Thursday, December 22, 2011

God save us from the crazy religious privileges in British jails that cost the taxpayer millions

As the sun rises tomorrow, 400 inmates in British prisons will be celebrating a day off — some of them with a sip of wine and a ceremony involving Tarot cards and rune stones.

For December 22 is the winter solstice, one of eight pagan festivals that prisons must now recognise. Pagan prisoners are allowed to choose two out of eight festivals on which to take a day off from the work they would normally do in jail, which might be cooking, cleaning and so on.

If this sounds pretty outrageous, the fact is that prisons are expected to provide a means of worship for dozens of religions, many of them obscure.

Kitchens are expected to cater for the dietary practices of particular faiths, and prison officers are expected to observe hundreds of sacred festivals, excusing prisoners from work duties — as they will do with the pagans today.

You may not be surprised to discover that all this madness is a result of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees ‘the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.

The great irony, of course, is that law-abiding citizens who are not in prison seem to be offered scant protection from this law when it comes to respecting their own rights. For example, there was the case of a Christian couple who were successfully sued after refusing to allow a gay couple to share a bed at their B&B establishment, or the case of another Christian couple, from Derby, who were forbidden from fostering children because they refused to drop their belief that homosexual acts are wrong.

Yet inside jail, the right of inmates to freely practise their faith has been taken to extraordinary lengths.

Recently, Broadmoor Hospital — which houses some of Britain’s most notorious criminals, including Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe — was reported to be recruiting wicca (white witchcraft) and Rastafarian representatives to join its chaplaincy team following an official audit of patients’ religious needs.

Broadmoor, like all the nation’s jails, doesn’t have any choice since the right to have access to religious representatives is laid out in a 154-page Prison Service manual, which states: ‘Chaplains and ministers of recognised religions must be available to prisoners.

‘When a minister of a particular faith is not available to a prison, advice must be sought from the Prison Service Chaplaincy, the Religion Section of the Prisoner Administration Group, or from the Religious Consultative Service for the particular faith.’

In other words, if you are one of the 412 pagans behind bars, or one of the 81 Seventh Day Adventists or 58 Christian Scientists (not to mention those wiccans and Rastafarians), you can demand that the Prison Service provide you with a religious instructor — at public expense.

Just how much it costs taxpayers to provide chaplaincy services for the dozens of different religions is something that the Ministry of Justice seems rather reluctant to disclose.

In 2006, it refused to answer a parliamentary question from an MP who wanted to know the cost. In reply, it said: ‘The total cost of providing prison chaplaincy services is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.’

Two years ago, following a Freedom of Information request, the ministry disclosed that directly employed chaplains cost the service £10.3 million a year. That, however, does not include any representatives from minority religions brought in to satisfy the spiritual demands of individual prisoners. They are paid on a freelance basis.

Besides providing chaplains at public expense, prison officers are expected to go to huge lengths to observe prisoners’ religious sensibilities. That’s why they must grant prisoners a day off from prison work on religious festivals — including tomorrow’s solstice.

They must also respect all periods of fasting and the desire to conduct other ceremonies necessary to fulfill inmates’ spiritual needs.

But it may not even be enough for prison officers just to learn the dates of official festivals.

In May, a Muslim prisoner called Imran Bashir won a High Court case against Rye Hill Prison, in Warwickshire, after he was punished for failing to co-operate with officers demanding he give a urine sample for drug-testing. The court ruled that Bashir’s human rights had been infringed by being expected to give a urine sample while he was fasting.

Yet it wasn’t Ramadan or any other Islamic festival at the time he was asked for the sample. Apparently, Bashir had decided to embark on a three-day personal fast.

This case makes one wonder how on earth prison officers are expected to enforce a drugs ban in jail when, the moment a prisoner suspects he might be tested, he could decide to go on a fast for as long as any possible drug he has taken has time to pass through his body. The truth is satisfying prisoners’ demands is almost as hard as running a five-star hotel of fussy guests.

Muslim prisoners must be allowed to shower before Friday prayers. Sikh chaplains are allowed to enter jail and meet convicted murderers while carrying a kirplan, a ceremonial sword up to six inches in length — though prisoners and other staff have to make do with a small representation of the kirplan inset in a comb.

