Alleged abductor's religious beliefs got "stranger and stranger every day."
Nine months after being abducted, 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart has returned home. Smart, taken by knifepoint from her Salt Lake City home June 5, is reportedly healthy and alert. However, there are signs that the abduction took a psychological toll. Yesterday morning Smart's father said he had no doubts that Elizabeth was brainwashed by Brian David Mitchell, who was excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I think maybe she has been converted to a weird thing," said the girl's uncle, Tom Smart. Speaking last night to reporters, he added that Elizabeth may be suffering from Stockholm syndrome, a psychological defense mechanism in which hostages and victims of abuse begin to care for their abusers or captors.
Smart was held by Mitchell, who called himself "Emmanuel," and his wife, Wanda Ilene Barzee. They traveled by foot and bus and camped outdoors. They also often appeared in public together—with Smart often hidden under a veil and robes—but the girl apparently did not try to contact anyone for help. When officers approached her Wednesday in Salt Lake City, she denied being Elizabeth Smart. After being asked several times, she began weeping and answered, "Thou sayest."
Reports this week have indicated that Mitchell considered himself a polygamist and may have kidnapped Smart to become his second wife. However, the Associated Press reports that the girl's aunt this morning said, "That's not actually information that we've been given at this point."
The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting today that seven weeks before Smart disappeared, Mitchell's mother was so scared by his increasingly strange religious beliefs and violence that she phoned the police. She then filed protective orders against the couple who she says grabbed her by the arms and threatened her.
According to the story, Mitchell had been living with his mother for six years but she had recently become disturbed by his actions. She said he had been getting "stranger and stranger every day." According to the sheriff's report, he wore purple robes and told his family in a 27-page letter about his beliefs that he would start his own church.
- With a brave heart and pure soul | If conviction counts for anything, Mel Gibson's latest film project will be a success, but theologians and filmmakers are not so sure. (Sydney Morning Herald)
- Crowe custom-builds church for his wedding | His upcoming wedding to actress Danielle Spencer will feature a custom-built chapel on his ranch (Knight Ridder newspapers)
Interfaith relations and other religions:
- Let God knock down the walls | If there's one word to characterize the Holy Land, it's walls (Paul Lintern, Mansfield [Ohio] News Journal)
- Nazareth court delays destruction of controversial mosque | Nazareth Magistrate's Court ordered destruction last Thursday (Haaretz)
- Churches a tough foe on slots, Ehrlich Finds | At the moment, much of Maryland's religious establishment disagrees with the governor over one crucial issue: his plan to legalize slot machines (The Washington Post)
- Providing posers for prophets | Thomas Cahill came to town last week to talk about Christians and Jews and biblical prophets, but the message touched implicitly on George W. Bush and Robert Ehrlich and slot machine profits (Michael Olesker, The Baltimore Sun)
- Rapper's rhymes take positive spin | John Reuben is not your typical rap star (The Toledo [Oh.] Blade)
- Four bands share their mission | Actually, the Go Show players hope to inspire their fans to do missionary work (The Orange County Register)
- Bones of creativity sate Hounds of Hell | Behind those eyes dimmed with glaucoma, something young and alert lives in Johnny Cash (Philip Marchand, The Toronto Star)
Politics and law:
- Winsome Earle Sears won't seek 2nd term in Assembly | Virginia General Assembly's lone black Republican says it was ``the Lord's will'' that she step down and voiced frustration with cutthroat politics (The Virginian-Pilot)
- God and man in the Oval Office | Contrary to what his critics say, Bush's religion is in the American mainstream (Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard)
- Town uses religious act as 'shield' in court | A Maryland city is apparently the first in the country to defend itself in court by invoking the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (Fox News)
- Faith no more | Texas' record shows dangers of faith-based policy (Don Monkerud, In These Times)
- Justice in Guatemala can be gasoline and a match | Evangelicals charged with frightening villagers about the dangers of satanic cults and encouraging retribution (The New York Times)
Science and health:
