Archives For Martha Coakley

Pagan News Updates

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 22, 2010 — 9 Comments

Here’s a round-up of updates concerning stories and issues covered previously by The Wild Hunt.

Martha Coakley and the Fells Acre Case: In a historic upset, Republican candidate Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy’s death, defeating Democratic candidate Martha Coakley, who many initially saw as a sure thing. The media, and many politicians, are ruminating on how it all happened. While some are debating whether Brown’s win was a referendum on Obama’s presidency, others are saying that the reasons were very local. Columnist Carey Roberts claims that Coakley’s ties to the infamous Fells Acre ritual abuse case damaged her chances far more than the national political media are willing to credit.

“This legal travesty did not attract national attention until last Fall. At that point, Coakley held a nearly insurmountable 30-point lead over her Republican challenger. Then Ann Coulter devoted her December 9 column to the case, calling it the “second-most notorious witch trial in Massachusetts history” and charging Coakley had “kept a clearly innocent man in prison in order to advance her political career.” A month later, Dorothy Rabinowitz delivered the coup de grace. Recounting in the Wall Street Journal how prosecutors cast Gerald as the chief predator, “his gender qualifying him, in their view, as the best choice for the role,” Rabinowitz adjudged the superfluous prosecution was “powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat.” The Rabinowitz editorial was published on January 14. The same day a Suffolk University poll spotted Brown a 4-point lead over Martha Coakley. And when the ballots were tallied nearly a week later, Scott Brown had defeated Coakley by a resounding five-point margin.”

The Fells Acre case was also mentioned in electoral postmortems at The Huffington Post (who called her “doomed from the start”) and The New American. As for Coakley, what are her plans? Why, she’s going to run for reelection as Attorney General. Which makes me wonder, will outrage over the Amiraults carry over to the Fall elections? Or will we be content to forget? For all of my past coverage of Martha Coakley, click here.

Those Christian Gun Sights: Since the story broke earlier this week, controversy and commentary has been raging over a military contractor, Trijicon, that had been inserting Bible references into its serial numbers. These sights had apparently been used by some military commanders to hammer home the uniquely magical Christian-ness of the weapons, and their effectiveness in killing non-Christians. Now the company says it will stop inserting the Biblical references, and will provide means for existing sights to modified.

“Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate,” said Stephen Bindon, Trijicon president and CEO in a statement. “We want to thank the Department of Defense for the opportunity to work with them and will move as quickly as possible to provide the modification kits for deployment overseas.”

While some in the military defended the Bible references, or didn’t see what the fuss was about, others, most notably General David Petraeus, called the sights “distrubing” and a “serious concern”.

Jessica Orsini Sets Her Sights on Another Term: The Columbia Daily Tribune notes that Jessica Orsini, Alderwoman, 3rd Ward, City of Centralia, Missouri, will be running unopposed for another term.

“Filing for the April 6 school board and municipal election ballots in Boone County ended at 5 p.m. yesterday … Centralia Board of Aldermen: Third Ward Alderwoman Jessica Orsini and First Ward Alderwoman Catherine Simmons are unopposed for re-election.”

Orsini, in addition to being one of only two openly transgendered elected officials, is also a Hellenic polytheistic reconstructionist. So it looks like we’ll continue to have two openly Pagan elected officials in America for a while longer. For more on Orsini, check out Tony Mierzwicki’s interview with her at Witchvox.

More Stupid Things Being Said About Vodou: Mark Krikorian, at National Review Online, joined the growing “it’s all Voodoo’s fault” chorus yesterday with this rousing endorsement of colonialism.

“My guess is that Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough … A major indicator of how superficial is the overlay of French culture in Haiti is the strength of paganism, in the form of voodoo — the French just weren’t around long enough to suppress it, to the detriment of Haitians.”

Yes, if only they had been under the heel of the French for a bit longer, because we all know how well colonialism worked out for the Native Americans. Do these commentators actually read what they write before it gets posted? I wonder. For all my coverage of Vodou in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, click here.

Top Story: Reuters is reporting that several Haitian Vodou priests are upset over the creation of anonymous mass graves, saying that it is a desecration which removes all dignity from death. Among those protesting was Max Beauvoir, the appointed “supreme master” of a coalition of Haitian houngans, who met with Haitian President Rene Preval over the matter.

