Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#649: Lou Engle

Charismatic Christian leader and central New Apostolic Reformation associate Lou Engle is the leader of The Call, and thereby closely associated with a lot of prominent fundie wingnuts. He is also a senior leader of the International House of Prayer. Bruce Wilson calls him “the unofficial prayer leader of the Republican Party”, and since Engle maintains that issues such as abortion and homosexuality shall remain at the center of the evangelical movement, he has, in virtue of his position among wingnut politicians, achieved plenty of political traction on those issues. He was for a while Sam Brownback’s roommate (“only good friends”), and has garnered much praise from hardcore radical Taliban dominionists such as Mike Huckabee and Tony Perkins. Engle is, of course, a “radical theocrat” and has been criticized by The Southern Poverty Law Center for the frequency of which his praying rants “venture into bloodlust.”

With respect to the abortion issue he is perhaps best known for popularizing the idea that Dr. Seuss’s 1954 children’s book “Horton hears a Who!” was really a God-inspired prophetic book about abortion (!), even though it was really and demonstrably about the American post-WWII occupation of Japan (but that is just what such irrelevant talking heads as the author would claim – as opposed to Engle Dr. Seuss never maintained a prophetic hotlink to, well, Engle himself, I suppose). The radical silliness of it ensured that the book made this list. To emphasize: Engle doesn’t think that the book supports his argument, but that it is actually the word of God channeled through dr. Seuss. According to Engle the Trayvon Martin case is apparently supposed to have something to do with abortion as well.

In 2010 Engle traveled to Uganda and organized a The Call rally there, praising the Ugandan government's efforts to combat homosexuality (including the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill that, at least in practice, called for the death penalty for gays and lesbians in Uganda). He later, rather sheepishly, claimed that he opposes the bill and violence against homosexuals, but it is a little hard to believe him (there is an interesting review here). He has, after all, claimed that gay rights and secular government are similar to Nazism. As he says: “Can a homosexual have civil rights in America? They might. But it is not their right given by God. Their right is to repent and stand until Jesus delivers […] Brothers and sisters, we made it two spheres: government has a sphere and God has a sphere. That’s what they did in Hitler’s day, they voted for money in economic crisis and they sacrificed the sanctity of life of the Jews. We do the same thing in America.” Yes, take that, sanity!

Ex-gays, on the other hand, can heal AIDS. Engle has seen heard dreamt it.

The Call, and the master of storms
For the rather infamous The Call: Detroit (2011) the plan was to convert Muslims and ‘free’ gays from homosexuality (it is discussed here). For the rally he gathered quite a few luminaries, including Rick Joyner, Jerry Boykin, and Kirk Clement, who claimed that God had told him that the event would convert millions of Muslims to Christianity. Engle’s co-host, however, was David E. Taylor, who believes that he has been granted well over 1000 face-to-face visitation appearances from Jesus Christ personally, and that Jesus appointed him to be America’s Moses with the task of bringing forth the country’s “deliverance from murder (abortion), drugs, alcohol, homosexuality, lesbianism, gambling, murder/homicides, corruption, and wicked government” (later ostensibly confirmed by God’s appearance in a cloud in Canada – seriously). In advance of the rally Engle claims to have had a dream about two tornadoes destroying America. The fact that it didn’t happen he took to be evidence that his rally prevented them (and that governor Perry’s prayers ended the drought in Texas at that time). It is not the first time Engle has blamed natural disasters on political views he doesn’t like, nor the first time he has claimed to be able to prevent it by having the right political view.

His co-organizers of the Detroit event claimed ignorance of Engle’s anti-Islamism, but things suggest that their claims were not entirely true. Engle’s and Joyner’s claim that Muslims were conspiring to overtake Michigan eventually made some headlines as well.

In 2012 his The Call rally saved Texas from multiple tornado deaths. In other words, when tornados kill it is God sending a message to the effect that those who disagree with Engle is wrong; when they don’t it is also God sending a message, that Engle is right – in other words, the same message, which to others would have entailed that God’s messages were a little hard to read. But not to Engle (here he joins forces with other wingnuts to stop, by prayer, a “homosexual tornado” from coming to “destroy America”). He knows he is right, and no amount of evidence can disconfirm that. The success in Texas made him very optimistic for the subsequent tour in Virginia: “Virginia has always been a state that was instrumental in the great shifts of American history […] even during the Civil War, God began to pour out his spirit in the South in the soldiers in the Army camps of the South, the spirit of God was being poured out and we believe once again God will visit us in the days of great crisis.” Tactful. Here is Engle calling on the religious right to channel confederate generals in order to restraing the homosexual agenda.

The devil in the educational system
Engle is not a fan of education, and during a Boston rally he wailed about “demonic spirits that are playing the puppet strings of professors and presidents of universities and politicians,” claiming that “Boston is the portal” of such demonic spirits and that Christians must challenge their “pagan professors.”