Vegan prisoners, meanwhile, must not be exposed to any toiletry ‘containing any animal-derived ingredients’ or those tested on animals.

The prison manual goes on to state that ‘vegans usually choose not to engage in any sport, hobby or trade that directly or indirectly causes stress, distress, suffering or death to any creature’.

It is just a shame that anyone responsible for offences of violence didn’t keep to these rules before they ended up in prison.

Meanwhile, under the Prison Service guidelines, Hindus must be allowed to keep prayer beads, a small statue of Krishna or other gods, incense and a bell; Muslims must be allowed musk (non- alcohol perfume in small plastic bottle), an alarm clock and mat for prayer and, if they are Shia, a piece of clay to use as a head-rest.

Pagans must be allowed ‘incense, jewellery, a hoodless robe, a flexible twig or wand, rune stones, a private altar in their cells and Tarot cards’ — the latter on condition they do not use them for telling fortunes.

Inevitably, the Prison Service guidelines have generated some spurious court cases.

Some weeks ago, convicted murderer James Dowsett was allowed to make a publicly funded legal challenge against Highpoint Prison, Suffolk, claiming religious and sexual discrimination after being ‘forced’ to be searched by female prison officers.

He argued that though he was an atheist, the fact Muslim prisoners had the right not to be searched by a female member of staff meant that he, too, should have the same rights. He claimed that the searches made him feel ‘embarrassed and uncomfortable’, and that his human rights had been breached.

The Ministry of Justice’s barrister pointed out that there was a serious question to the credibility of the killer’s evidence given it had taken 18 years for him to raise the matter.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Dowsett won the first stage of his legal campaign and will be granted a full hearing.

It is Britain’s all-pervasive culture of political correctness that allows this lunacy, and means that prisons are in danger of becoming ungovernable. In this crazy world, convicted criminals are given ‘human rights’ which, by dint of the crimes that sent them to prison in the first place, they have almost certainly denied to their victims.


Toddler beaten to death by violent stepfather a month after police and social services hand him BACK to abusive parents

Typical of British social workers. They only take children away from harmless middle class familiies, often on mere speculation

A toddler was beaten to death a month after he returned home to the parents whose abuse led to him being in hospital. Two-year-old Joshua Jones, from Runcorn, Cheshire, died on November 6, 2007. His mother’s boyfriend, Wayne Davenport, was jailed for six years in 2009 after he was convicted of manslaughter.

Davenport’s trial heard that he spent months punishing the toddler and unleashing a horrific catalogue of abuse on the boy.

Joshua’s mother, Nichola Bowman, was convicted of causing or allowing her son’s death and was given a suspended sentence.

Following a five-day inquest at Warrington Town Hall, the coroner for Cheshire, Nicholas Rheinberg, today recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

He said Joshua's death 'probably would have been avoided' if Warrington and District General Hospital, Cheshire Police and Halton Borough Council had preventerd him from returning to an 'unsafe environment'. He said: 'Joshua’s death probably would have been avoided if the three agencies concerned with his safety had taken steps which did not involve returning him to an unsafe environment.'

The inquest heard that Joshua was taken to Warrington General Hospital on October 26 2007 by his mother and grandmother, Michelle Littlemore, with a broken arm and a 'constellation of other injuries', including bruises to his back and penis. But, despite the injuries 'ringing alarm bells' with numerous doctors, social workers and police officers, after six nights in hospital Joshua was allowed back into his mother’s care.

Bowman, who had come up with three different stories to explain Joshua’s injuries, lied to social workers about her new boyfriend Davenport - saying that he was not living with them, the inquest was told. The inquest heard that both Dr Rachel Webb, consultant paediatrician at Warrington Hospital, and social worker Vikki Irons took the mother at her word and full checks on Davenport were not carried out.

Mr Rheinberg was critical of the quality of information that was brought to the two 'strategy meetings' held by the three agencies regarding Joshua’s safety. He said a 'proper investigation' would have informed the meetings that Joshua’s injuries were 'non-accidental' and that alternative care arrangements 'were necessary in the interests of Joshua’s safety'.