“It is not in our culture to bury people in such a fashion,” Haiti’s main voodoo leader, Max Beauvoir, said in a meeting with Preval. Local radio is broadcasting messages for Haitians to put bodies recovered from under the rubble of collapsed buildings on the street for collection by garbage and other trucks. “The conditions in which bodies are being buried is not respecting the dignity of these people,” Beauvoir, who was educated at City College of New York and the Sorbonne in Paris, said in the Preval meeting this weekend.

Which brings us to the question of whether these anonymous mass graves are indeed a necessity. The Haitian Red Cross President Michaelle Amedee Gedeon says that disease risk is minimal, while the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says that anonymous mass graves are bad procedure that can worsen the tragedy.

“The belief that bodies pose a serious health threat often leads authorities to take misguided action, such as mass burials, which can add to the burden of suffering already experienced by survivors,” the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said. “The worst part of this is that these actions are taken without respecting the processes of identifying and preserving bodies, something that not only goes against cultural norms and religious beliefs but also has social, psychological, emotional, economic and legal consequences that add to the suffering directly caused by the disaster,” said PAHO … ICRC officials, who recommended only shallow ditches to cover the dead, said: “People need to be able to identify their relatives. It is important to at least take photographs of those being buried and to note any unique physical markings, like teeth and scars.” They cited the Asian tsunami of 2004 in which people were swiftly buried in mass graves or cremated. “We don’t want to repeat those mistakes,” the Red Cross said. But here in Port-au-Prince, fresh fatal errors are committed daily.

Despite the protests and the advice of various health organizations, some 50,000 dead are already lying in pits surrounding Port-au-Prince. Whether this policy will change with the influx of aid and volunteers remains to be seen. There is little to no Haitian government infrastructure left to guide aid efforts, and some may see the mass graves as a more efficient (and psychologically tolerable) solution in the short term.

In Other News: Over at Psychology Today, noted addiction psychologist Stanton Peele weighs in on Mass. Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s involvement in the Fells Acre ritual abuse case.

“Whenever you mock the trials of witches in Salem, consider having an unrepentant witch hunter in the United States Senate.  Coakley is heavily backed by the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Ted Kennedy’s widow, and President Obama. So witch hunting can be a path to success. Perhaps these worthies are correct in supporting her – they are political people. But I couldn’t vote for Coakley (although I certainly don’t support Coakley’s opponent). Even if Coakley survives this election, however, her campaign has marked her as damaged political goods – something her behavior re “ritual child abuse” should have done, but failed to.”

The Overlawyered blog rounds up more blog and editorial commentary on Coakley relating to the Fells Acre case. Meanwhile, moderate conservative Andrew Sullivan seems to be leading the “Coakley is bad but Brown would be worse” charge at his blog (as are the Democratic partisan blogs, naturally). Though even he wonders if the “perfect storm” of resistance to Coakley can be turned aside. As I said before, I don’t envy the choices presented to Massachusetts voters.

Former Pagan author AJ Drew has apparently converted to Catholicism, and is in the midst of an ugly custody battle with his wife, who he is accusing of ongoing domestic (and possibly sexual) abuse. Here’s the relevant quote concerning his current religious status.

“I think it is fairly clear that religious discrimination can be added to sexual discrimination. In court, as if this were the 16th century, I have been accused of being a Witch. This either because several years ago I wrote some New Age titles or because today I am a practicing Catholic. I can not be sure why they are so concerned with my religious preferences, but the supervisor demanded that I tell her my religious preferences in court while she was testifying against my sanity. It was as if she felt all Catholics or members of other religions to which she does not subscribe are insane.”

As to the issues of abuse, and the custody of his children, I have no idea what the situation truly is. Nor do I feel inclined to venture a guess. Custody cases, especially ones where abuse is alleged, can be quagmires of competing narratives and claims, the results often pleasing no-one. You can read AJ Drew’s side of the story here, and here. Readers can follow up on them, or not, as they wish. As for further coverage here, it’s clear that a connection to the wider Pagan community is no longer desired by Drew (now going by Andrew Schlomann), so barring extraordinary circumstances, I’ll respect those wishes.

Turning briefly to Romanian politics, it seems that Social Democratic Party leader Mircea Geoana and his wife Mihaela Geoana have accused Romanian President Traian Basescu’s (of the Democratic Liberal Party) team on national television of using mystical attacks to win the recent elections.

