Liberty Commentary

Hysterical Blindness

by William N. Grigg

There exists today in our Grand and Holy Homeland a secret party of seditionists who stealthily undermine secular authority by seeking to govern themselves according to religious law. While eagerly exploiting the freedoms and material conveniences of our contemporary culture, they remain wedded to a pre-medieval worldview.

Shockingly, they have wrested concessions from distracted or intimidated policy-makers. Whether through ignorance or opportunism, those officials are now effectively abetting the establishment of small but expanding theocratic islands inhabited by people who are subject to stern and exacting codes governing every aspect of life — including diet, recreation, social activities, sex and other marital matters, and mandatory religious worship.

Most insidiously, this tiny but aggressive sect demands that its adherents submit to the authority of religious leaders, rather than civil courts, in dealing with disputes — and this subversive arrangement has actually been upheld by the Obama administration! Thanks to a very capable lobbying effort on Capitol Hill, an organization rooted in this movement managed to secure a special exemption last year when the Obamacare measure was enacted.

These official favors were granted despite the fact that the organization is directly tied to a group seeking to bring every element of America’s culture into subjection to God’s law, as understood by the group’s adherents. Statements by prominent figures in the movement make it plain that they consider themselves to be soldiers in a divinely guided “army” with an all-encompassing social mandate.

Obviously this is yet another instance in which the Obama administration is quietly abetting the establishment of Sharia law — or at least, it might be, were such a campaign actually underway, which it isn’t. As it happens, the commendably insular and admirably government-aversive religious group described above the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSM), which was created for the purpose of helping fellow Christians obtain health coverage outside of government-controlled health insurance organizations.

HCSM, a project of Samaritan Ministries International, claims as many as 100,000 members who pool resources in a “need sharing” system to help reimburse each other’s medical expenses (up to $100,000). Some conditions — such as those resulting from drug and alcohol abuse — aren’t covered. Nor are abortions or care for unwed mothers (who can find help from other faith-centered crisis pregnancy organizations).

The group also champions the laudable work of independent physicians such as the heroic Dr. Stansilov Burzynski, who has been persecuted by the Regime-aligned health care establishment for his innovative and promising cancer therapy.

James Lansberry, vice president of Samaritan Ministries, reports that this system has managed to meet the needs of its subscribers, a fact in which he sees the hand of Providence at work.

Samaritan Ministries (SMI), a tax-exempt charity, describes itself as a covenant-defined community of Christian believers dedicated to following the Bible’s commandments “to make every effort to live at peace and to resolve disputes with each other or within the church.”

“A member who chooses to violate this command of scripture and his covenant with his SMI brethren, and takes a dispute to court, destroys our fellowship and has chosen to be as if he had never been a Samaritan Ministries member and to not have his needs shared with the membership,” the organization explains to interested prospects. “Therefore, in becoming a member or reaffirming  your membership, you agree that any claim or dispute you have with, or against SMI, its employees, directors, members and associate members, that is related to SMI and its ministries in any way, shall be settled by Biblically based mediation and, if necessary, legally binding arbitration. And SMI agrees similarly with respect to any matter SMI might have with you.”

Sarah Posner of American Prospect points out that arrangements of this kind — “contractual agreements to submit to dispute resolution outside of the courts, with choice-of-law provisions” — are “quite common in religious settings.” They are used by many Christian educational and charitable groups. Similar arbitration arrangements are used by variousJewish congregations. Yet in recent days the discovery of nearly identical mechanisms for private dispute-settlement among Muslims has triggered another mass convulsion among people who like to pretend that we live in the shadow of an incipient Caliphate.

In 2002, a leadership dispute in the Islamic Education Center (ICE) in Tampa resulted in the ouster of three of the organization’s trustees. The  ICE is governed by a “constitution” drawn up in 1993 by a Muslim scholar known as an A’lim. Under the provisions of that document’s “Organizational Framework,” the A’lim has veto power over the board of trustees, who agree to accept that scholar’s guidance “to insure adherence to Islamic laws.” This includes arbitration of disputes involving personnel and financial matters. In this case, the leadership dispute boils down to the question of controlling $2.2 million the ICE received from the Florida state government after it purchased some property from the mosque to use in a road construction project.