The coroner said he accepted that lessons had been learned, particularly at Cheshire Police, but said he would be writing to Halton Borough Council and the director of nursing at Warrington Hospital regarding specific issues. [Big deal!]

After the inquest, Audrey Williamson, independent chairwoman of Halton Safeguarding Children Board, said: 'We are going to study very carefully what the coroner has said. 'At the time we did an in-depth review and looked in detail at the individual agencies and what agencies did collectively in their work with Joshua. 'We learned some lessons and the coroner has heard that.

'If there is more to learn I would like to assure you that we will take those lessons on board, we will implement them and make sure they will continue to be implemented.'

Bowman did not attend today’s hearing but her mother, Michelle Littlemore, said after the inquest that her daughter had 'taken responsibility' for what happened 'on her own shoulders' and said she hoped the agencies involved would do the same. She said it was 'good' that the 'errors' that were made in relation to Joshua’s care were uncovered but said 'they shouldn’t have happened at all'. 'If the agencies had done their jobs correctly and acted accordingly I think Joshua would still be here.

'Changes have been made but there has been no official apology to Joshua and his family for the way the agencies have let him down.'

Miss Littlemore also said that she as a grandmother 'should have noticed' what was happening.

Mr Rheinberg highlighted a number of specific failings in relation to the joint safeguarding inquiry carried out by the three agencies after Joshua was brought to hospital on October 26.

These included expert evidence not being sought, the agencies 'did not sufficiently communicate' with each other and with members of their own organisations and 'Critical information' within the medical notes was not checked, analysed or disseminated.

Other failings included photographs of Joshua's injuries not being taken to strategy meetings, police officers did not log or communicate information important to the investigation and social workers did not log information of significance reported by family members.

Last week the inquest heard that both Dr Rachel Webb and social worker Vikki Irons took the mother at her word and full checks on Davenport were not carried out.

Under cross-examination from Leslie Thomas, counsel for the inquest, Miss Irons said they should have carried out further checks. Mr Thomas said: 'There was a record against Wayne Davenport in respect of a previous assault. 'This is on the system. It is even more important to check him, isn't it? He is the new partner?'

Miss Irons said: 'Yes.' She then said they followed the medical advice of Dr Webb who had written a report which seemed to accept some of the explanations given by Bowman to account for her son's injuries.

Cross-examining Dr Webb, Mr Rheinberg said that, on reflection, 'was it not surprising' that Davenport was not one of the 'priorities' in terms of investigation? The doctor replied: 'He was never at the top of the list because of the timings we were being told about the injuries.'

Following the cross-examination about one of the strategy meetings in which key information was not conveyed by all three agencies, Mr Rheinberg said: 'It looks as though you are, figuratively, walking away whistling from this meeting.'

Davenport's trial heard that on the evening of November 6 Joshua's mother went out for a drink, leaving her son alone with Davenport, who was smoking cannabis. Bowman knew Joshua was scared of Davenport and that the O2 worker regularly abused him. Yet she did nothing about it - she even lied to authorities investigating her son's treatment, the trial was told.

That night Davenport - who has a history of violence - flew into a rage when the youngster woke up and deliberately beat him. Joshua was taken to hospital where he died from a swollen brain.


The Power of the Pen - Abused

The unceasing drumbeat of Israel-bashing on the pages of the New York Times is not exactly a secret. But in mid-December, the limit on the NYT’s image of promoting “objective journalism” was reached. When it comes to Israel, it means a page in which Israel’s friends are unwelcome while its critics and enemies enjoy a year-round open season on the Jewish state.

As Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary: “In the not-so-distant past, writers like A.M. Rosenthal and William Safire would balance the views of the editorial column and the paper’s left-wing columnists, but now there is no one on staff ready to do so”.

As a result, Netanyahu’s senior adviser Ron Dermer wrote a letter to the New York Times explaining why Prime Minister Netanyahu “respectfully declined” to write an op-ed piece for the newspaper explaining Israel’s positions. Dermer e-mailed response was as follows:
Dear Sasha,

I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times. Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.

