Anti-Catholic AND Pro-Cult?
WorldNetDaily's ultra-orthodox Christian views seem to have caused it to cater to an old hatred -- and cozy up a little to a polygamist cult.
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily's theological point of view may well best be described as Protestant-leaning, non-denominational, ultra-orthodox evangelical Christianity :
WND's version of Christianity appears to be inspired in part by the Reconstructionist views of the late R.J. Rushdoony, who not only advocated the execution of adulterers (as Farah apparently does) but also homosexuals, blasphemers, heretics, apostate Christians, people who cursed or struck their parents, females guilty of unchastity before marriage, incorrigible juvenile delinquents, and perhaps even telephone psychics, as Reason magazine details. the magazine also notes that Reconstructionists have a presence in the homeschooling movement -- a cause WND has championed to the point of likening homeschooling critics, as well as supporters of public education, to Nazis.
(ConWebWatch has previously noted that WND board member Wayne Johnson is a member of the board of directors of the Rushdoony-founded Chalcedon Foundation.)
If WND and its personnel are not specifically Protestant in their Christianity, they have embraced one longtime (though mostly dissipated these days) Protestant prejudice: animosity toward Catholics.
For instance, an Oct. 13, 2006, article on Georgetown University's decision to bar outside Protestant student ministries from campus misconstrues the issue to the point where it portrays the Catholic school as not being Christian. The opening paragraph describes Georgetown as a " 'Christian' college" -- putting "Christian" in scare quotes. And rather than describing the groups evicted from campus as Protestant, most references describe them as "Christian evangelical," falsely suggesting that all Christian groups are barred.
The article is told entirely from the point of the view of the conservative legal group Alliance Defense Fund, which was fighting the decision, and didn't allow anyone from Georgetown to respond to ADF's claims (the article does state that "The university did not respond to a request from WND for a comment"). Oddly,WND first reported on the Georgetown case in a Aug. 26, 2006, article that more accurately described the barred groups as Protestant and included a defense of the policy by Georgetown officials that somehow were not mentioned in the October article. Do WND reporters not read their own website?
Of course, there's a double standard here as well. In 2000, the board of regents at the historically Baptist Baylor University decided to make the Baptist Student Ministries the only chartered denominational organization on campus. In 2007, Baylor was embroiled in a controversy over whether to allow non-Baptist groups the same on-campus privileges as Baptist organizations. Even though the Baylor situation is similar to that of Georgetown's, WND has never written about it. (Farah did, however, lambaste Baylor in a July 2001 column for allegedly not being accommodating enough to homeschooled students.) Similarly, ConWebWatch found no evidence that the Alliance Defense Fund -- which wrote a letter to Georgetown officials asking the school to reconsider its decision removing non-Catholic ministries from campus -- took any similar action against Baylor or any position on allowing non-Baptist groups on the Baylor campus.
(Update 10/15/1008: WND has also promoted the anti-Catholic attacks of others. A March 2006 article featured a documentary that "explores the prevalent use of satanic, sexual, occult and anti-Catholic images in historical and contemporary religious artwork" and "contends a major cause of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church could be due to prolonged exposure to sexual and satanic images being incorporated into the religious art." WND tried to cloak its agenda by claiming that the film was "made not by anti-Catholic bigots, but by devout followers of the Church." Among the "experts" cited in the film are obsessed Kinsey-hater Judith Reisman and Wilson Bryan Key, "an American recognized internationally for over 30 years of embedded-imagery expertise." But as blogger Richard Bartholomew pointed out, Key is obsessed with idea of subliminal advertising; he wrote a book titled "The Clam-Plate Orgy and Other Subliminals the Media use to Manipulate Your Behavior," which included a chapter titled “Sex is Alive and Embedded in Practically Everything.”)
In a July 13, 2007, column, Farah was weirdly proud that "non-Catholic Christians did not rise up in anger and violence when insulted by the pope," after Pope Benedict XVI declared that Protestants did not belong to the "true church." Farah adds: "I don't want to kill the pope because of his wrongful conclusions about me and my faith."
Farah doesn't have to; as a self-described "evangelical Christian" and head of WND, he can attack the pope and Catholics in other ways. Two days earlier, an article on the pope's decree quoted six comments from a newspaper's comment board on the decree, only two of which (and the two shortest) supported the pope. The others included comments like "I am embarrassed to be Catholic" and "Just shows why it is almost impossible to remain a practicing Catholic."
WND's anti-Catholic bias showed up again in a June 11 article reporting that "A Catholic priest has been sentenced to three years of probation after he pleaded no contest to groping an undercover male sheriff deputy at a nude beach in California." ConWebWatch was unable to find an similar example of WND reporting on any Protestant minister involved in sexual proclivities, even though there are many to choose from.
