Updates: Terry Dobney, Mike Huckabee, and James Arthur Ray

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 7, 2011 — 16 Comments

A few quick updates on stories previously reported here at The Wild Hunt.

Archdruid Terry Dobney (no longer) in Trouble: Just yesterday I wrote about the legal plight of Terry Dobney, Archdruid of Avebury and Keeper of the Stones, who was accused of welfare fraud. Today, and I’m going to break my no-linking-to-the-Daily-Mail policy just this once, it is being reported that Dobney has been cleared of all charges.

A jury found Dobney not guilty of three charges of false representation to gain benefits and exemption of liability following a three-day trial at Salisbury Crown Court. They accepted his claim that the cash was collecter for his elderly mother and acquitted him on a majority verdict. […] Speaking outside court, he said: ‘Truth, honour and justice has prevailed.”

I’m very heartened to hear this news, and glad to spread the word. I hope that the Religion News Service (RNS) follows suit and also posts an update on this story, one that was isolated to the tabloids in the UK.

Huckabee Gets Grilled on David Barton: I’ve spoken at some length at this blog about potential presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s troubling admiration for Christian pseudo-historian David Barton, a man who believes Pagans aren’t protected by the 1st Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. So far, no mainstream media outlet has grilled Huckabee about how far his admiration goes, or why he thinks Barton’s views should be taught in public schools. Which leaves satirist Jon Stewart of The Daily Show to pick up the slack. In a nearly twenty-minute interview posted to The Daily Show’s website (part 1, part 2, part 3), Stewart tries to figure out how deep Huckabee’s admiration goes.

Huckabee tries very hard to separate himself from Barton, while reiterating what a great historian he is. Sadly, Stewart never asks him the question I would love to ask him, which is whether or not he believes that the First Amendment protects the religious rights of all Americans, not just the Christian ones. Stewart does claim he’ll try to bring Barton himself on the program, but I can only imagine in would be a cold day in heck before that happens. Still, this interview does put the Barton association on the table, and perhaps some “serious” journalists will be now inclined to dig a bit deeper.

James Arthur Ray’s Bad Sweat History: On Wednesday, the trial of James Arthur Ray, accused of negligent homicide when a sweat lodge ceremony went horribly wrong and killed three people, took a dramatic turn. Judge Darrow will now allow testimony regarding previous sweat lodge ceremonies that Ray has held, something the defense has fought tooth-and-nail to prevent.

“Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk argued Wednesday that the medical testimony has taken place and that the alleged suffering of participants in Ray’s pre-2009 sweat lodge ceremonies established a pattern she said was inescapable: that when Ray led a sweat lodge at the Angel Valley Retreat Center, people got sick, and that when others did so, no one got sick. Defense attorney Luis Li reiterated his argument that the pattern theory was evidence of propensity and not causation, and that even if such evidence were relevant, it should not be admissible because the sweat lodges were not identical from year to year. Darrow ruled for the state, though, a move that defense attorney Tom Kelly said meant “the… floodgate is open. We’re eight weeks into trial and the rules have changed.”  The defense team moved for a mistrial on the basis that the timing of the ruling denies Ray a fair trial, but Darrow denied that motion.”

Key witnesses for the prosecution, freed from the restriction of not mentioning Ray’s previous sweat lodge ceremonies brought forth some pretty damning information.

“In 2007, Mercer had observed a tall woman exiting the sweat lodge with her eyes rolling up in her head before she collapsed onto the dirty ground. He dragged her over onto a tarp. He also described three women who had come out of the sweat lodge who stared right through him. They didn’t even know their own names, said Mercer.   In that year, he estimated about ten people needed assistance after exiting the sweat lodge.  In 2008, he saw a woman come out with severe muscle cramps. She’d remained locked in a fetal position for half an hour to fourty-five minutes. In both 2007 and 2008 he saw numerous people vomiting and collapsing.