Three years ago a lawsuit was filed by the Mosque’s former trustees, who wanted to move the dispute into Florida’s civil court system.  In January, shortly before the trial was to begin, one of the parties requested an emergency injunction to enforce the arbiter’s previous decision.

This came as a surprise to Tampa Circuit Court Judge Richard Nielsen, who has observed that “Prior to the motion the court was not aware of any arbitration pending between the parties.”

On March 3, Judge Nielsen — in what should be perceived as that rarest of things, an act of judicial restraint — ruled that he would not intrude in a dispute that falls within the jurisdiction of an existing, written, contract-based private arbitration agreement. Unfortunately, this meant it was necessary for Nielsen to write the following words: “This case will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic law.”

That phrase, predictably, caused the fever swamp to boil over.

“To all of the naysayers on the left who say that Sharia can never come to the U.S., here is the latest example of how it is slowly and stealthily creeping into our judicial system–in this case, courtesy of a foolish, non-Muslim judge (known as a useful idiot in Lenin’s days),”sneered Erik Stakelbeck of CBN News, a preening blowhard who is no part of a journalist but plays one on cable TV. Variants of this soundbite quickly proliferated like mushrooms that had fed on the stuff Stakelbeck and his ilk have been diligently shoveling for the past several years.

In fact, rather than opening the door to Sharia, Judge Nielsen was trying to nail it firmly shut. The constitutional religious freedom guarantees are intended to protect religious associations from government control; in this case Nielsen was dealing with an intramural dispute among faithful Muslims  who had freely chosen to submit to the rulings of a Muslim scholar. This doesn’t change simply because there’s a great deal of money at stake, and one side — in this case, ironically, the incumbent trustees of the Mosque — decides it might get a better deal from non-Muslims than it apparently got from the A’lin.

Nielsen knows very little about the Muslim religion and doesn’t appear interested to learn much more. However, testimony from Islamic authorities in the pre-trial hearing demonstrated that “under ecclesiastical law, pursuant to the Qur’an, Islamic brothers should attempt to resolve a dispute among themselves,” wrote the Judge in a supplemental ruling issued March 22. “If Islamic brothers are unable to do so, they can agree to present the dispute to the greater community of Islamic brothers within the mosque or the Muslim community for resolution. If that is not done or does not result in a resolution of the dispute, the dispute is to be presented to an Islamic judge for determination, and that is or can be an A’lim.”

This arrangement shouldn’t appear at all peculiar to Christians who are even superficially familiar with the New Testament (see particularly Matthew 18:15-17). Indeed, this is quite probably a procedure Muhammad borrowed directly from Christian teachings when he created his religion.

“From the outset of learning of the purported arbitration award, the court’s concern has been whether there were ecclesiastical principles for dispute resolution involved that would compel the court to adopt the arbitration decision without consulting state law,” explains Judge Nielsen. “Decisional case law both in Florida and the United States Supreme Court tells us that ecclesiastical law controls certain relations between members of a religious organization, whether a church, synagogue, temple or mosque.”


Jacobins “Baptize” (drown) Christians who refused to worship the State.

The likeliest alternative to that position, of course, would be one permitting the State to arbitrate all disputes that arise within religious associations — including those involving finances, governance, discipline, and standards of conduct. This would create all kinds of opportunities for officious busybodies of the sort who seethe over the impudence of groups like Samaritan Ministries who dare to carve out little pockets of autonomy in defiance of the Leviathan State.

There is nothing in Judge Nielsen’s preliminary decision that would in any way facilitate the establishment of a Caliphate. However, if he were to break ICE to the saddle of the state, his actions would potentially be of great use to social engineers looking to destroy any institutional resistance to State control over all aspects of life.

Every association that settles its disputes through private contract derogates from the power of the State — which is something to be encouraged and celebrated. Yet this is lost on the kind of people who can’t see the facts through the fog of their own hyperventilation. Compulsive mosque-baiting is a difficult habit for some people to overcome. But if people do it long enough, they go blind.

One tragic fact is plain to see: There are too many Americans who simply fear Muslims more than they love or understand freedom.

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Dum spiro, pugno!