40 years after Jonestown massacre: Why survivor Jackie Speier says we have to be vigilant about religious groups that operate in secret
ABC 7 News
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, the largest murder-suicide in American history. It happened to American citizens living in a religious cult overseas, in the South American country of Guyana in 1978. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., was there in 1978 as a young aide to a congressman who was investigating suspicious activity at the compound, called Jonestown. But they were ambushed and shot while trying to leave. Speier says the lesson we need to learn, is be vigilant about religions that operate in secrecy.
“There are so many thoughts that run through your head when you’re dying,” she said. “And I was 28 years old. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was dying.”
She survived, in spite of being shot five times by followers of the Reverend Jim Jones. He led a religious cult called The Peoples Temple. Speier was an aide to Congressman Leo Ryan. He was on a fact-finding mission to investigate complaints of sexual and physical abuse at the overseas compound in Guyana. He brought journalists to cover the story.
Speier said supporters of Jim Jones came and shot the Congressman.
“They shot Don Harris, the NBC reporter, the cameraman, the sound man, Greg Robinson, the Examiner photographer and me,” she said.
Speier managed to drag her badly mangled body with one arm, behind the plane’s wheel well. She and the others were on the airstrip for nearly 22 hours. Survivors were finally moved into a tent, still waiting for medical attention, which came much, much later.
She remembered this kindness at the time, “All I had was the goodness of some of the reporters and the producer from NBC who came and brought me rum, Guyanese rum, and I took swig of Guyanese rum to get through that night.”
The ambush killed Ryan and four others, including three journalists.
Shortly after the attack, Jim Jones sent more than 900 of his followers at the Jonestown compound to their death. He ordered them to drink a cyanide-laced beverage. Speier says the children and infants were injected with cyanide.
Speier remains angry about major lapses from those days.
“What troubles me most as I look back at it, is that we had a State Department that failed us, we had local law enforcement that failed us, we had local government that failed us because there were so many telltale signs of illegal activity and that alone should have prompted scrutiny,” she said.
The massacre in Guyana affected Speier’s life in many ways. She’s living with two bullets and shrapnel in her body. And she lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Jennings: “Do you ever have moments of PTSD from those dark days?”
Speier: “I do whenever there’s a 21 gun salute, or when fireworks go off or a particularly loud sound of some sort, car backfiring.”
Speier says Jonestown taught her that we have to be suspicious of groups that operate in secrecy, while claiming the first amendment right of freedom of religion. They need to be reported if they commit crimes.
“I’m a Roman Catholic and I look at the Catholic Church and how they allowed these priests who were pedophiles to just be recirculated into another parish when they had an obligation to go to law enforcement and didn’t,” she said.
Speier has become fearless after surviving her near-death experience. She said: “Had Jonestown not happened, I don’t know that I ever would have run for public office.”
Her mentor, Congressman Ryan, would be so proud of Speier’s journey. She points out, “That’s the real power of being in elective office is you can shine a spotlight on issues that deserve attention. You can bring people together to find solutions to problems and it’s really incredibly fulfilling.”
You can hear Rep. Speier’s full interview on Cheryl’s Facebook page here.
And the congresswoman has a new book coming out next month, called “Undaunted.”
here is a heads up about some upcoming activities in the USA and abroad to help you on your healing, learning, helping journeys
Subject: Coming ICSA events. Please tell others who might be interested.Connecticut, Los Angeles, England, Poland, Massachusetts.
Call for Papers: ICSA 2019 Annual Conference
University of Salford
Greater Manchester, UK
July 4-6, 2019
More info: http://www.icsahome.com/events/callforpapers
2. Recovering From Spiritual Abuse: A Conference for Survivors, Churches, and Helpers
October 26-27, 2018
3. Recovering from Cults and Coercive Control: A Workshop for Former Members and Families
October 13, 2018 (Saturday)
Los Angeles, CA
4. Recognizing and Recovering Self Esteem: After Group Struggles
Saturdays October 13th, November 10th, and December 1st and 8th (9:00 – 11:00 AM)
Lakeville, MA (MeadowHaven)
5. Controversies in Religious Contexts
October 26-27, 2018
6. Surviving and Moving On After a High-Demand Group Experience: A Workshop for Those Born/Raised in Cults
April 26 – 28, 2019
More info: http://www.icsahome.com/events/workshopsgas
ICSA (International Cultic Studies Association)
P.O. Box 2265
Bonita Springs, FL 34133
Social Media: www.facebook.com/ICSAToday
Web site: www.icsahome.com
*Become a member of ICSA and gain access to an e-Library with over 23,000 items.