- Director tries to untangle web of cancer controversies | Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach discusses a controversial Web site posting, mammography, hormone replacement therapy and other issues (The New York Times)
- Abortion and breast cancer | For many years, there have been conflicting research results, differing interpretations among experts and confusion for the general public. Part of the trouble in seeking an indisputable answer has been built-in flaws that researchers suspect biased many of the earlier studies. (Editorial, Chicago Tribune)
- Also: Delinking abortion and breast cancer | A crude effort by anti-abortion groups to associate abortion with an increased risk of breast cancer can now be stopped (Editorial, The New York Times)
Clergy sex abuse:
- Resignation of bishop in troubled Tucson diocese is accepted | Diocese is now on the verge of bankruptcy because of large financial settlements with victims of sexually abusive priests (The New York Times)
- Priests who asked Law to quit attacked | Some leading conservative Catholics are sharply criticizing the 58 Boston priests who called for cardinal to step down (The Boston Globe)
- Trial date for church abuse suit stalled | Says relentless publicity in the sex scandal has made it impossible for the church to get fair treatment (Associated Press)
- Also: Judge says church officials can't get fair trial (WCVB, Boston)
- United Church of Christ suspends minister | Robert J. Yim accused of sexual abuse (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Persecution and violence:
- Mideast Christians endure persecution | In modern times, Christians' status in the region has long been precarious (Associated Press)
- Assyrians fight to be noticed | Day of prayer highlights more than Iraqi oppression (Chicago Tribune)
- Assaults frighten off city vicars | Archbishop of York David Hope has said violent assaults on clergy and burglaries from churches are making some vicars too frightened to take up posts in inner city areas (BBC | video)
- Christian council to move court on survey in Gujarat, police denies charge | The council has submitted a memorandum to the state Director General of Police alleging that police were conducting a survey on Christians (PTI)
- Police deployed in force in south Egypt | Reinforcements sent to southern village after Christian-Muslim row in barber's shop degenerated into gun shooting (Middle East Online)
- On an Indonesian island, a reverence for tolerance | The priests at the Roman Catholic seminary in Maumere, Indonesia, have redoubled their efforts to stress forbearance (The New York Times)
- Saudis won't allow churches on its land | On Thursday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent federal agency, complained that a new State Department list of countries that severely limit religious freedom omits several that deserve censure, including U.S. ally Saudi Arabia (Associated Press)
Money and Business:
- Amid the action figures and trading cards, a niche of Christian children's toys grows | Five hundred years after miniature replicas of Noah's ark became the earliest play sets made available to children, religious children's toys fill store shelves by the boatload (Religion News Service)
- Antigua PM accuses religious organizations of unfair practices | Antigua Christian Council and the United Evangelical Association criticized (Antigua Sun)
- Wisconsin Lutheran College president to retire | Gary Greenfield built campus up over three decades (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
- Medical-accuracy bill at center of sex-ed skirmish | Proposition is a red flag for national groups such as the Abstinence Clearinghouse (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Other stories of interest:
- Program lets inmates find god on their terms | Coordinator believes `chrysalis' can help keep women out of prison (Associated Press)
- Family ordeal only strengthens Rivera's faith | For the Yankees' Mariano Rivera, baseball gives him a platform to spread God's message, and the birth of his third child has strengthened his faith even more (The New York Times)
- Language of Jesus clings to life | In a remote village in Syria, Aramaic is still spoken, but it is beginning to fade into memory as the modern world encroaches (Chicago Tribune)
- U of T's new divinity student: Fired Hydro One chief | Eleanor Clitheroe came under fire last year for a multimillion-dollar pay packet (The National Post, Canada)
- New Age conservatives hate big government, eat organic | 'Crunchy con' trend has religious base (Religion News Service)
- Earlier: Birkenstocked Burkeans | Confessions of a granola conservative (Rod Dreher, National Review Online)
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