There is a comprehensive Lou Engle resource here. Here, by the way, is Engle’s “bipartisan” endorsement of Romney for president in 2012.

Diagnosis: A bad person, and mad as a hatter to boot. Engle is an extremely influential, zealous enemy of sanity and reason, clearly (at least partially) to blame for many ills in society, and in fact one of the most dangerous and detrimental forces in the US today, no less.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

#648: Roger Elvick

Roger Elvick is one of the most prominent frontmen of The Redemption Movement, a group of hardcore conspiracy theorists who claim that when the U.S. government abandoned the gold standard in 1933 the government pledged its citizens as collateral so that the government could borrow money (or some variant thereof). In addition, citizens can gain access to funds in secret accounts using obscure procedures and regulations and thereby get rich in a hurry through loopholes they don’t want you to know about (yet have somehow failed to close).

If I get the basics, the idea is that the government creates a fictitious person (“straw man”) corresponding to each newborn citizen with bank accounts initially holding $630,000, and by correct application of the Uniform Commercial Code a citizen can declare himself or herself a sovereign citizen, “reclaim” this strawman, and write checks against its accounts. You can also avoid paying taxes. A recipe for legal disaster, you’d think, and you’d be right. “Fraud” and “frivolous” are words that pop up a lot in relation to the schemes, and the frauds are based on a rather complex conspiracy theory, described in some detail here.

Elvick himself claims to have reclaimed his strawman, though as the SPLC puts it “while Elvick's straw man is free – at least in his own mind – the rest of him is back in prison.” (Not for the first time.) When facing the legal system it probably didn’t help that he has a fondness for encouraging Redemption enthusiasts to harass enemies with phony property liens and IRS reports designed to provoke audits. The Redemption Movement was also crucial in the development of the Freeman of the Land movement, whose levels of legal success are approximately comparable.

According to Elvick the accounts in question are administered by a Jewish cabal. Apparently Canaanite law is held to be an important source of law, and The Wizard of Oz (presumably because of the “straw man”) and The Matrix trilogy are held to hold important symbolism in Elvick’s baroquely theological theory. There is also some connection to the New World Order but since coherence is not his central virtue, it is sometimes a little hard to tell. Indeed, Elvick has a background (in additional to being president of the scam program Common Title) as a national spokesperson for the Committee of the States, a white supremacist group he started with William Potter Gale, who had previously founded the violent anti-Semitic organization Posse Comitatus.

You can look into the fates of a selection of people who have thought that Elvick’s theories have something going for them here, here (one Merlyn Dykstra, who seems to be less than ideally hinged), here, here, here, and here (Emil Wiley seems to have been one of Elvick’s close collaborators).

Diagnosis: Responsible for sending a bunch of loons (including himself) at least temporarily out of circulation. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a matter for discussion, but his victims presumably struggled a little with grasping reality to begin with.

Monday, July 29, 2013

#647: Paul Ellwanger

It’s thirty years since Paul Ellwanger achieved fame and we have barely heard from him since the eighties. I really have no idea if he is still kicking around, but no evidence of his demise either. So we’ll assume that he’s still qualified for inclusion. Ellwanger was the guy who drafted the creationist “balanced treatment” bills that became law in Arkansas and Louisiana, and which were eventually declared unconstitutional in the celebrated MacLean vs. Arkansas Board of Education (thorough documentation related to the case can be found here) and in Edwards vs. Aguillard. It is a little remarkable how this local crazy, leader of the groupe Citizens for Fairness in Education, was able to have his rants passed as law, but he did, and the world is thirty years on an altogether better place for it (because, of course, of the subsequent court cases). His policy suggestions from 1988, updated in the face of the rather severe drawbacks of being judged unconstitutional, are discussed here. Less famously, Ellwanger is/was also a geocentrist and actually attempted to have “equal time” bills for geocentrism passed as well.

Whatever the case may be with Ellwanger, at least Wendell Bird, the guy who officially pushed the Arkansas creationist bill, is still on the loose. In 2005 Bird filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an association of Christian schools against the University of California system accusing them of discrimination because they wouldn’t recognize the validity of some courses at Christian secondary schools that use creationist textbooks (these books, including a hardcore creationist Biology textbook by Thomas E. Porch & Brad R. Batdorf that states that “If the conclusions [of scientific research] contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them”). They lost that one (also here).

Diagnosis: As opposed to the vast majority of loons in our Encyclopedia Ellwanger’s contributions are actually among the most significant demonstrably positive contributions to the side of reason in the US the last decades. Unintentionally so, of course, but Ellwanger was to a large extent responsible for both Edwards v. Aguillard, and for MacLean v. Arkansas Board of Education, two landmark victories for sanity. 

