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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Religion Harms No One? (Part 3: Religion & Women)

Religion Harms No One?
(Part 3: Religion & Women)

            Welcome back for this, the third part, in my observation and personal commentary on the harms various faiths do to women.  I am sure I could spend this whole segment criticizing the Muslim world, but the truth is, too many of these Americanized religions do the same damn thing, just at a lesser degree.  Actually polygamists tend to treat their women pretty bad also.  Let's just head out to Salt Lake City and start with them, shall we?
            Prior to November 20, 2007, the church was being led by Warren Jeffs, who succeeded his father, Rulon Jeffs, in 2002. For nearly two years, Warren Jeffs had been wanted on sex-crimes charges. From May 2006 until his arrest in August 2006, he was on the FBI's Ten Most-Wanted List.  On September 25, 2007, Jeffs was found guilty of two counts of being an accomplice to rape and was sentenced to ten years to life in prison.  This conviction was later overturned. On January 28, 2011, Jeffs again asserted his leadership of the denomination.  Warren Jeffs has since been sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years along with a $10,000 fine after his conviction on aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault charges.
            Wait a minute, aren't these guys an offshoot of the Mormons?  Didn't I just go over them in the Racism article?  Now I don't know about you, but the evidence seems to be piling on up with these fellows here.  Well, let's just start with the guy in charge of it all and work our way down, shall we?  We'll get back to him further down the page, but I'd just like to point out some of the ignorant things about that should be hints to, one, his sanity and two, the sanity of his followers.  Convictions, arrests and sexual acts including children and rape.  Is it just me or does even a convicted murderer find that list to be worthy of abuse and gang rape in prison until the one guilty kills himself?  And then there are the compounds themselves.
            In September 2002, Warren Jeffs became leader of the FLDS Church. However, immediately after the state of Utah convicted him of being an accomplice to rape, it was widely reported in the press that Warren Jeffs resigned his leadership of the FLDS Church, though the statement made by his attorneys only addresses Jeffs' resignation from his fiduciary post as "President of the Corporation of the President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Inc."
            On January 10, 2004, Dan Barlow (the mayor of Colorado City) and about 20 other men were excommunicated from the church and stripped of their wives and children (who would be reassigned to other men), and the right to live in the town. The same day two teenage girls reportedly fled the towns with the aid of activist Flora Jessop, who advocates plural wives' escape from polygamy. The two girls, Fawn Broadbent and Fawn Holm, soon found themselves in a highly publicized dispute over their freedom and custody. After the allegations against their parents were proven false, Flora helped them flee state custody together on February 15, and they ended up in Salt Lake City at Fawn Holm's brother Carl's house.
            On April 18, 2008, following a two-day hearing, Judge Barbara Walther of the 51st Judicial District Court, ordered all of the FLDS children to remain in the temporary custody of Child Protective Services. Judge Walther's ruling was subsequently reversed by the 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas in a ruling that Texas CPS was not justified in removing every child from the ranch. The 3rd Court of Appeals granted mandamus relief and ordered the trial court to vacate the portion of its order giving CPS temporary custody of the FLDS children. CPS petitioned the Texas Supreme Court requesting that the 3rd Court of Appeals' ruling be overturned, but the Texas Supreme Court, in a written opinion issued May 29, 2008, declined to overturn the ruling of the 3rd Court of Appeals.
            The abuse hotline calls that prompted the raid are now believed to have been made by Rozita Swinton, a non-FLDS woman with no known connection to the FLDS community in Texas.        Nevertheless, the search warrants executed at the YFZ compound have been determined by the court to have been legally issued and executed, and the evidence seized cannot be excluded on the basis that the initial outcry may have been a hoax.            In November 2008, 12 FLDS men were charged with offenses related to alleged underage marriages conducted during the years since the sect built the YFZ Ranch.  As of June 2010, six FLDS members have been convicted of felonies and received sentences ranging from seven to 75 years.
            On November 5, 2009, a Schleicher County, Texas jury found Raymond Merril Jessop, 38, guilty of sexual assault of a child. According to evidence admitted at trial, Raymond Merril Jessop sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl to whom he had been "spiritually married" when the girl was 15 years old.  The same jury sentenced Raymond Jessop to 10 years in prison and assessed a fine of $8,000.00.
            On December 18, 2009, a Schleicher County, Texas jury found Allan Keate guilty of sexual assault of a child. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Allan Keate fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl.  According to documents admitted at trial, Keate had also given three of his own daughters away in “spiritual” or “celestial” marriage, two of them at 15 and one at 14, to older men. The youngest of the three went to Warren Jeffs.  On January 22, 2010, Michael George Emack pled no contest to sexual assault charges and was sentenced to seven years in prison. He married a 16-year-old girl at YFZ Ranch on August 5, 2004. She gave birth to a son less than a year later.  On March 17, 2010, a Green County, Texas jury found Merril Leroy Jessop guilty of sexual assault of a child after deliberating only one hour.  Evidence admitted at the criminal trial proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Merril Leroy Jessop, 35, sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl while living at the FLDS Ranch in Schleicher County, Texas.   The jury sentenced Jessop to 75 years in prison and assessed a $10,000.00 fine.
