedona, Arizona, two participants, James Shore and Kirby Brown, died as a result of being in a nontraditional sweat lodge exercise. Eighteen others were hospitalized after suffering burns, dehydration, breathing problems, kidney failure, or elevated body temperature. Liz Neuman, another attendee, died October 17 after being comatose for a week.[24]

The attendees, who had paid up to $10,000 to participate in the retreat, had fasted for 36 hours during what was claimed to be a vision quest exercise before the next day’s purported sweat lodge. During this period of fasting, participants were left alone in the Arizona desert with a sleeping bag, although Ray had offered them Peruvian ponchos for an additional $250.[25] After this experience, participants ate a large buffet breakfast before entering the nontraditional structure built for the sweat lodge.[26] The site owner reported she learned after the event that participants went two days without water before entering the structure.[27]

Following the deaths, Ray refused to speak to authorities and immediately left Arizona.[28] According to participants in the heat endurance exercise (which was misrepresented by both Ray and his organization as a “Native American sweat lodge ceremony”), a note was left that said Ray was unavailable—as he was in “prayer and meditation”.[29] Ray later confirmed, during a 2013 interview with Piers Morgan, that he fled the scene rather than staying to assist with the aftermath, because “I was scared.”.[30]

Print media began reporting that Ray conducted a conference call with some victims, one of whom recorded the call and provided it to the AP. During this call, a self-described channeler said that they had communicated with the dead and they had said they “were having so much fun” out of their bodies that they didn’t want to return.[25

On November 18, 2011, Ray was sentenced to two years in prison.[45]

Native American experts on sweat lodges have criticized the reported construction of the structure, as well as Ray’s conduct of the event as not meeting traditional ways (the words “bastardized”, “mocked” and “desecrated” have been used).  …

The Oglala Lakota delegation holds that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have “violated the peace between the United States and the Lakota Nation” and have caused the “desecration of our Sacred Oinikiga (onikare, sweat lodge) by causing the death of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore”.[49]

There are fraudulent businessmen cum religious leaders like Ray in other countries as well.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 3 October 2019:

The fatal victim of a healing session in IJzendijke in Zeeland last Wednesday was a 34-year-old man from Oudewater.

They call it ‘healing’, though the IJzendijke business does not have any medical expertise.

The three people arrested in the case last week are suspected of manslaughter.

One of the suspects, a 36-year-old therapist from Terneuzen, is still detained. He is the owner of the location where the spiritual session took place. He is said to have played the biggest part in the incident. Another therapist, a 35-year-old man from Terneuzen, has been released. In addition to manslaughter, the duo are also suspected of owning and supplying hard drugs.

The third suspect, a 37-year-old Briton, can wait for the trial at home. Just like the victim, he was present at the multi-day ceremony, which also used narcotic and hallucinogenic drugs.

This ceremony by the IJzendijke business Iboga-Farm, is called Warrior Retreat, inspired by Ray. They don’t charge $10,000, like Ray did, for the two-day ‘retreat’: ‘only’ 765 euro.

In April 2019, a 31-year-old man died at such a ‘healing’ session in Eersel town.

This Dutch 25 September 2019 video is a warning about such ‘healing’ by ‘spiritual’ organisation Inner Mastery International.