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

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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!