            Okay, okay, maybe I'm tossing the book at these poor fellows, well; some of you may not understand the assignment of wives to these men, so next I'll give you a glimpse into how that works and you can make your own decisions as you see fit.  The world around us has covered these topics heavily in recent years, even on Oprah.  So many of you should be versed in their history and politics.  But even if you are not, I would assume that these eye openers are leading you to reconsider many things about religion you thought you knew.  Now below is an explanation and summing up of what is done to young women on these compounds.
            The idea of placement marriage within the FLDS Church did not exist prior to the 1940s. The group who eventually became known as the FLDS changed the concepts of courtship and marriage for their followers over the past fifty years. Before that most if not all fundamentalist Mormons chose marriage partners according to patterns which mirrored those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in nineteenth century, in that their decisions for marriage were made by considering "varied combinations of personal attraction and principles of faith (which usually included testimony or personal revelation) along with direct or indirect influence of family and ecclesiastical leaders”.  This latter method of freely choosing marriage partners is still predominately used by most Mormon fundamentalists who believe in or practice plural marriage. Most fundamentalist Mormons, apart from the FLDS, do not practice arranged marriages. Rather, they believe that arranged marriages violate the members’ free agency.  Most fundamentalist Mormons today are not and never were members of the LDS Church and that any members found to be practicing plural marriage were excommunicated in the decades following 1890 when the LDS Church officially renounced polygamy. Most fundamentalist Mormons today are descendants of those who were excommunicated for living plural marriage contrary to the policies of the Church.
            Changes in the way marriage partners were selected were one of the major issues that ultimately led to divisions of the fundamentalist’s Mormon community in the early 1950s. Some leaders encouraged younger females to marry without their parents' knowledge or consent if their parents were considered "out of harmony" with priesthood leaders; such females were instead encouraged to be placed in a marriage under the direction of priesthood leaders.  Placement marriage became the common practice in Short Creek during the presidency of Leroy Johnson. This was primarily due to a belief that obedience to priesthood was necessary for salvation, that the Priesthood Council leaders were the ones entitled to revelation regarding marriage—especially plural marriage and the fact that the members believed that placement marriage was a more divine observance than when they chose their own spouse. Members generally respected the right of the Priesthood Council to assign marriages.  Parents' consent for their children to marry in plural marriage was considered relevant when they were "in harmony" with the Priesthood Council.
            There were suspicions that Warren Jeffs may have done away with the volunteer feature for young women who didn’t come to him and say they were ready to be married.  Underage marriage and marriages between close relatives has apparently been common in the FLDS Church. Arranged marriages of young girls to much older men, whom they may not even know, are not out of the ordinary. It is also common for these men to be relatives who already have wives. One writer believes incest is permitted and considered doctrine in a large number of groups.  However, most fundamentalist Mormons deny this and say they do not permit nor practice incest.
            In some of the compounds, books with pictures of girls as young as seven and eight years old are used for the choosing of a wife or second and third wives.  Although I have laid out a large section of information for you to look though and examine.  I am about to move on into the next section, my reasons being; I believe that overkill does exist and it may very well be a bad thing sometimes.  So I am going to shy away from the wonderful world of LDS and Mormons to give you a glimpse at some of the facts you may not know about Muslim culture.
            Under Islamic law, marriage was no longer viewed as a "status" but rather as a "contract", in which the woman's consent was imperative.  "Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives/ family members."  Annemarie Schimmel states that "compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work."
            William Montgomery Watt states that Muhammad, in the historical context of his time, can be seen as a figure that promoted women’s rights and improved things considerably. Watt explains: "At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible – they were considered a sign of weakness, they were buried alive, and they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons." Muhammad, however, by, "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, marriage, education and divorce, gave women certain basic safeguards."
            Is it not amazing how after only a couple of thousand years, the rules can change, from what the one which is praised stated and believed to what those who control the faith want it to mean?  Muhammad, whom is worshipped in Islam, gave women rights and the power to make decisions, etc; yet, it modern times, that is against the rules and women can even be executed for committing acts as simple as leaving the house without the proper garments on.  A couple of different times recently we have seen on the world news where this has happened, one man even beheaded his wife live over the internet, with no punishment by his country because it was a religious execution.