#646: Michael Ellner

Michael Ellner is an “aids critic”, and his erudite criticisms of contemporary science related to HIV – and its corresponding conspiracies – have earned him his very own page at According to Ellner: “Just look at us. Everything is backwards; everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the major media destroy information and religions destroy spirituality …,” though more reality-apt people would probably note that when Ellner perceives everything upside-down it says far more about his perception of things than it says about the things he perceive. Ellner is crazy. “As far as ‘AIDS’ goes, we have been subject to the most heinous and genocidal fraud in medical history,” and he suggests that instead of ordinary medicine (which kills people) we must renounce evidence, science and reality and go for holistic treatments without the faintest trace of supporting evidence of efficacy. Accordingly, Ellner can offer nothing but anecdotes and imagination to support his claim, but such limitations hwve never stopped a crank (by definition). Then there is POMO: “AIDS is not a disease. It is a social agreement,” writes Ellner and one Tom DiFerdinando; “[t]here are others who need AIDS also. Do not forget. Medicine is a business.” In other words, people are dying because they accept the conceptual scheme on AIDS and death pushed by the establishment. And fortunately Ellner can offer you safe, affordable treatments.

Ellner considers himself “an internationally prominent Certified Hypnosis Practitioner and Pain Relief Educator,” and claims that there is considerable scientific evidence that hypnosis can help reduce, even eliminate pain (assessed here). He doesn't tell us where this evidence may be found, admittedly, but asserts that the “medical establishment” have been spreading lies about hypnosis. It is unclear whether he thinks that hypnotherapy can cure AIDS, but by the power of POMO it probably can.

Diagnosis: It is noteworthy that on his hypnotherapy homepage Ellner writes nothing about his HIV-“skepticism”, almost as if he dimly realizes that there is something less than convincing about it and that it may contribute to undermining his reputation in the field of hypnotherapy. In any case, Ellner is a woo-meister and denialist, who should definitely not be lent an ear in the most desperate of circumstances.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

#645: Mayer Eisenstein

Being a medical doctor is no guarantee for reason- and reality-based approaches to health, and there are plenty of offenders. Mayer Eisenstein is among the worst and is, among other things, an antivaxx loon as well as purveyor of a wide range of “questionable” (i.e. completely scientifically unsupported) treatments. He fancies himself something of a truth-teller, and warns families that pediatricians (pediatricians are “as heinous as the Nazis”) and pharmaceutical companies are harming children with unnecessary drugs and vaccines. He and his practice, the holistic Homefirst, are, however, most famous for being on the losing side of one of the largest U.S. jury verdicts awarded to the family of a newborn in a wrongful-death suit – court records show that families of dead and brain-damaged children repeatedly alleged that doctors who work for Eisenstein had made harmful mistakes for more than three decades (Here’s one of the employees, Peter Rosi, commenting on that): according to Rosi it wasn’t them; rather, the majority of doctors are just conspiring to “get them”, and besides “Eighty percent of complications in childbirth are psychological,” said Rosi. “Babies can be killed by a mother's attitude.” How could they lose with luminaries like Rosi to defend them?) Though Eisenstein claims to have seen “virtually no autism” in his patient pool of thousands of unvaccinated kids, the court records rather emphatically show that there is lots of stuff Eisenstein doesn’t see because he doesn’t want to (no, he has absolutely no data to back up his assertion, but hell if it hasn’t been used for all it isn’t worth by other antivaxx cranks such as Dan Olmsted).

Eisenstein is the founder of the Autism Recovery Clinic in Rolling Meadows (Michigan, I think), where he treats autistic children with Lupron, well known as a treatment regime based on junk science. He is, of course, not board-certified in any of the specialties relevant to autism or the use of Lupron, including pediatrics, endocrinology, neurology and psychiatry. But he knows how to peddle unsupported woo to his patients, and is in particular a fan of Gary Null’s miracle therapy: vitamin D – not only does vitamin D allegedly prevent the swine flu (a government conspiracy anyways); it even prevents autism: “No Vaccine and More Vitamin D = No Autism,” says Eisenstein. By a stroke of sheer luck Eisenstein’s wife owns a natural pharmaceutical company, so he can offer to sell you Vitamin D really cheap.

Eisenstein is a pretty well-known figure in the anti-vaxx movement (especially at its more batshit fringes), and at least he doesn’t beat around the bush: “Read my books, all vaccines cause brain damage,” says Eisenstein. One of his books, “Make an Informed Vaccine Decision for the Health of Your Child” (written with one Neil Z. Miller) is reviewed here. And yes, it repeats every antivaxx myth known to man, and no new data to back them up. (Some of his desperately fallacious video rants and online antics are mentioned here) He is also on the Board of Directors of Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center, which is hardly a trustworthy source of information.

Eisenstein is also well known at quackwatch.

Diagnosis: An evil person. He doesn’t realize that he is, of course, but he is – large amounts of zealous lunacy can be sufficient for evil, and given the harm caused by Eisenstein in his campaign against reality, it is pretty clear that he qualifies.