WND kept it up in a July 9 article taking the side of "a student at the University of Central Florida" who "says he's now getting death threats after he stole and later returned a wafer representing the 'Body of Christ' from a Catholic Mass in Orlando." The article included a strident statement from the Catholic League's Bill Donohue: "For a student to disrupt Mass by taking the Body of Christ hostage regardless of the alleged nature of his grievance is beyond hate speech."
Was WND trying to paint Catholics as violent bigots with this article? It appears so -- it also quoted a friend of the student as saying, "I was kind of confused because I always thought that Jesus was a pacifist, and they're using violence in order to get back the body of a pacifist." WND put "Body of Christ" in scare quotes, an apparently belittling of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which means the communion wafer is not "representing the 'Body of Christ'" as the WND article claims -- it is the Body of Christ.
Surprisingly, though, WND switched sides in a July 12 article on a side story to that controversy. This time, WND took the side Donohue's campaign against "card-carrying atheist" blogger PZ Myers for dismissing the communion wafer as just a "cracker" -- even though what Myers was doing was essentially the same thing WND did three days earlier. The article also correctly stated that "Catholics believe" a consecrated communion wafer "becomes the body of Christ."
One has to wonder: Did Donohue, famous for his aggressive defense of Catholicism, give WND an off-the-record talking-to between July 9 and July 12? Perhaps; neither would likely publicly admit it if there was.
Nevertheless, WND's abrupt change of heart continued in a July 15 article that labeled a San Francisco resolution critical of the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality an "anti-Catholic diatribe" that it claims is "violating the Constitution's prohibition of government hostility toward religion."
But even when Farah is actively trying not to be anti-Catholic, the facts aren't on his side. In a June 26 column, Farah bashed former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black as "a red-necked bully and coward in a hood and white robes" and a "racist hate monger" who was doing the "bigoted agenda" of the Ku Klux Klan and whose "racist roots have been glossed over by historians, largely because of his rulings in cases like Engle [sic] v Vitale." Farah added:
The movement for so-called "separation of church and state" in America began in earnest as an anti-Catholic extremist effort directed by the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was successful at getting one of its own on the Supreme Court at a critical time in history.
This ignores the fact that Catholics, in significant part, didn't attend public schools, instead setting up their own, because they had traditionally been controlled by Protestants. So Engel v. Vitale -- a 1962 case that deemed it unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools -- affected far more Protestants than Catholics, which would seem to demolish Farah's suggestion that Black's majority opinion in Engel was motivated by anti-Catholicism.
If old Protestant animosities can explain WND's Catholic animus (until very recently, anyway), an explanation is more complicated for WND's surprisingly gentle treatment of a polygamist cult thrust into the news when the cult's children were seized by Texas authorities over accusations of child abuse, including underage marriage.
In an April 19 column, Farah actually offered up a quasi-defense of the Warren Jeffs-headed Yearning for Zion cult. While he repeatedly claimed that "I don't like polygamy. And I don't like child abuse" and insisted he was not "an apologist for this false religion, which I detest," he seemed willing to tolerate it all in the name of religious freedom and to serve as a poke in the eye to what he considered to be overreaching government officials. The vast majority of the column was spent attacking the state's seizure of "more than 400 children on such skimpy and non-specific evidence of real criminal abuse." Farah then tried to equivocate the accusations:
Is there a community in America where child abuse is not taking place?
That last point is a laugher, since WND arguably makes a similar claim about "government schools" -- better known to the rest of us as public schools -- on a regular basis by regularly and falsely portraying something as innocuous as showing students that homosexuals merely exist as irrefutable evidence of "indoctrination."
Farah then claimed: "But cults aren't illegal, and polygamy and sexual abuse are crimes that need to be prosecuted individually, not collectively on a community that may have allowed them to happen." This ignores the closed, insular society in which the polygamist cult operated, making it nearly impossible to gain knowledge about individual cases of abuse. It could be argued that when an entire society is based on that abuse, a collective approach may be the better one.
Farah also threw in the usual litany of WND-style liberal-and government bashing, concluding with "It happens when officials in states such as California actively try to ban homeschooling." But as ConWebWatch has detailed, WND has similarly overlooked allegations of child abuse in the family at the center of that California case in order to portray the family as poster children for the cause of homeschooling.
Farah issued another quasi-defense of the cult in an April 29 column, insisting (after, of course, issuing his perfunctory denials of support for the cult) that "The chances are very good there would be more evidence of child sexual abuse in government schools than has been produced at the Yearning for Zion Ranch." Farah then rattled off some statistics:
According to the experts, 62 percent of girls are sexually abused by the age of 18 outside the YFZ Ranch.
