Prisoner Who Refused Water During Ramadan Can Sue on Religious Grounds

Categories: Courts, Religion

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Leshaines123 via Compfight cc
In November 2003, prison guards at the Wende Correctional Facility in upstate New York ordered Darryl Holland to take a drug test. He had three hours to provide a urine sample. But the order was not so simple. Holland was Muslim and it was Ramadan and he had not drunk any water all day. The guards gave him water to drink for the sample. Holland refused to drink it and asked if the guards could take the sample after sundown, once his fast was over.

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Suspect in Mosque Stabbing Arrested Again for Emails Threatening to Kill and Castrate Director of Muslim Group

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Image via.
Nihad Awad, CAIR's national executive director, was sent threatening emails. The FBI says Bernhard Laufer is responsible.
A Queens man awaiting trial for allegedly stabbing a Muslim man in 2012 has been arrested again. Bernhard Laufer, 56, was arrested on Saturday after an investigation by the FBI's Civil Rights Squad revealed that he sent a series of emails threatening the director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil liberties organization based in Washington D.C.

Laufer is awaiting trial for allegedly lying in wait outside a Flushing mosque at 5 a.m. on November 18, 2012, then stabbing 57-year-old Bashir Ahmad six times when Ahmad arrived to unlock the mosque for morning prayers. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a press release at the time that Laufer had yelled "I'll kill you Muslim [expletive redacted]" at Ahmad as the attack continued. Ahmad told the Daily News that Laufer stabbed him six times in the back, cut his head and thumb, and bit the tip of his nose.

Laufer wasn't identified in the attack until June of 2013. In the meantime, he appears to have been busy: in a federal complaint, the FBI says that Laufer began sending threats to CAIR about ten months after the attack, in October of 2013.

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Harlem Church Puts Up Yet Another Homophobic Sign

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Image via Joe My God
ATLAH World Missionary Church, the Harlem religious institution best known for its pastor's peculiar fixation on homosexuality, has put up yet another floridly offensive sign, this one stating the need to "take Harlem back" from both "pinch nose sellout Negros" and "demonic homos."

In February, ATLAH's pastor James David Manning briefly attracted worldwide attention with a sign in front of the church that warned that President Obama had loosed "homo demons" upon the black community. He followed with a sign stating the need to "stone homos."

In the intervening months, Manning continued his relentless schedule of blogging, hosting a virtually non-stop podcast, the Manning Report, as well as many hundreds of lengthy YouTube videos. But he failed to recapture the public's attention. Now he seems to have returned to his winning formula. Joe Jervis at the popular LGBT blog Joe My God was first to report the new sign, which, as you can see above, is filled with the same spirit of Christ's love as the previous ones.

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Indictment Officially Ties Rabbis to Three Divorce Extortion Kidnappings

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Brian Stauffer
As we detailed in our December feature story, Bad Rabbi, members of Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community have accused Mendel Epstein of kidnappings and assaults since the mid-1980s. Epstein, the locals claimed, specialized in coercing husbands to grant their wives a get, the document required for a divorce under the religion's law.

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Simcha Bulmash Is the Fourth Person to Plead Guilty in Divorce Extortion Case

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Brian Stauffer
Our December cover story on the divorce extortions.
The convictions in the divorce extortion case keep rolling in this month. On Tuesday Simcha Bulmash, 30, pleaded guilty in federal court in New Jersey to participating in the kidnapping and assault scheme that targeted Orthodox Jewish men who refused to grant their wives a divorce. He is the fourth to do so over the last three weeks.

Like the three before him, Bulmash was arrested in an October 2013 FBI string operation that led to charges against 10 men, including Mendel Epstein, the divorce broker from Brooklyn accused of orchestrating the plot. And also like the other three others who have pleaded guilty, Bulmash admitted that the October 2013 incident was not the first time he had participated in the scheme.

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Accomplice Pleads Guilty in Divorce Extortion Case Against Mendel Epstein

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Brian Stauffer
Our December cover story on the divorce extortions.
On Thursday, David Hellmen, a 31-year-old personal trainer from Brooklyn, became the first person to plead guilty to participating in the kidnapping and extortion scheme that targeted Orthodox Jewish men who refused to grant their wives a divorce.