            The Quran expresses two main views on the role of women. It both stresses the equality of women and men before God in terms of their religious duties (i.e. belief in God and his messenger, praying, fasting, paying zakat (charity), making hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca/ Medina)) and places them "under" the care of men (i.e. men are financially responsible for their wives). In one place it states: "Men are the maintainers and protectors of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women)." The Quran explains that men and women are equal in creation and in the afterlife, but not identical. Surah an-Nisa' 4:1 states that men and women are created from a single soul (nafs wahidah). One person does not come before the other, one is not superior to the other, and one is not the derivative of the other. A woman is not created for the purpose of a man. Rather, they are both created for the mutual benefit of each other. [Quran 30:21]
            And again, we see where the woman is supposed to be treated as an equal and not as a lesser creature, but does it happen that way in our modern society?  Take a look around and then get back to me.  While we discuss this, I would like to state how in many countries, women of Islam are treated as if they are supposed to be pets and submissive to their husbands, as if they are slaves.  So far, I haven't crossed anything that says as such.  Other than some news footage stating that a woman has no choice in the matter of sex, if her husband wants to have sex, she must submit.  I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound too much like those days of old.
            The Quran considers the love between men and women to be a Sign of God. [Quran 30:21] Husbands are asked to be kind to their wives and wives are asked to be kind to their husbands. The Quran also encourages discussion and mutual agreement in family decisions although the man's decision is to be the final one.  Muslim scholars have adopted differing interpretations of An-Nisa, 34, a Sura of the Quran. In the event where a woman disagrees with her husband's decision (sometimes referred to using the inherently pejorative word, 'rebel'); Muslim scholars disagree on what is prescribed by the Sura. According to most interpretations, physical violence towards the woman is acceptable. This is described as given a right to a husband to "lightly" beat his spouse. This is disputed by a minority of scholars who contend that the expression used alludes to temporary physical separation.
            During my research for this article, I must admit that I have found a great many things positive about the faith of Islam and the treatment of its women.  But this article is about the negative things that occur within religions is the only reason I have not included these things here.  Though I am not a man of religion myself, I am a man of education and I plead with you to do some research on your own before you make assumptions based on what is told to you by the news and current leaders of the Islamic faith.  
            And with that being said, I am not even going to discuss the whole keeping the women out of the mosque and removing of the genitalia.  Those subjects can be covered by another man or woman at another time.  Reasons being, I have other subjects to cover and I feel like I am dragging this one topic on for an eternity.  I would be more than happy to give you any links you would need to keep this research going if you are interested though.  Please, bear with me for just a few more minutes while I play hit and miss with a few other religions and their treatment of women.
            Jesus always showed the greatest esteem and the greatest respect for woman, for every woman, and in particular He was sensitive to female suffering. Going beyond the social and religious barriers of the time, Jesus reestablished woman in her full dignity as a human person before God and before men ... Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.
            Complementarians have traditionally held that Christian ministers ought to be men, because of the need to represent Jesus Christ, who was the "Son" of God, and incarnate as a male human being.  A related position is that while both male and female were made in the image of God, the woman shares in the divine image through the man because she was created out of him, and is his "glory."[1 Cor 11:7-8]
            Southern Baptist Convention's official position is solely to prohibit females from becoming clergy, and to insist that a wife "graciously submit" to the leadership of her husband, and the husband, in turn, to love the wife, respect her, and refrain from abuse, "loving her as Christ loves the church".  Members of an individual ("local") Southern Baptist church are allowed to vote on matters of business of the church that include the hiring of a pastor. However, many churches that have chosen female clergy as their pastor have been disenfranchised by either local or state Baptist associations. The vast majority of the congregations tend to hold full secular equality for women. Since Baptists enforce autonomy of each church, it can vary widely from church to church.
            Jehovah's Witnesses appoint only males as elders and deacons ("ministerial servants"), and allow only baptized males to perform weddings, funerals, and baptisms. A baptized female is considered an ordained minister, but she may only lead congregational prayer and teaching in unusual circumstances, and must wear a head covering while doing so. A female Witness minister wears a head covering when teaching in the presence of a baptized male or in the presence of her husband (regardless of whether or not the husband is baptized). Female head covering is not required when teaching outside the Witnesses' congregation setting or when participating in congregation meetings being led by another. Females may vote on congregation matters, and may qualify for appointment as a fulltime pioneer minister.
            And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, as it is written by many people before me.  Or in this case, should I say, gentlemen and ladies?  Either way, through out numerous faiths and beliefs we see how women have been told to submit to their male counterparts, be it in marriage, sex, culture and various other aspects.  Now I would like to ask you, where is the harm in that?  Oh, I see, you're starting to get my point with all of these articles at hand, aren't you?
            The fact is, religion does do harm, but as it happens, those in the various faiths in which it does the harm to its members and their wives.  And even in some instances, the women have taken notice and begged to be let free of their "metaphoric" chains.  And in many of these cases, sadly, the woman's cries go along unheard until it is too late, leading to torture and even murder.

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