“National paper Romania libera writes an op-ed on Monday headlined “Voodoo politics”, while TV news channels focused on debates on the “Violet flame mania”, referring to renewed accusations of mystical attacks by President Traian Basescu’s team against Mircea Geoana, his rival in the second round of presidential elections in December 2009. Romanian news agency Mediafax reported that last weekend Mircea Geoana said on Antena 3 news channel that he did not feel drained of energy during the last televised debate of the presidential elections. But while claiming these were childish excuses, he said Basescu was using the support of people with paranormal abilities who were present at the debate. Then, on Saturday, his wife Mihaela Geoana said Mircea Geoana was the target of malicious energy attacks during that debate, which would explain why he was “paralyzed” during parts of the discussion.”

Luckily, it doesn’t look like many are taking them very seriously, even fellow party members are mocking them. You can read more about the “violet flame conspiracy”, here, and here.

In a final note, today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The government thinks you should make this day a day of service, while others are reflecting on King’s legacy in the era of Obama. As for Americans United, they want to remind you of another dream King had, the dream of religious freedom.

“In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.”

They close with what King thought the true role of religious institutions in America were for.

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”

May all of King’s dreams for America, and the world, be fulfilled.

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

On Tuesday a special election is being held in Massachusetts to pick the replacement for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat, and despite the fact that the state is solidly liberal and reliably Democratic, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will win. Certainly part of it is that Scott Brown has been presenting as a liberal-ish Republican (except when he doesn’t), and has been running a tight campaign, but it’s also due to the fact that Democratic candidate Martha Coakley has done a terrible job, treating her election as fait accompli, and failing to energize voters. Which brings us to why I’m commenting on this race, Coakley’s involvement in the notorious Fells Acres Day Care Case. While Coakley didn’t prosecute the case, one of the most high-profile “ritual abuse” trials of the 1980s, she subsequently spent years defending the convictions as D.A., still insists the family was guilty, and placed bizarre restrictions on the accused once they were released.

“Coakley had previously allowed Gerald’s sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave, to be released from prison on the curious condition that she not submit to television or film interviews. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Dorothy Rabinowitz, who championed the Amiraults’ case in a series of articles and in a book, Coakley also requested that the Amiraults’ attorney, James Sultan, who was negotiating Cheryl’s release, stop representing Gerald, which would have further crippled Gerald’s appeals for freedom.”

It would be fair to say that electing a possible Satanic Ritual Abuse/Organized Ritual Abuse true-believer to the Senate has made several Pagans, especially the ones who lived through the moral panics of 1980s, uneasy.

“It’s like Salem 1692 again: letting kids fantasize and treating those fantasies as evidence in court. “Spectral evidence.” On Tuesday, voters in Massachusetts will select a replacement for Senator Edward Kennedy. The Democrats are running Martha Coakley, a former district attorney and state attorney general, who still thinks the Amiraults’ case was handled correctly and who has fought to keep Gerald Amirault in prison because she thinks he is some kind of satanic mastermind. She is a Democrat, I’m a Democrat. But I don’t care if she likes kittens and puppies and takes good care of her aged parents.  For that reason alone–for being the spiritual descendant of the Salem witch-hunters–if I lived in Massachusetts, I would not vote for Martha Coakley.”

Chas Clifton’s sentiments are echoed by Beliefnet Pagan blogger Gus diZerega.

“Perhaps most revealing with respect to Coakley was the conditions she imposed on people she allowed to be released after years of confinement.  They could not talk to the press nor could their lawyer be used to help another family member.  These conditions have nothing to do with guilt or innocence and a great deal to do with covering up abuses of power.  What was Coakley hiding?  We have seen a lot of such abuses and we do not need another Democrat inclined to do the same.  There already are more than enough Democrats and Republicans of that ilk.”

Her participation in moral panics are bad enough, but her steadfast defense of the Fells Acres convictions seems to also extend to a “law enforcement doesn’t make mistakes and shouldn’t be questioned” philosophy.

“Last year, Coakley chose to personally argue her state’s case before the Supreme Court in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. Despite the recent headlines detailing forensic mishaps, fraudulent testimony and crime lab incompetence, Coakley argued that requiring crime lab technicians to be present at trial for questioning by defense attorneys would place too large a burden on prosecutors. The Supreme Court found otherwise, in a decision that had Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia coming down on Coakley’s left.”

Of course, with Obama’s health care plan possibly on the line, many are urging voters to “hold their nose” and vote for Coakley anyway. Indeed, I know of some Massachusetts Pagans who’ve indicated that they will be (reluctantly) voting for Coakley, and a commenter on Chas Clifton’s blog sums up many of their talking points.