Farah doesn't say who these "experts" are -- perhaps because they don't exist. According to the National Institute of Justice, one out of three females and one out of five males have been victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18 years; among females, almost 30 percent of all forcible rapes occur before the age of 11 years -- all numbers much lower than the ones from Farah's apparently imaginary "experts."
In a May 16 column railing against an apparent decision by Texas officials to have the children of the cultists that they have taken into custody vaccinated against the usual diseases, Farah asserted that the parents are "mothers and fathers [who] made conscious and well-informed decisions not to immunize their kids because of the potential for dire health risks." Really? How did Farah know this? He offered no evidence that the parents "made conscious and well-informed decisions"; given that they are members of a polygamist cult, they arguably have a demonstrated history of not making "well-informed decisions." (WND, by the way, has a history of anti-vaccination scare tactics, including an issue of its Whistleblower magazine dedicated to exposing "the dark side of vaccines"; WND managing editor David Kupelian insists that vaccines "a history of disastrous side effects and suspected or proven dangers a dark downside utterly covered up by the public health establishment.")
Farah also tossed out another perfunctory denouncement of the cult, followed by the equivocation that anything the state might do is worse:
Again, I don't like some of the things that went on in that community. I don't approve of them. There may even have been some laws broken. But there is no evidence being made public to suggest every single mother in the compound abused or neglected her children or to suggest these poor kids would be better off with the state of Texas as their parent.
If Farah was trying to downplay and misdirect from the cult's seamier aspects, another WND columnist was in full whitewash mode. In an April 25 column, Ilana Mercer painting an idyllic picture of cult life as a place where children are "frolicking in the open air on a large compound, doing your daily chores and feasting on hearty homegrown fare," but have now been "torn from their loving mothers" and sent to a world where "you're gagging on a diet of T&A courtesy of MTV and fast-food compliments of your fat foster mom. As the makeshift mom hollers at you to swallow your zombifying meds. ... her flaccid live-in lover eyes you lustily."
(In fact, the Texas Department of Child Protective Services had issued strict guidelines to caretakers of the children taken from the polygamist compound, including "No television, movies, Internet and radio especially at first," and no red clothing because the cult believes that red is reserved for Jesus Christ because when he returns, he will be wearing red robes.)
Mercer then launches into the child-as-parental-chattel defense, as well as the polygamist cult:
Whether they are "plural" or single, Wicca or just weird, bohemian or bourgeoisie parents should take the kids and skedaddle when they hear that phrase "in the best interests of the child." It is simply a license for the state to substitute its own judgment for that of the parents. Today, it's polygamist parents Kool-Aid drinkers is Bill O'Reilly's favored sobriquet. Tomorrow, it'll be the offspring of homeschoolers or global warming deniers.
In Mercer's view, it seems being stuck in a relationship as a teen girl with multiple co-wives is not "abuse," nor is kicking teen boys out of the cult for specious reasons and into a world for which they have not been prepared in order to reduce the male population inside the cult. Apparently that's OK with her because it's the parents doing the abusing.
(Defending polygamists is not the only view advanced by Mercer that is, shall we say, not mainstream; she also defended former pro football star Michael Vick against dogfighting charges because of its noble tradition of "blood sport" and because "all animals are property.")
Meanwhile, WND published a June 16 column by Steve Crampton, vice president for Legal Affairs and general counsel of the right-wing legal group Liberty Counsel, asserting that a California Supreme Court ruling overturning a ban on same-sex marriage "legitimizes polygamy," claiming that "polygamy is generally considered beyond the pale" and noting "the highly publicized case of the Texas polygamy sect and the concern for the young women alleged to have been 'married' to the older men in the sect."
But a search of Liberty Counsel's press releases for 2008 shows that it has made no statement whatsoever on the Texas polygamist sect case. If Crampton and Liberty Counsel were really concerned about polygamy, wouldn't it have injected itself into the Texas case by now? Or WND, for that matter?
The capper, though, is a June 30 WND article happily informing readers that "Pastel prairie-style dresses, modest shirts, trousers, long underwear and nightgowns are just some of the new Fundamentalist LDS clothing now available at sensible prices for purchase online."
While the article noted that note that "several critics claim the strict dress code is a means for men to control women," it also proclaimed that "church members have been commended on their sewing abilities," providing a link to the FLDS website, where can be found "quotes from LDS Doctrine and Covenants instructing members to dress modestly."
All of this raises the question: Does Farah dress his five home-schooled daughters FLDS style? Why else would WND be overenthusiastic about "modest" clothing, even if they were made by cultists he purports to abhor?
Combine this kid-glove treatment of polygamist cults with its disdain for Catholicism, and it's clear that WorldNetDaily adheres to a very peculiar brand of Christianity indeed.