On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan's admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.

A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:“It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.”

This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state. It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking.

The opinions of some of your regular columnists regarding Israel are well known. They consistently distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace. They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and virtually every Israeli official somehow reflects government policy or Israeli society as a whole. Worse, one columnist even stooped to suggesting that the strong expressions of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu during his speech this year to Congress was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby" rather than a reflection of the broad support for Israel among the American people.

Yet instead of trying to balance these views with a different opinion, it would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel. Even so, the recent piece on “Pinkwashing,” in which Israel is vilified for having the temerity to champion its record on gay-rights, set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.

Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.”

The only "positive" piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid.

Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone's previous submission. In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza fundamentally changed his position. According to the New York Times op-ed page, that was apparently news unfit to print.

Your refusal to publish “positive” pieces about Israel apparently does not stem from a shortage of supply. It was brought to my attention that the Majority Leader and Minority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives jointly submitted an op-ed to your paper in September opposing the Palestinian action at the United Nations and supporting the call of both Israel and the Obama administration for direct negotiations without preconditions. In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut.

So with all due respect to your prestigious paper, you will forgive us for declining your offer. We wouldn't want to be seen as "Bibiwashing" the op-ed page of the New York Times.


Ron Dermer
Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu

The latter comment on “Bibiwashing” refers to a piece called “Israel and Pinkwashing” from November. In that piece, a City University of New York humanities professor lambasted Israel for, as Dermer wrote, “having the temerity to champion its record on gay rights.” It was that piece, he wrote, that “set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.”

Today, it would not be an exaggeration to state that the editorial policy of the New York Times towards the Jewish state is virtually indistinguishable from the blatant anti-Israeli hostility promoted by the Guardian or the BBC.

It was with the election of Prime Minister Netanyahu, that the NYT editors embarked on a determined effort to undermine and demonize the Israeli government whilst invariably providing the Palestinians with a free pass. Through its numerous unbalanced editorials, the newspaper continuously “put the greater onus” for the failure of peace negotiations on Netanyahu “who is using any excuse to thwart peace efforts” and “refuses to make any serious compromises for peace.”

It would appear that the Palestinians rejection of any talks with Israel unless and until Israel agrees to all their existential demands; that their endless breaches of the terms of the Oslo Accords; that their absolute refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; that their continuous efforts to incite terrorism through their educational system, mosques and media in the name of “martyrdom”, and the vast discrepancies between their statements made in Arabic to the Arab media and those they make in English to the Western media mean absolutely nothing to the Times editors.

And its columnists (specifically Tom Friedman, Roger Cohen and Nicholas Kristof) have done likewise by leading the charge in castigating Israel and unabashedly praising the Arab Spring.

In a recent column, Kristof described a home-made dinner he had with a group of Moslem Brotherhood activists and approvingly quoted them claiming that their support of the Brotherhood was strong “for the same reason the Germans support Christian Democrats or Southerners favor conservative Christians”. He also suggested that “conservative Moslems insist that the Muslim Brotherhood is non-discriminatory, the perfect home for pious Christians - and a terrific partner for the West” and concluded that - “Our fears often reflect our own mental hobgoblins”. We heard this same line thirty years ago just before the Islamists seized power in Iran under Khomeini.

Kristof obviously has never met or spoken with Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, the organization’s most powerful religious leader - an avowed anti-Semite who supports the murder of Jews. Qaradawi expressed his desire to see a "conquered" Jerusalem in a January 24, 2011 fatwa in which he negated Jewish attachment to Jerusalem, and stated that it is the duty of Muslims to "defend" Jerusalem with "their lives, their money and all they possess, or else they will be subject to Allah's punishment."

This fatwa is part of Qaradawi's long record of inciting hatred and violence against Jews and Israel. During a sermon that aired on the Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera TV on January 28, 2009, Qaradawi told his audience, "I will shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus I will seal my life with martyrdom." In another sermon on January 9, 2009, Qaradawi lashed out at Jews, including calling on God to "kill them, down to the very last one."