Hellmen was arrested in a New Jersey FBI sting in October 2013. The sting led to charges against ten men, including Mendel Epstein, the rabbi accused of leading the operation. In addition to admitting to the October plan, Hellmen confessed to another incident: "that on Aug. 22, 2011, he and others went to a residence in Brooklyn where they restrained, assaulted and injured a man in an attempt to extort a divorce from him," the U.S. Attorney's Office of New Jersey said in a statement.

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"Homo Demons" Pastor James David Manning Says Obama Ordered Everybody To Start Ignoring Him Again

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Image via Facebook
Pastor Manning.
Last week, we heard from Harlem pastor James David Manning, who put a rather controversial sign in front of his ATLAH World Missionary Church declaring that President Obama had "released the homo demons on the black man." He follow that up with a videotaped sermon, delivered through his website, that expounded on the dangers of the Obama-controlled "white homosexual man," who has been loosed on the black community, especially black women. The white homosexual male's special weapons are demonry, of course, as well as their enjoyment of the theater.

It was a pretty spectacular display of nutballery, and ATLAH's sign went viral. A whole lot of news outlets covered it, and then, just as quickly, everybody was done covering it. Some might argue that's just the nature of a one-day, novelty news story about a wacky guy. But Pastor James David Manning, homo demon hunter, knows the real reason nobody's writing about him anymore: Barack Obama.

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Harlem Pastor James David Manning Very Upset About Obama-Controlled "Homo Demons"

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Image via ATLAH's Facebook page.
The sign in front of ATLAH this week.
If you're not familiar with James David Manning, the pastor of ATLAH World Church at Lenox and 123rd in Harlem, his latest video, released through his website yesterday, will serve as a pretty good overview for his particular and rather eccentric brand of old-time religion. The video begins with Pastor Manning speaking about the "catastrophic crisis of the absence of males in the home" in the African-American community, adding, "Black women are having a hard time finding black men to marry."

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Former Bronx Pastor and High School Principal Michael Clare Pleads Guilty to Raping Two Teenagers

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Screenshot via YouTube
Michael Clare, 2009
Four years ago, Michael Clare was a married pastor at Harvest Worship Center in the Bronx, as well as a principal at Harvest Preparatory Academy, also in the Bronx. Three years ago, in March 2011, he'd made a swift and thorough fall from grace, after a teenage girl, a member of his congregation, then 15, told her parents that Clare had been sexually abusing her since she was 12 years old. Clare was charged with first-degree rape and offered a plea deal that would have required just three years in prison, a very generous offer considering that the teenager had become pregnant, had an abortion, and DNA from the fetus had reportedly been matched to Clare.

Clare rejected that deal, with his attorney Paul Brenner telling the Daily News, "He turned down the plea deal because he's innocent." Clare remained free on a $50,000 bond. And then, in March 2012, he was accused of rape again , this time a 14-year-old student at Harvest Prep.

On Wednesday, January 15, Clare, who is now 41, was convicted of two counts of rape in the second degree.

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Bad Rabbi: Some See Prenups as Solution to Agunot Problem

Categories: Judaism, Religion

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Brian Stauffer
Mendel Epstein, subject of last week's feature story, was allegedly able to operate his illicit kidnapping-and-divorce-coercion business for three decades because there was a demand for it. He'd stepped into a vacuum that had existed since ancient times: a desperate wife has few, if any, options if her husband refuses to grant them a get, the document required for a divorce to proceed under Jewish law.

She can get help from an advocacy group like the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (Hebrew for "chained women"), who will try to persuade the husband with a variety of social and economic pressures. She can try to get the marriage annulled, a process that applies in very few cases. If neither of those efforts work, there is no other legal recourse.

Because the agonot problem is so challenging on the back-end, many rabbis have recently begun lobbying for a fix on the front end: prenuptial agreements.

"The best solution in the long run is prenups where get is pre-agreed if marriage breaks down," says Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, director of Beth Din of America, a Manhattan-based rabbinical court that handles more cases than any beth din outside Israel.

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