Young woman documents her brother’s joining the LEGION OF CHRIST, a controversial and much criticized relatively new religious order founded in Mexico and now in 40 countries. Critics of the order have labelled it “dysfunctional family” -and “intra-ecclesial sect”, meaning that the way it operates, control of Behavior, Information, Thought and Emotions is similar to a cult
ICSA News Desk shares articles of interest or importance with ICSA members who have signed up for News Desk. Selection of an article for the News Desk mailing does not mean that ICSA, its directors, staff, volunteers, or members agree with the content. ICSA provides information from many points of view in order to promote dialogue among interested parties
Coercive and Controlling Man Subjected Wife to Decades of ‘Cult-Like’ Abuse
Shetland Times in Headlines News
A man who subjected his wife to “one of the very worst cases of domestic abuse” procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie had ever seen, has been told to expect a stint in jail.
Robert Simmons, 62, of Sandness, admitted 11 charges spanning from 1988 until March of this year when he appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.
The court heard that the “regular church attendee” created an “almost cult-like” atmosphere in the family home, using religion as a justification for his “coercive and controlling” behaviour.
“She took a vow of obedience to me” reads one chilling statement, referring to his wife, that Simmons made in police interviews , read out in court.
Providing the sheriff with a lengthy narrative Mr MacKenzie told the court that Simmons had been in a relationship with his wife for 33 years, married for 30 of those.
During that time the couple had six children, all home-schooled. This meant that Simmons’ wife was “deprived of any interaction with others one would have experienced with a school environment”.
Viewing himself as the authority in the household Simmons very much “set the rules” and was also responsible for doling out punishment when those rules were broken.
But the rules were “changed frequently so that it became impossible for the complainer to get it right”, Mr MacKenzie said.
Simmons dictated his wife’s behaviour to the extent that he would draw up timetables which divided her day into 15-minute slots. If she failed to follow any of the tasks set out in these the result would be more punishment.
His wife was also forced to carry notebooks, including a “mistake book”, where she was forced to maintain a record of all the times she failed to please Simmons.
In another book she kept a “record of observations the accused would make about random aspects of life”. Police seized hundreds of these notebooks from their home, the fiscal said.
The cumulative effect of his campaign of abuse “completely eroded the complainer’s sense of self-worth”, Mr MacKenzie said.
After enduring two decades of domineering and abusive behaviour Simmons’ wife found the courage to reach out to Women’s Aid in 2015.
Mr MacKenzie read out the harrowing details of the 11 charges against Simmons, revealing systemic abuse over a prolonged period of time.
The first charge against Simmons comes from Christmas Eve 1988 when he repeatedly struck his wife on the head. During the 1990s one method of punishment involved having his wife stand in an outbuilding while he hosed her with cold water.
In 1991 he forced her into the boot of a car after she fled the house. The following year he compressed her throat to a point where breathing became restricted.
Another incident saw Simmons compel his wife to lie on the floor. He then placed his weight on her head by standing on it, giving her two black eyes.
In 1998 Simmons pushed his wife to the floor with a force that caused nerve damage which still causes discomfort to this day.
Another charge related to Simmons assaulting his wife in a car in May 2015, leaving her with a black eye and bloody nose. Later that year he hit her across the back of the legs with a plastic pipe.
The final charge against Simmons relates to various incidents of placing his mouth against his wife’s ear while shouting, swearing and uttering threats. “The complainer finds this terrifying”, Mr MacKezie said.
The procurator fiscal then went on to detail some of the statements Simmons had made to police after he was detained. On one occasion he confessed to doing “hands-on stuff”.
“She knows I’m serious when I do that”, he told the officers.
Mr MacKenzie said that it was “difficult if not nigh on impossible” to comprehend the impact the “accused’s behaviour has had on the complainer”.
He added: “The complainer is a fully-qualified and highly intelligent woman effectively robbed of all sense of self-worth.”
“He was someone to whom she deferred completely”, Mr MacKenzie later said, as he successfully argued for an indefinite non-harassment order.
Sheriff Philip Mann deferred sentencing for background report, a legal requirement in cases where someone could be given their first custodial sentence.
But he also warned Simmons to expect a jail sentence, saying that he could not envisage a defence or background report which would convince him to find a community-based disposal.
“It’s difficult to contemplate how I would reasonably look at alternatives to a custodial sentence”, Sheriff Mann told Simmons.
Simmons will receive legal representation next month when he appears for sentencing.
Baton Rouge Shooter Gavin Long’s Bizarre Sect
Gavin Long adhered to a separatist religious movement that followed a self-declared ‘Empress.’
The Daily Beast.
Like any new religious movement, the Washitaw Nation—to which Baton Rouge shooter Gavin Long adhered—has a fantastical origin story.
Its empress was born encased in her own placenta as the Louisiana bayou flooded. “I kicked out of [the placenta] on my own, and then [the placenta] rolled up on my head like a crown,” Vediacee Turner—known by followers as Empress Veriacee “Tiari” Waashitaw-Turner Goston El-Bey—claimed, according to a profile of the movement by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
After a career that included being the twice-elected mayor of Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, Turner would go on to declare herself an indigenous American Washitaw, and claim that she was the rightful owner of land sold in the Louisiana Purchase. (The Washitaw Nation is not recognized as an indigenous tribe.) She also founded the movement that inspired Long to legally change his name and declare himself a sovereign citizen, not bound by the laws of the United States. Police reportedly found an identification card for the Washitaw nation in his pocket.