He has also refused to dialogue with Jews by declining to participate in the 8th annual conference organized by the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue because of the participation of Jews, and he continues to endorse Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. In his latest major work, Fiqh (Jurisprudence) of Jihad (2009), Qaradawi chastises those Muslims who do not observe jihad as an obligatory duty, including participation in "physical jihad" if capable.


Speech restrictions in Australia

When you see the North Koreans’ bizarre public grief for their oppressive leader you are watching the extreme end of state control. Whether real, imagined or exaggerated, the locals’ grief must be exhibited for the cameras lest the consequences be grave.

In Australia, this kind of media control is unthinkable. Or so you would think. But I reckon what the authorities seem to be trying to impose here is not cheerleading, not toeing the party line, but rather a kind of compulsory ambivalence.

(I have been to Pyongyang and would love to share some thoughts but there is plenty of that around at the moment, and media regulation in Australia is an increasingly worrying issue.)

Take the case of Adelaide ABC radio hosts Matthew Abraham and David Bevan; found to have lacked impartiality in their interview with [Leftist politician] Kevin Foley. Here is the audio, and for context it starts just after the first question which is “Kevin Foley, do you think a growing number of South Australians and perhaps even your own colleagues are tired of the Kevin Foley soap opera?

Now I know these blokes well enough, and have crossed swords with them on an issue or two. Do they fit neatly into the ABC’s all-too-prevalent “progressive” world view? Not really. But that’s not the point. They are skilled broadcasters and diligent journalists. They are generally well briefed and intelligent, and pursue their quarry with some alacrity when required.

This ruling against them is another example of the over-regulation of the Australian media. Matt and Dave, as they are known, would have interviewed Mr Foley dozens of times over a range of issues. Many exchanges would have been robust, and the one in question was particularly so, because it traversed into personal matters. Mr Foley’s social life and some unfortunate incidents had become significant stories. So the issue of him allegedly being assaulted in a wine bar was legitimate news. Because he had been the treasurer and deputy premier, and was still a senior minister, this was a matter of public interest. The ABC broadcasters were right to pursue the issue. Their questioning was very aggressive. I happened to listen to the interview online from Sydney, wincing and feeling some sympathy for Mr Foley – someone I consider a mate.

We could have a lively debate about the merits of the interview, how it was conducted, Mr Foley’s responses, and whether he should even have agreed to do it. But that is not the point. The point is why a federal government body should, subject to two complaints, rule on the alleged lack of impartiality of the interviewers. That it should find that Matt and Dave both “prejudged” the issue before the interview is quite extraordinary given ACMA never spoke to them about it. That ACMA could get inside the head of one radio interviewer is amazing. But two at once, is simply astonishing. And it found they both had made the same pre-judgement. Matt and Dave are close friends but ACMA has turned them into Siamese twins.

Mr Foley thought the interview was potentially defamatory and he has always had the option of pursuing legal action. Matt and Dave are answerable to their employers at the ABC, who were satisfied that they had done the right thing. More importantly, they are answerable to their audience, who no doubt told them what they thought, and won’t keep listening if they think the hosts are unreasonable.

In a year when Andrew Bolt was taken to court under racial vilification laws for causing offence, Stephen Conroy launched a media inquiry because he thinks the “hate media” are out to get the government, Alan Jones was admonished for not broadcasting all sides of an environmental issue, and the convergence review is suggesting all media might need to be subjected to ACMA-style content regulation, it is time to be afraid, very afraid.

Think about how much information you can get through your phone now. Think about how many television stations you have access to at home. Think about the hansard, transcripts, video links and news sites you can access over the internet. Our choice in media has never been wider. Whatever facts we want, we can get them instantly. Whatever opinions we wish to sample, we just press a few buttons. Yet the nanny state legislators are everywhere, trying to turn every journalist, broadcaster and commentator into some sort of blancmange of information.

No, they will never have us all out on the street cheering or weeping for the Dear Leader. But these regulators, and their political and academic supporters, would love to turn us all into a series of Max Headrooms, spouting a pre-ordained mix of politically correct and legislatively sound information. Matt and Dave, and Kevin and the audience, are all mature enough to work this one out for themselves.

SOURCE (See the original for links)


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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