It is becoming very clear that 2009’s deadly sweat ceremony wasn’t some isolated accident, but that Ray held court over multiple poorly led sweats where people were clearly in distress. Which clearly paints him as negligent, and no doubt has his defense team scrambling for something better than conspiracy theories about poisonous wood.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • kenneth

    Guys like Ray are sleazy hustlers and parasites who enrich themselves by preying on people's hunger for authentic spiritual experiences. I hope they lock him away so deep he never sees a full patch of open sky again.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Wow, Dobney's acquittal is a real slap at the welfare police. By the authority vested in me by the Goddess of Situational Ethics I absolve you of this one link to the Daily Mail.

    • What's the issue with linking to the Daily Mail?

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        It's not seen as a reliable source.

        • Ah, i shall try to remember that. They just not do the work to check or they plan make stuff up?

  • Chris Boydston-Taub

    Also glad to see Dobney free and clear to be the funky druid he is. Too bad the Daily Mail doesn't come in print around here…I always need lining for my parrot's cage. Although lately he's been particular to the National Review.

  • I love that Stewart is finally talking about David Barton, America's very own Ayatollah Khomeini.

    • freemanpresson

      Well, especially since he's tearing him a new one.

    • Fire

      The problem is the people who need to get that message aren't going to be watching the Daily Show, they're far more likely watching Glen Beck rant and rave.

      As for David Barton, as a historian, I think he's more like America's David Irving than Khomeini.

      • You know, I had always assumed until just now, when I looked it up…that David Irving had a degree in history. In fact, it turns out that he does not have a degree in ANYTHING. Sadly, Barton is a combination of both…for unlike Irving, many people on the mainstream Right Wing in America, including a potential Republican candidate for President (Huckabee) regard him as the "greatest 'historian' in America," even though he has as little education or knowledge of _history_ as I do of quantum physics. I sometimes wish we licensed people using the term "Historian" to describe themselves, like we do with psychologists.

        • Fire

          Once upon a time, Irving did some high quality work. Then he stepped over the line into the anti Semitic, Holocaust denial, Hitler apologist camp and it's been downhill from there.

          Irving studied physics and later, political economy in college but was for to resign both times for financial reasons. He does have academic ability, His analysis of Hitler's conduct of military operations and his expert knowledge of German military archives has been praised by noted historians John Keegan and Donald Cameron Watt. A broken clock is correct twice a day, after all.

          My opinion is that Irving while always an anti Semite and Nazi admirer, found he liked the adulation and financial rewards he obtained from his first mildly controversial works, moved further and further to the fringe to court that audience and ended up alienating the mainstream of historians.

          No one important takes him seriously anymore.

      • Not that I watch him that much, but I've never seen Beck speak up for this Barton fellow, nor that he has ever said Pagans don't have full rights. Kinda the opposite in fact, Beck might say one needs God, but I've seen and heard him several times say he doesn't care what God or Gods that is, so long as you have something divine in your life.

        Still out on if Huckabee respects our rights though. Someone really needs to pin him down and ask him that.

        • Um…Beck has had Barton on as a guest, even giving him the WHOLE HOUR of his show to discuss why American should be governed on "Biblical" principles. Just type in "Beck" and "Barton" on YouTube, and you can watch the whole, disgusting mess.

          Furthermore, Barton is a "professor" at Beck's revisionist "Beck University" website. I'm thinking that you really aren't paying much attention…

      • sarenth

        I seriously tried to watch the Wallbuilders documentary on Netflix, and after the first 20-30 minutes, I just couldn't anymore. It's so one-sided, so desperately trying to show "Christian" roots with no backup documentation, and trying so hard to skew history that I couldn't watch it in full. I don't have the stomach for the kind of outright b.s. these people portray.

  • Fire

    I think the issue of poisoned wood is valid. As mentioned in the Reflections Journal article, the testimony of fire keeper Ted Mercer, construction wood had been used. If treated lumber was used, that could well played a contributing factor in the deaths.

    That in no way should absolve James Arthur Ray of responsibility, of course.

  • Crystal7431

    Thanks for posting the video of Stewart's interview, Jason. It's so sad that we have to rely on a comedian to stick the serious and important questions to our politicians.