Documents obtained by the Kansas City Star on Monday show Long filed notarized documents to “correct” his name to Cosmo Ausar Setepenra in May 2015. The vaguely legalese-sounding document carried the name of the United Washitaw De Dugdahmoundyah Mu’ur Nation. He also attached a certificate of Live Claim Birth—a type of birth certificate—from the group.
It’s not clear who the supreme leader of the Washitaw currently is; Turned died in 2014. But a website proclaiming to be the “official” site of the movement says that Turner’s primary concern was asking people, “Have ya’ll read my book?” The Return of the Ancient Ones laid out the foundations for the movement.
“[The Washitaw] are, in the weird language of the empress, ‘indigenous’—descendants of the ‘Ancient Ones,’ the ‘black ones’ who Goston insists peopled this continent tens of thousands of years before white Europeans arrived,” according to the SPLC.
The SPLC’s Ryan Lenz told The Daily Beast the Washitaws are best described as “a black sovereign citizen group.”
Their self-proclaimed sovereignty means they offer identification cards and birth certificates, and members believe they don’t have to pay state or federal taxes, and that the laws of the United States do not apply to them. A passport from the group cost $250 in the 1990s, according to a 1999 report on the group by the SPLC.
The “official site” run by Alim El-Bey includes numerous references to the Moorish Science Temple of America, a religious movement founded in the United States in early 20th century, and widely believed to have inspired the Washitaw Nation and other Moorish separatist movements. (Alim El-Bey shared at least one of Long’s posts on his Facebook page, as The Daily Beast reported on Sunday.)
The MST was the “first mass religious movement in the history of Islam in America,” according to a book by religion scholar Richard Brent Turner, though its similarities with mainstream Islam were quite limited. In fact, self-appointed prophet Noble Drew Ali even created his own Qur’an and clung to Islam as a way to distance himself from his Christian oppressors.
“It was urban, anti-Christian, and multicultural, and it developed as a distinct missionary and Pan-Africanist political agenda,” Turner wrote.
Drew Ali incorporated aspects of Marcus Garvey’s beliefs, Islamic movements from the Indian subcontinent, and ideas from the black Freemason movement into his new creation. Fundamental to the Moorish Science Temple’s ideology is the understanding of black people not as black, but members of a greater “Moorish” nation that is supposedly part of the Asiatic race. Through such an understanding, members essentially shed designations given to them by white people and created another identity as part of a mythically powerful nation.
In Drew Ali’s heavily modified Circle Seven Koran, Marcus Garvey is hailed as a sort of minor prophet.
“In these modern days there came a forerunner of Jesus, who was divinely prepared by the great God-Allah and his name is Marcus Garvey, who did teach and warn the nations of the earth to prepare to meet the coming Prophet,” it reads, referring to Drew Ali as the prophet who “was prepared and sent to this earth by Allah, to teach the old time religion and the everlasting gospel to the sons of men.”
While the Washitaw Nation would later claim to be descendants of the “Ancient Ones” who dwelled on American land, according to some legends, Drew Ali was raised by Cherokee Indians, though he didn’t claim Native heritage. And, just like the Washitaws, Drew Ali’s organization issued “nationality cards,” while members wore the national uniform of fezzes and turbans—in part because of Drew Ali’s belief that they came from Moroccans. Drew Ali gave his followers names like El and Bey, which seemed to come together in the Washitaw empress’s chosen name of El-Bey.
Drew Ali’s attempt to rebrand his African-American adherents as Asiatic Moors, however, clashed with the Washitaw Nation’s vision in that it was fundamentally an attempt at assimilation. Drew Ali hoped that “he could change the political and economic fate of African Americans in the Jim Crow era by ethnicizing the name of the race and by changing the names of his followers, thereby erasing the stigma and slavery and distancing them from ordinary Negroes who were not respected as Americans,” Richard Turner, the religion scholar, wrote. As the Moorish nation, Drew Ali thought they would be able to integrate and assimilate, just like everyone else.
Drew Ali died under mysterious circumstances in 1929, and the organization sprouted offshoots after his death. Member Wallace Fard Muhammad would go on to found the Nation of Islam, which would preach its own distinctive form of Islam to African Americans.
In the 1990s, some members of the MST proclaimed themselves Moorish sovereign citizens, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. They adapted the ideas of the largely white—and often racist—sovereign citizen movement for their own needs.
Their members intermingled with those of the Washitaw nation, seeking to establish black personhood “through means that are powerfully upending, and at the same time completely fictional,” Lenz said.
And Long is not the first sovereign citizen in recent years to shoot at police. Father and son duo Jerry and Joseph Kane shot and killed two police officers during a West Memphis, Arkansas traffic stop in 2010. Under sovereign citizen logic, the government can’t stop them at traffic stops, because those laws do not apply.
“It’s a person who doesn’t want to be ruled,” Lenz said. “This is the most free country in the world. And yet this is a revolt against the concept of government.”