“I understand your feelings, but I’m a Masschusetts voter, and I will vote for Martha Coakley.  The whole SRA thing was a travesty, but even so Coakley is much better than her Republican opponent Scott Brown, who is anti-choice for women, pro-death penalty, opposed to the public health care legislation, and opposed to gay marriage (which we already have in Massachusetts). Coakley isn’t perfect, but if Brown is elected it will be a disaster for our state and country.”

I want health care reform too, heck, I want a single payer system! I’m also pro-choice, but I’m troubled when serious accusations about a candidate abusing their powers are made, and then swept aside in the name of party unity and the fear of legislative gridlock. The Boston Globe, in endorsing Coakley, praises her for “prosecuting child abusers”, never noting that some of those alleged abusers may have been completely innocent. As I’ve said before, I truly hope Coakley isn’t a SRA true-believer, because if we do see a revival of “Satanic Panic” in America, the last thing we need is a Senator willing to craft laws that will throw even more innocent people in jail.

So, to my Massachusetts readers, who are you voting for? Why? Do certain issues trump others, no matter how serious they may be? I’d really like to know, because I certainly don’t envy your choices right now. Perhaps that is why some Democrats are already spinning for a Coakley loss?

A recent column by Francis Wilkinson in The Week Magazine puts an uncomfortable spotlight on Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts Attorney General who is a front-runner for the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. It seems her role in the notorious  Fells Acres Day Care Case is causing some waves among Democrats with a long memory for abuses of power.

“Coakley did not prosecute the case, which was already under way when she joined the office as an assistant district attorney in 1986. But years later, after the day-care abuse hysteria had subsided and she had won the office’s top job, she worked to keep the convicted “ringleader,” Gerald Amirault, behind bars despite widespread doubts that a crime had been committed … the convictions won by the Middlesex DA in the Fells Acres case have not borne up well. By today’s standards, the prosecution of the Amirault family, who owned and operated the day-care center in Malden, Mass., looks like a master class in battling witchcraft.”

It looked like “battling witchcraft” because these “ritual abuse” (aka “Satanic abuse” or “organized abuse”) cases often hinged on rumours and false testimony of an imaginary network of underground Satanic sex and abuse-cults. Children were often prodded and coaxed into false testimony, much of which is recanted when those same children grow up, and many innocent men and women spent years, sometimes decades, of their lives behind bars. In the instance of the Fells Acres case, children were interviewed by nurse and SRA true-believer Susan J. Kelley, who elicited flatly implausible testimony about sex with bladed implements and “clowns” in “magic rooms” from children that a judge later called “improper” and “biased”.

“The evidence in this case is nothing short of overwhelming with improper interviewing techniques. The bias toward the Amiraults by investigators and interviewers from the beginning. Parental and other family influences. All of it leading to these tragic results.”

Despite the mounting evidence that this case was handled improperly, and that it was very likely the Amirault family were innocent of the charges brought against them, Coakley stubbornly refused to revisit the case. As D.A. she opposed parole for the family despite many lawyers thinking this was a “travesty” of justice, and she made strange conditions for the release of Cheryl Amirault LeFave.

“Coakley had previously allowed Gerald’s sister, Cheryl Amirault LeFave, to be released from prison on the curious condition that she not submit to television or film interviews. According to The Wall Street Journal‘s Dorothy Rabinowitz, who championed the Amiraults’ case in a series of articles and in a book, Coakley also requested that the Amiraults’ attorney, James Sultan, who was negotiating Cheryl’s release, stop representing Gerald, which would have further crippled Gerald’s appeals for freedom.”

These conditions, and this case, has made some Democrats uneasy about her candidacy, and seems to be causing her supporters to close ranks on the issue. As for Coakley, she defends her decisions regarding the case, saying she feels the Amirault family were indeed guilty.

“Based on my own extensive experience with child abuse investigations and cases, and my thorough review of all the evidence, including that which is often taken out of context and deemed “exculpatory,” I also believe the convictions were sound, and that he received a fair trial. It is for all of the above reasons that I, as Middlesex District Attorney, opposed his commutation, and I stand by that decision to this day.”

One wonders if this is a case of not wanting to admit to a mistake, access to some sort of mysterious insider knowledge that several lawyers, reporters, judges, and parole boards don’t have, or if Coakley is (like the judge that oversaw Gerald Amirault’s trial) an SRA true-believer. I sincerely hope it isn’t the latter, because if we see a revival of “Satanic Panic” in America, the last thing we need is a Senator willing to craft laws that will throw even more innocent people in jail based almost solely on improperly gathered testimony and hysteria.